SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2003
by Richard Hall
He may be the perennial butt of a few jokes on the Pointing
websites, but he can certainly do the business when he gets the right
horse underneath him! Andrew Hickman rode a peach of a race at Marks Tey
today as Splash And Dash denied odds on favourite Rob Mine the Men’s
Open victory he needed to qualify for the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
Prior to today, every time Zoe Turner had ridden in a Ladies
Open this season she had finished second; twice on Celtic Duke and twice
on Spring Gale, who was just touched off by Storm Castle at High Easter
last weekend. She rode the former today and was second favourite at 3/1
behind her stablemate’s latest conqueror, who, at 6/4, was attempting to
complete a quick, seven day, double. Also in the field were Dooks Delight,
who had collared Zoe aboard Spring Gale in the dying strides at Horseheath,
and seasonal debutants Mai Point, who had finished 2002 with a treble, and
the prolific winner, Village Copper, having his first outing in a Ladies
in the hands of Amy Stennett.
In the Hunt Race Andrew Ayers looked to have things sewn up
when his Aughmor River cruised past the pacemaker, Royal Action, at the
fifteenth fence. He could never quite shake the second favourite off,
however, and, as they raced towards the last, Paul Chinery had closed to
within half a length. His mount did not want to be beaten and hurdled it
without losing a stride. It was too much for Aughmor River and, despite
Andrew Ayers’ dramatic urgings, Royal Action came clear on the run in
for a brave, and much deserved success. It was a question of third time
lucky for the winner – he had been second in this race (behind horses
ridden by Mr Ayers) for the previous two years. This was an improvement in
form too and built on his previously encouraging third to Shanavogh and
Jackie Jervis at Higham. Today’s stiffer course suited him better and
there may be more to come in similar conditions. Aughmor River should not
be deserted in future either, although he may need an easier course to
show his best.
In the sixteen runner Maiden, Bush Hill Bandit was sent off
at the ridiculously short price of 5/4 to improve on his good second to
Little Farmer at Cottenham two weeks earlier. He was prominent throughout
but had to settle for second best again as Run Monty at 7/2, with Matt
Mackley deputising for the injured Tim Lane, came to take it up seven
fences from home. The pair pulled clear from the remainder but Run Monty,
who had been quietly hunted round on the first circuit, always had a few
lengths in hand. All three of his previous outings in points had been at
the easier Higham course where he had raced much more prominently in the
early stages. Last year he showed promise in finishing a close second to
Mister Chips. On his second outing this year, when third behind previous
winners Star Glow and Itsmyturnow, he turned round a thirty length deficit
on earlier running with Paddy’s Dream. Today’s effort may represent
still further improvement, and there could be an Intermediate to be had
with him this year.
The Red Boy was the predictable favourite for the Confined.
He had destroyed a Hunt field (including last Sunday’s winner Filou Du
Bois) in his previous race at Cottenham, and was at last beginning to show
the promise he had hinted at during his 2000 and 2001 campaigns (he was
off injured in 2002). His only serious market rival was Cinnamon Club, who
had won a Higham Confined earlier in the season after The Red Boy had
exited at the first fence.
There was a competitive field of fourteen for the Novice
Riders Race. Punters couldn’t decide between Always On The Line, a
winner at Cottenham and runner up at Ampton from three previous outings
this year, and Wibbley Wobbley who had won a similar race at Higham before
finishing a respectable fourth to Araminta in an Open at Thorpe Lodge.
They were sent off 5/2 joint favourites. As was the pattern of the day
they had the race between them, with only Topical Tip ever threatening to
gatecrash the battle of market leaders. It was Alexander Meriam’s Always
On The Line who finished the best, cruising into the lead after the
penultimate fence, to record a comfortable success. Wibbley Wobbley
didn’t quite see the three mile two furlong trip out, and was passed on
the run in by Emma Boone’s Topical Tip who had been outpaced when the
joint favourites had quickened three out. A long way back in fourth came
Man Of Steele. Jack Hackett
and Garrison Friendly were amongst the disappointments that pulled up.
Stuart Morris, who’s winner to runner ratio this year must
be greater than fifty percent, was aboard the 9/4 favourite, China Box, in
the closing race of the day, the Restricted. His thirteen rivals were
headed by the 3/1 shot Whichway Girl, Caroline Bailey’s sole runner at
the meeting, with Cantenac Brown, who had made the long journey from the
West Country, available at 9/2, along with the Turner’s Westfield John.
The bookmakers displayed what I suspect are their true Jekyll
and Hyde colours today. Their over-round figures were:
7 runners 117% over-round
(odds on favourite)
A pattern has definitely emerged over the last three weeks
and, I believe, we can draw the following conclusions;
The smaller the field, the better the value. This is
particularly true when the market changes, and favourites “flip flop”.
If you are lucky and judge the right times to get on, you can occasionally
back all the market principals and still make money.
The bookies will sometimes have the odds on favourite running
for them, and offer decent odds to back against it. There are not many
people at a ptp who bet in heavy money and, I suspect, the books are
unbalanced as punters veer towards the longer prices. If the second or
third favourite wins, the bookies may actually lose money.
- The bookies offer appallingly poor value on outsiders in fields of ten or more runners. It is rare to see 33/1, and when you do it is in events where the form of both horse and jockey appear well exposed. In Maidens, especially, they are terrified of being caught by a coup, and will rarely go above 14/1. In the long run punters would be well advised to not get involved in these events, or at least to reduce their stakes!