Donn's Articles » Beaten favourites

Beaten favourites

In the continuing struggle between punters and bookmakers, yesterday at Leopardstown was a day for the bookmakers. In reality, it was a landslide.

A total of €1,050,965 was bet into the betting ring, a figure that was an impressive 20% higher than the corresponding figure for last year. Seven races, no winning favourites and an average winning SP of over 10/1 determined that a high percentage of the money would have remained in bookmakers’ satchels.

Of the seven favourites, Foxrock got closest. Available at 8/1 in the ante post markets for the Paddy Power Chase just a week ago, he was backed yesterday from morning odds of 6/1 down to an SP of 7/2, and he nearly went home with the money. The Ted Walsh-trained gelding hit the front on the run to the final fence under Adrian Heskin, but was caught on the run-in by the 20/1 shot Living Next Door.

Barry Connell’s horse was racing yesterday off a mark of 142, 3lb lower than his true mark, but there is still every reason to believe that there could be a big handicap chase in him. He is only six years old, he will be just seven on Thursday, and yesterday’s race was just his eighth chase, so he still has plenty of scope for progression. He could be an Irish National horse, and he could be an Aintree Grand National horse one day.

Silver Concorde, sent off the 1/3 favourite for the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle, could finish only second behind Blair Perrone. The favourite travelled well through the race for Davy Russell in the slipstream of early leader Golden Shoe, and he moved easily into the lead at the top of the home straight. However, he

got in a little tight to the final flight, he landed a little flat-footed at the back of it, and he could not respond as the winner came past.

While it is always disappointing when a 1/3 shot gets beaten, there was potential for mitigation. Primarily, the ground was probably softer than ideal for the Dermot Weld-trained gelding. He did win a bumper on soft ground at last year’s Leopardstown Christmas Festival, but he is by Dansili and his best form is on good ground.

Also, he wasn’t helped by the fact that the leader jumped continually to his right, and remember, this was his first time jumping hurdles in public. The bookmakers extended his odds for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle from 12/1 and 14/1 to 20/1 and 25/1, and that may be a little bit of an over-reaction.

Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet favourite Uxizandre was disappointing. In a race that was overrun with prominent racers, it was never going to be easy for JP McManus’ horse to adopt his customary front-running tactics over the minimum trip. As it turned out, he never looked comfortable. He didn’t jump with his usual fluency and, from the fifth fence, the point at which he was headed by Hidden Cyclone, he was always fighting a losing battle.

It may be that the return to Cheltenham – a track at which in two runs, he has finished second in a Grade 1 contest and first in a listed chase – will bring out the best in the Alan King-trained gelding again, or it may be that a step back up to two and a half miles will suit him better than two. But this run was simply too bad to be true. Perhaps something was ailing him, and perhaps that will come to light in time.

Nichols Canyon departed the Future Champions Novice Hurdle scene at the third flight of hurdles, far too early to even guess at how he might have fared. It was a pity, because Willie Mullins’ horse had settled well behind horses for Ruby Walsh, and he had jumped the first two flights well.

It was a strange error too. He just seemed to lose concentration on the approach to the obstacle, and he ran right through it, making no real attempt to jump out over it, gving his rider no chance of staying on board. Of course, a fall or an unseat is not ideal, you would never choose it as part of a novices’ campaign, but Nichols Canyon’s stable companion Un De Sceaux proved at Fairyhouse last Saturday that, if you can emerge from a non-completion unscathed, it is possible to learn from it and move on.

The Authorized gelding did appear to gallop away fine, so hopefully he is none the worse for his spill. Winner of two listed races on the flat for John Gosden, he remains a really interesting recruit to hurdles. Bookmakers pushed him out to 16/1 for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham, and those odds seem to be just about right for now.

© The Sunday Times, 28th December 2014