Big races

Where’s the Gold Cup ante-post value after The Betfair?

There’s nothing I can add to what’s been written and what will be about Kauto Star’s magnificent Betfair win: I tweeted on Thursday that his trainer seemed to be viewing it as Kauto’s Gold Cup and if it turns out to be his only win of the season it will lose no lustre for that.

There’s an ante-post list at the foot of this post, courtesy of Easyodds. I’m going to go through and pick a few from it for comment in the hope I can find some value.

Long Run 11/4

I was more impressed with him today than I was at any time last season. His King George and Gold Cup victories were against horses with question marks against them: a poorly Kauto Star and a few others who were amiss at Kempton. At Cheltenham the 2nd fav, Imperial Commander pulled up lame and the aging KS and Denman arguably set it up for Long Run.

He ran a remarkable race today given that he left his hind legs in almost every fence down the back straight on the second circuit. To battle back after such a string of errors in a Grade 1 on that ground on his seasonal debut showed what power he has. Unless something unexpected emerges between now and March he will have the best engine in the Gold Cup field.  The trouble is, he’ll have 22 fences to get over.

Here’s his form comment from this year’s Gold Cup:

In touch, blundered 3rd, hit 10th, tracking leaders when blundered 12th, stayed right there, not fluent 4 out, ridden before next, stayed on to challenge 2 out, led before last, driven and stayed on strongly run-in

His only steeplechase in the UK without a mistake was the King George he won.

Sam Waley-Cohen seems a nice fella and he has talent but I’d love to see what Long Run could do with Ruby on board. Given his jumping issues and the usual ante-post worries of remaining sound, he’s no value at 11/4.

Kauto Star 12/1

In his ninth season with 14 Grade 1 victories on his CV including 2 Gold Cups and 4 consecutive King Georges, 4 Betfair Chases( he’s the only horse to regain a Gold Cup) who’d write him off?  Come Gold Cup day he will be 12 years old. Since the race’s first running in 1924, only two 12-year-olds have won it – Silver Fame in 1951 and What a Myth in 1969.  I’m never too concerned with age stats because the information on how many of the relevant age group took part is often absent giving you no sample size from which to draw a conclusion.

If you want to be picky, you could argue that he’s much more error-prone at Cheltenham than anywhere else with his 2009 Gold Cup win the only race there which was mistake-free.

Having missed the 44/1 available yesterday, I’m loath to back him now at 12s but I wouldn’t put you off.

Quito De La Roque 16/1

This 7-y-o, despite trading above 250/1 three out on his last run where he completed a five-timer by catching an utterly exhausted Sizing Europe close home, appears Ireland’s main hope for the Gold Cup.

He’s got stamina stamped through him though has won at 2m 4f.  Ferry/Plane trips don’t bother him as he won at Aintree in April,  The ground seems to make no difference  (always a confidence booster when ante-post betting). He’d be 7 from 7 over fences but for just failing to catch RSA winner Boston’s Angel in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, two fencing errors not helping.

His trainer’s quotes (below) suggests there might be quite a bit more to come and he’s on my short list.

05Nov11 Down royal   ( 24 Sft ,RPR167 )

To win was a bonus. He wasn´t as fresh as we would have liked today. Three weeks ago he had a leg problem and we had to knock the sparks out of him to get here. He had a hard race today, though, so we´ll have to revise his programme now. He´ll probably go for the Lexus at Leopardstown at Christmas. I´ve never had a runner in that race. The John Durkan at Punchestown could come a bit quick but he´ll get an entry. He´s a pure gutsy horse. He kept going when the rest were stopping today. We´ll see if there´s a five mile race for him anywhere! – Colm Murphy, trainer

08Apr11 Aintree   ( 25 Gd ,RPR151 )

He is still such a big, backward, raw horse and we felt that the flat track here would suit him better than the undulations of Cheltenham. Physically there is still more to come, but we won´t get carried away yet. Time will tell if he can make it. We´ll let him do the talking, but he would have to improve for us to start talking about Gold Cups. – Colm Murphy, trainer

Grands Crus 16/1

RSA would seem a much likelier target for this grey, the Arkle has been mentioned too so aside from his unknown level of talent and his inexperience it would be daft betting him for the Gold Cup at any price when he seems unlikely to run.

Captain Chris 16/1

No value at 16s. The Arkle winner’s form is not top-drawer, to me he ran in snatches on his reappearance at Exeter, wasn’t at all fluent before landing on top of the last and unseating. Has a chance of staying the trip but far from guaranteed and should be at least 25s for this.

