Wayne Bailey: 'Mums Tipple can set Newmarket corks popping for Hannon'
While I'm still just about on the right side of 40, I'm betting for well over 20 years at this stage and the two biggest changes I've seen since I began are the ability to place bets online, and access to information on the internet.
Although I sometimes lament the busy betting rings, where bookmaker and punter would back their opinion rather than following the exchanges, there's no doubt that the punter has never had it so good with all sorts of choices available in the palm of their hand.
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Form study has been transformed too. We can now look up a horse's full racing history and watch its previous runs at the click of a button, which sure as hell beats VHS video libraries and the stacks of newspapers and form books, which you'd have to collect each week. Younger people have no idea what it was like!
I was thinking about this recently, and it occurred to me that all this access to information must surely mean that punters are getting better at race reading and finding winners - so I decided to look it up. I took two time periods: 2003 to 2007, which was just before access to high-speed mobile internet became ubiquitous, and 2015 to 2019 when the vast majority of punters would have easy access to information.
True enough, from 2003 to 2007, the favourite had a strike rate of 33 per cent, and punters would have shown a loss of €7.05 on average for every €100 bet. But from 2015 to 2019, favourites won 35 per cent of races, and average losses were a little less €6.67 per €100 bet.
Not a huge change, but it's slowly shifting and favourites have done well in 2018 and 2019 at 36 per cent, although that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier to make money as the market will always adjust and average prices will become lower.
Anyway, back in the day, many punters would only have access to a brief summary of the horse's information from a newspaper or racecard, so one of the main things betting decisions were made on was the horse's recent form line.
Recent form is still obviously important, but it's much easier now to quickly check it in an in-depth way, to give it more meaning and context.
A win last time out for one horse might look good on paper, but second or third place for another in a much higher quality race could be a better piece of form.
On an old racecard - and I suppose it's still true today - horses like Earthlight and Siskin would really stand out in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (3.0 Newmarket), both with picket fences beside their name with four wins from four races apiece.
The stats for such horses are not too bad; horses which won all four career races have a 32 per cent strike-rate in Group Ones and provided a small profit if blindly backed (eight winners from 25 bets since 2008) and Earthlight is most likely to go off as favourite here at around 2/1. André Fabre's Shamardal colt has not yet raced in Britain, but has all the right form in the book with a victory last time in the Prix Morny at Deauville.
Ger Lyons' Siskin got the job done in heavy ground in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last time, and for a horse which should have more improving to do, odds of 4/1 are not too bad.
But at 5/2 or thereabouts, the nod goes to Richard Hannon's Mums Tipple, which is also unbeaten with two wins in as many races.
Fair enough, his best form comes from a sales race at York last time which is not quite as prestigious as the top-level victories the others can boast, but his manner of success was exceptional.
He demolished a large field of 20 rivals by 11 lengths, and clocked up some very strong times while doing so. While it wasn't a Group One race, it was definitely a Group One performance.
It almost seems a shame that one of these three must lose their unbeaten record this afternoon, but it makes for a fascinating race with Hannon's other runner, Threat, also in with a shout alongside Aidan O'Brien's Monarch Of Egypt and Lope Y Fernandez.