Things We Learned » Betting arc

Betting arc

The betting on tomorrow’s Arc de Triomphe is still wrong. The older horses are generally too short, the three-year-olds are generally too long.

Statistically, the Classic generation appear to have a huge advantage over their elders in the Arc, probably largely due to the 8lb weight-for-age that three-year-olds receive from their elders over a mile and a half at this time of year. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, three-year-olds have won seven of the last eight renewals of the Arc, and 14 of the last 17. There is back-up to that stat as well. In last year’s Arc, there were eight three-year-olds in a field of 19, and they filled three of the first four places. In 2009, there were seven three-year-olds in a field of 19, and two of them finished first and third. Also, in two of the three years in the last 17 when a member of the Classic generation did not win the race, they finished second and third, and in one of those years, they finished fourth and fifth as well.

So it may be different this year, it may be that So You Think or Sarafina or Workforce or another older horse is up to defying the statistic, but this betting game is all about percentages, getting the odds in your favour based on the information that you have available to you before the race is run and, as things stand – with older horses still occupying the first three places in most betting lists, taking out 53% of the market even at best prices – the value lies with the three-year-olds.

PS Why the need for a weight-for-age scale in a championship race? Isn’t a championship race all about determining the fastest runner, regardless of age? Why can’t all horses compete off level weights?

Jockey bias

There has been much talk all week about why the jockeys in the Cambridgeshire decided to stay in one group, why they didn’t split into their customary two, or even three, and why they all congregated towards the near rail instead of going down the centre?

The answer is surely that they didn’t decide. Jockeys rarely decide these things. That’s just the way things happened, just the way the race panned out. You often hear jockeys, in pre- and post-race interviews, talking about them, we’ll see where they go, they didn’t go very fast early on. They are talking about the other jockeys, the collective. No individual has control over the collective.

It is a little harsh to blame jockeys if things don’t pan out. People accuse them of behaving like sheep, of just following the others, but that is how it should be. Most horses enjoy racing with other horses, most horses can run faster for longer if they have other horses with which to race for most of the journey. In the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket in July, Barry McHugh took Brae Hill on his own up the stands rail and it worked. In the Silver Cambridgeshire at Newmarket last Friday, Lee Newman took Dolphin Rock on his own up the stands rail and it didn’t.

In the Cambridgeshire itself on Saturday, Ryan Clark wanted to take Stevie Thunder up the far rail from his draw in stall five, but nothing else seemed to want to come with him, so he ended up tending over towards the centre of the track and he finished his race on the near side. He finished second, beaten a length and three quarters by the winner Prince Of Johanne. But for the need to cross the track, he might well have won.

Notebook race

There was so much going on in the Cambridgeshire that you needed to watch the race 32 times afterwards and follow each horse through the race in turn. There were many horses to note, but Stevie Thunder was the only horse who was drawn on the far side and who finished in the first five. Even though he is six years old now, he is obviously in the form of his life and, from just a 3lb higher mark (he was 4lb wrong on Saturday), he will be of interest wherever he goes next. Other horses to note from the race were Questioning (got no run, finished full of running), Man Of Action (ditto) and Markazzi (got there plenty early enough and will probably be more effective back down at a mile).

Irish raiders

Recent Irish raids to the UK have proved to be hugely lucrative. The Doncaster St Leger meeting was unusually bountiful, with Alanza’s victory in the Group 3 Sceptre Stakes and Saddler’s Rock’s win in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup – John Oxx’s first two runners in the UK this season, by the way – augmented by success for the David Wachman-trained Requinto in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes and for the David Marnane-trained Nocturnal Affair in the meeting’s big sprint handicap, the Portland.

Shark Hanlon and Gordon Elliott kept the tricolour flying at Perth while we waited for Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting to roll around last weekend, where Ger Lyons landed his first Group 1 win with Lightening Pearl in the Cheveley Park Stakes, and where Aidan O’Brien sent out the 1-2-3 in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes. The prize money won probably qualifies as an invisible export. Perhaps we can win our way out of this trough.

No racing

And speaking of invisible, isn’t it at least mildly worrying that the highest viewership figures recorded during RTE’s live coverage of Irish Field St Leger day (63,000) at The Curragh three weeks ago occurred during the final 15 minutes of the programme, when there was no live race to be watched?

© The Irish Field, 1st October 2011