Weird Al 20/1

He was 20s before the Betfair and it’s interesting that his price remains unchanged.  At 8, he’s had comparatively few races for his age and it’s hard to draw conclusions about him. He’d been with Donald McCain only about 6 weeks when he won the Charlie Hall impressively (never off the bridle according to T Murphy). Mr McCain mentioned before today’s race that it might come a bit soon for him and Murphy’s post-race report today was that the horse did not feel as sharp as at Wetherby.  The trainer announced he would have a long rest and be brought back in the spring.

Weird Al is 2 from 3 at Cheltenham – he broke a blood vessel in the Gold Cup this year. Before that he was 8th of 18 in the Hennessy – by far the biggest field he’s ever faced.  It might be he prefers small fields and there’s no way of predicting how many will line up for the Gold Cup given Long Run has now proved he is no superstar.

But Weird Al is a fine jumper, a stayer, very gutsy, a good traveller and, perhaps most critical of all, seems to go particularly well fresh. There was some 25s to be had after today’s race which seems to have evaporated and given that it is unlikely he will be seen again until after Christmas, his price is unlikely to shorten. There’s no drawback I can see in holding off for now if you fancy him.

Denman 25/1

If Rolls Royce Denman went in for a service, they’d be sure to have to change a few worn-out parts.  I doubt I’ve ever seen a horse who puts so much into his racing; I think he’d rather die than give up.  The cost of that over the years has been a loss of energy after his first run of the season.

I think he has never been quite the same after his Gold Cup victory when he poured it on so aggressively. He lost something that day which could never be recovered. His heart problem arose after that race and, with hindsight, perhaps it was no coincidence.  The only time he came close to reproducing that RPR was on his seasonal debuts 0f  09/10 and 10/11 (both in The Hennessy)

If I thought Mr Nicholls was going to run him just once this season, in the Gold Cup, I think 25s would be huge value.

Great Endeavour 33/1

The Pipe horse would need to find about 20lbs improvement to figure with a chance in the Gold Cup – not completely out of the question, but the Pipe stable was red hot when he won the Paddy Power. No denying Cheltenham’s a track ke likes having won the Byrne Group Plate at the 2010 Festival. However, he’s been inconsistent and the trainer’s post-race quote from last time doesn’t inspire confidence in him getting the Gold Cup trip:

12Nov11 Cheltenham   ( 21 GS ,RPR164 )

We did fancy him last year but things didn´t happen for him. He is a bit quirky but Timmy got a great start and got him into a rhythm. He is entered in the Hennessy but we´ll see. He´s a very good traveller in his races and three miles and two furlongs might be a bit far. – David Pipe, trainer.

Were it not for that comment, I could be tempted to have a small bet.

Master Minded 33/1

Another very good horse with the mixed fortune of having hit the best day of his life against a poor field in the Champion Chase on his ideal ground, and at the zenith of his very progressive profile at that time.  His 19 length victory resulted in a rating of 186 (probably 10lbs too much) and the superstar expectations which he’s been unable to meet.

Master Minded never lived up to his  186 rating. In his dominant period, the 2m opposition was poor – Petit Robin, Mahogany Blaze, a past-it Well Chief, a 20 furlong horse in Voy Por Ustedes: arguably the first good horse he met, Big Zeb, would have beaten him but for demolishing the last fence at Punchestown (and still running him to a head). Big Zeb then beat him in the Champion Chase and Paul Nicholls stepped MM up in trip.

I thought him workmanlike at best at Ascot today and I suspect he’s getting a bit quirky. He can also throw in the odd mighty blunder. Although his trainer thinks he wants a trip these days – it’s very hard to imagine that trip being an extended 3m 2f at Cheltenham.  The following quote is an old one (given after his Aintree defeat by VPU), but can it be turned around to the extent that 33/1 becomes value for the Gold Cup?  Not for me – I suspect his race will be The Ryanair but if he wins or goes close in the King George, who knows?

04Apr08 Aintree   ( 20 Gd ,RPR168 )

He´s run a good race, he just said he didn´t stay – simple as that. He made a mistake but he was running on empty before then, and Ruby said, ‘We´ll just stick to two miles´. He´s absolutely fine and you will see him next in the Tingle Creek. There was always a doubt, though Ruby said when he won at Sandown that he thought he´d get two and a half. At least we know now and we will stick to two miles. There will be no, ‘Oh, he might be a King George horse´, he is going to stick to two miles, and that´s it. Voy Por deserved to win a big race. He has been knocking on the door and we owe him one. – Paul Nicholls

Conclusion:

I think Weird Al is the one to take from today – from a value perspective – but given his fragility in the past and the fact that we’re unlikely to see him again for at least 2 months, the price is unlikely to drop. A dazzling performance by the KG winner might see Weird Al pushed out, so I will wait a bit.

Prior to Quito De La Roque’s next run, I’ll have 2 points win on him.

Good luck and if you have read this far without dozing off . . . my work here is done.

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