Things We Learned » National weights

National weights

Grand National weights, here we go again.  Top weight Bristol De Mai has had his rating reduced by 5lb, from an official rating of 173 to a Grand National rating of 168.  That’s in order to encourage him to run, in order to try to get the high-class horses to run in the race.

But that is an anomaly that just doesn’t rest easily.  Never has.  It is a handicap, so surely horses should run off their handicap ratings.  You don’t have one golf handicap for the Christmas turkey and a different golf handicap for the Captain’s Prize. 

And, if Bristol De Mai doesn’t run, Anibale Fly will carry top weight.  And if neither of the top two horses run, Alpha Des Obeaux will be the top weight.  And Gordon Elliott’s horse has actually been given a Grand National rating that is 3lb higher than his official rating in Ireland.

Auvergnat has been given a Grand National rating of 152, which is 21lb higher than the mark off which he won the Paddy Power Chase in December, and 9lb higher than his official rating in Ireland.  You can understand Enda Bolger’s reticence to run.

Surely we are getting close to an era in which horses simply run in the Grand National off their official handicap ratings. 

Wishmoor worth noting

A lot of the talk after the BoyleSports Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday centred around the Gordon Elliott-trained runners, the winner Dounikos and the third-placed General Principle, which is easy to understand.  Both horses ran big races, Dounikos bouncing back to form for the first time since he finished fourth in the Flogas Chase last season, General Principle running a cracker, last year’s Irish Grand National winner, in line for Aintree.

As a result, however, the quality of the performance that was put up by runner-up Wishmoor, the 2 in the Gigginstown House 1-2-3, may have gone a little under the radar.

Joseph O’Brien’s horse was given a fine aggressive, attacking ride by Andrew Ring.  However, he wasn’t helped by his loose-running stable companion Arkwrisht, first when he probably encouraged him to race more keenly than his rider wanted him to as they raced down the side of the track, and then when he ran across him on the approach to the second fence down the back straight.

That said, this was much more like it from Wishmoor.  A dual winner over fences for Mouse Morris, this was the Winged Love gelding’s best performance since he joined Joseph O’Brien.  There was a lot to like about the manner in which he stayed on again after he was passed. 

The handicapper raised him by just 3lb to a mark of 133, which means that he may struggle to get into the Irish National (you needed to be rated 135 or higher to get into last year’s race) but that attitude will be a big asset to him wherever he goes next, as long as there is an emphasis on stamina.

1/4 the odds the first four or 1/5 the odds the first five?

So which is better for the each-way bettor in a big handicap: 1/4 the odds the first four places or 1/5 the odds the first five places?

Take a 16-runner handicap in which every one of the horses has an equal chance of winning.  Say there is no bookmaker’s margin – unlikely in reality, of course, but good in theory for simplicity – so each horse is priced up at 15/1 in the win market.  So, if you have €1 win on each horse in the race, you will win €15 on the winner, and you will lose a total of €15 on the 15 losers.  You break even on the win part of the bets.

But say you bet €1 each-way on each of the 16 runners.  The win part of your bets will break even, as above, but the place part of your bets deserves further attention. 

Say you are betting at each-way terms that offer 1/4 the odds the first four on the place part of your bet.  So, you will lose 12 of your 16 place bets, but each of your four winning place bets will be paid out at 15/4 (1/4 of 15/1), which is 3.75/1.  So you receive a total return of €19 (€4.75 x 4).

You have invested just €16 in the place part of the bets.  So you make a net gain of €3.

Now, say you are betting at 1/5 the odds a place the first five.  You will lose on 11 of the place bets, but you will win on five of them.  Five places.  You will be paid out on each of the winning place bets at 1/5 the win odds, not 1/4 the win odds, so at 15/5, not 15/4, which is 3/1, not 3.75/1.  So you will receive a return of €20 (€4 x 5).

You have still invested just €16 in the place part of the bet.  So you make a net gain of €4 at 1/5 the odds the first five.  Which is €1 more than the net gain that you make if you are betting at 1/4 the odds the first four.

Barnes looks smart

It looks like Liz Doyle could have another exciting bumper horse on her hands in Barnes Des Mottes.  ML Bloodstock’s horse was impressive in winning the bumper at Naas on Saturday on his racecourse debut.

The Full Of Gold gelding travelled well into the home straight, hit the front on the run to the two-furlong marker, and stayed on well from there to win nicely.  The race may not have taken as much winning as it looked like it might beforehand, with Front View and My Uncas both getting brought down on the home turn when travelling well, but it was still a nice performance from the winner.

Barnes Des Mottes was withdrawn from the bumper on Thyestes Chase day at Gowran Park because of a stone bruise.  That race was won by Blue Sari, who was owned at the time, like Barnes Des Mottes is now, by ML Bloodstock.  Interestingly, while Blue Sari was favourite for that bumper from early, Barnes Des Mottes was only a 4/1 or a 9/2 shot in the morning.  Only Blue Sari and Front View were on offer at shorter odds than him in the morning for that Gowran Park bumper.

Blue Sari has since been purchased by JP McManus, but he remains in training with Willie Mullins, and if right is right, whether Barnes Des Mottes is sold to a new owner her not, he will remain with Liz Doyle.  Remember that the Wexford trainer trained Al Ferof to win a bumper at Fairyhouse in 2009, before he was sold to John Hales and went on to win the Grade 2 bumper at Newbury on Betfair Hurdle day, and to finish second to Cue Card in the Cheltenham bumper.  She also trained Cheltenian to finish second in a bumper at Punchestown before he was sold to Roger Brookhouse and went on to win the Cheltenham bumper for Philip Hobbs. 

Final thoughts

Two final thoughts on the Dublin Racing Festival.  Firstly, it is rare that you will come up against a sporting event that is as high profile as the one that it came up against.  Ireland v England in tiddlywinks (do they still play tiddlywinks?) is high profile, but Ireland v England in rugby, in the Six Nations, at home, in Lansdowne Road, with Ireland on a high, number two in the world, and favourites to beat England.  It doesn’t get much more high-profile than that.

Even so, it would be ideal if the Dublin Racing Festival could avoid the Six Nations, especially a home game, in future years, at least in the short term.

Secondly, and this is probably not one for the short term, but medium term, the extension of the event to a three-day festival might be worth investigating.  Add the Friday afternoon.  Target the corporates.  Get the Dublin employers and employees out for the afternoon.  That would surely add to the profile of the event.

You could tailor the programme easily.  You have 15 races already.  Add a mares’ chase and a high-class three-mile hurdle, a step from the Squared Financial Hurdle at Christmas to Cheltenham, and take the hunters’ chase back.  That’s 18 races, over three days, six races each day.  It’s worth considering.

© The Irish Field, 16th February 2019