Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Waiting' holds key to solving Ascot puzzle

Betting ring

Jonathan Burke steers Glen Forsa over the last on the way to springing a big surprise in yesterday’s Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Jonathan Burke steers Glen Forsa over the last on the way to springing a big surprise in yesterday’s Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

Get your ducks in a row, blue-sky thinking, going forward . . . Is there anything more annoying than corporate jargon?

Perhaps the most common phrase of all is 'think outside the box' which seems to have emerged in the 1970s when management consultancy became a thing. The expression is based on a nine-dot puzzle, which some readers may have seen before.

It's hard to describe here without an illustration, but the challenge is to connect each of the dots (which are arranged in rows making a square shape) using four straight lines, crossing each dot only once - and you can't lift your hand off the paper. The key to the puzzle is to extend one of the lines beyond the perimeter of the box shape, hence the hackneyed phrase.

I won't patronise by saying punters should think outside the box when betting, but, put another way, it can sometimes pay to look at a race from a different angle than the rest of the betting public. Take Grade One Chases for example; when trying to pick a winner, most casual punters will check the horse's latest form.

If the horse won his last race, it often makes the shortlist, and rightly so - last-time-out winners have the highest strike-rate of all in Grade One Chases at 17pc. But they tend to be over-bet, and show a return of investment (ROI) of -24pc. In other words, blindly backed, the average return per euro staked would be about 76 cent.

That's not to say they should be avoided, but races can have more than one qualifier and you have to be selective. Following those, horses which were second last time out have a lower strike-rate of 12pc, but a better ROI of -16pc.

Surprisingly, next on the list are horses which unseated last time out with an 11pc strike-rate, and that's where going against the crowd can pay off. Some punters are afraid to back horses after a mishap, so such horses are often under-bet, even though they can still be favourites.

Their ROI is +10pc, meaning the average return is €1.10 per euro staked. As such, I'll often forgive a talented horse which unseated his rider last time. Unlike fallers, there's usually very little damage done.

That brings me nicely to Ascot, which has a mega nine-race card following the break caused by the equine flu. The feature is the Betfair Ascot Chase, for which Waiting Patiently was trading at 7/4 yesterday.

Given the potential he's shown, winning six out of seven chases including this race last year, that price is massive. I'm guessing punters are put off by his latest race in which he unseated Brian Hughes in the King George at Kempton - but he was hampered, and it wasn't really his fault.

It's hard to say where he would have finished against a quality field where Clan Des Obeaux beat the likes of Native River, Might Bite and Politologue, but he faces just five rivals today and he's 2lbs clear of the field on official ratings on 170, with Politologue on 168.


I've pointed out before that the selection's ability to quicken while going at a good pace is a huge asset, and trainer Ruth Jefferson has ensured he's lived up to his name by only racing when he's 100pc ready. Before Kempton, he hadn't ran since winning this in fine style in 2018 (tipped here at 2/1), but he's now second favourite ante-post for the Ryanair at 5/1.

Paul Nicholls' Politologue is the biggest threat, and is vying for second place in the markets with stablemate Cyrname around 11/4. Politologue made a couple of mistakes in the King George and was stretched by the trip, but will be far more effective back down in distance. Like the selection, he's aged eight but he's got a lot more experience with eight chase wins from 14 races, including a couple of Grade Ones.

Finally at Haydock, I'm hoping I can get an odds-against price for Alan King's Yanworth in the Grade Two William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle (1.55), which has taken a step down in grade.

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