These are the glory days for festival punters – make the best of them

RubyThe festival continues its domination of the season, like a multi-headed monster growing stronger each year. Having a winner there is becoming a target against which the careers of trainers and jockeys are measured.

Grasping how vital it is to trainers needs no words; a look at the red, tearful, heart-burstingly strained face of Nicky Henderson says everything.

There are plenty moans on twitter about how unbalanced NH racing has become by the focus on the festival, but like government and media, we get what we deserve, and from a punter’s viewpoint there should be no complaints. In the not too distant future, these will be looked upon as the glory days of punting.

The desperation of the big bookmakers to compete and attract new players is illustrated by some offers that would stretch credibility in fiction.

P Power ran a series of offers to tempt new phone customers, each up to £50, each with a stake-matched free bet should the selection lose. Examples: 5/1 Pont Alexandre: 8/1 Cue Card: 7/1 Bobs Worth.

Coral went evens Sprinter Sacre throughout the festival to £20 – small stakes but free money just the same. Most of the others had their own take on financial suicide over the meeting…crazy.

But where bookies can be wounded most, imo, is in the pressure that comes with shoving the first post-race quote for next year under the noses of CH4. The dilemmas here for bookmakers are: we want to be first, we want to be best price, we know we’ll need to hold those prices for a reasonable time period.

All this without being able to dissect the race properly. They quote on the fly and hope for the best.

Many punters run shy of betting a year in advance and, under normal circumstances, such caution is merited. But the fury of the festival has changed everything in the punters’ favour and cherry-picking from post-race quotes can be a goldmine.

Hills went 5/1 Bobs Worth. 5/1 about a horse who . . .
has won the Gold Cup
has won three different festival races (first since Flyingbolt)
is five from five at the track
is only 8
was having just his 6th steeplechase
is with a trainer who could make a fortune running festival masterclasses
has no history of unsoundness (touch wood)
faces no threat from those he beat (you can argue for Silv Conti, but at 5s BW, I’m happy to rule him out)
faces no threat from the younger generation
and, crucially, who will definitely have the race as his target

If you don’t mind tying up your money for a year you are being offered 5/1 about a 6/4 (tops) chance

In the Champion Hurdle, if you’re happy to stick with what looks a hugely talented younger generation you can dutch Our Conor at 6/1 and The New One at 8/1.

The bias among some ‘judges’, which The Ryanair should finally have put to rest, seems to have continued with 5/1 available about Cue Card for a repeat against the usual suspects. There is a small chance he might be stepped up to the Gold Cup but that is pretty remote, and you can have a saver on it at a big price.

PPower went 4/6 Sprinter Sacre (Bet 365 offer a more realistic 1/3).

Hills soon caved in and cut Bobs Worth to 7/2, but you can still have 4/1 with Sportingbet. PP now go 4/7 S Sacre.

To recycle the old Richard Baerlein line, now is the time to bet like men.

Good luck


6 thoughts on “These are the glory days for festival punters – make the best of them

  1. Good piece Joe but it has been 8 losing bets on the Champion hurdler retaining his crown, 4 losers in the QM since a follow up and 9 in the Gold Cup, on the three races you mention. Those bookies aren’t quite as trigger happier or foolish as you would paint them.
    Also, the (admittedly) excellent offers on races at each Festival are paid for by the Marketing department and not by the trading room (for good reason).

    1. Fair points stats-wise, but I think you need to have a view before a race starts as to what the opposition is likely to be next year. You’re then in a position to make an immediate assessment of the value when the post-race quotes come in. I will be doing much more preparation next year so I can form a view on every race. In fact, the last post-race festival bet I had was in 2007 when Betfred went a crazy 9/1 Denman for the Gold Cup after he’d won the RSA. Last week, it took little if any prep (RSA result was known) to realise 5/1 Bobs Worth for next year was tremendous value imo.

  2. Mr Mouse (by comparison Joe) reporting for duty Sir who absolutely (100%) agrees with you regarding Bobs Worth. Your list of reasons to support the champion is foolproof as opposed to the chance of Our Conor.

    Only Katchit has won the Champion Hurdle as a five-year-old since See You Then won the first of his three successive victories in 1985. The second and third horses behind the Irish winner are workmanlike at best and there is no ‘proof of purchase’ that compares in any shape or form with the chance of Bobs Worth, in my humble opinion.

    The ‘experts’ agreed that this year’s Champion Hurdle was the best for many a year and most of those will be going to the well again next year whereas Bobs Worth has nothing to fear from any rival that I can see.

    Our Conor will also have The New One to beat as you rightly say, whereas there is no new emerging star to take on the ‘Blue Riband’ winner in my book…..not yet anyway.

    What this game is all about is opinions and yours is as good as I have ever seen. Just thought I would throw in mine as well, if only to keep the juices flowing!

    1. Mal, you are a Gold Cup winner for the leading ‘commenter’ on this blog – miles clear!

      I didn’t, unfortunately, grab any of the 10s about Our Conor as it is too easy to overreact immediately to a visually impressive performance. And even after I’d looked at the race again a couple of times, I wouldn’t back Our Conor at 5s under normal ante-post rules. But where my stake is protected, even as a free bet, I suspect 5/1 will turn out to be good value.

      He’s been pretty impressive in all his races, but his Triumph win blasted them out of the water, and what made the difference, I think, aside from normal improvement, was The Hill, with, quite probably, the slightly better going helping (previous wins on soft). When they met the rising ground OC simply came away without his brilliant young partner even shaking the reins. From there to the last he gave him 4 or 5 taps – and I mean taps – down the shoulder. After the last he got lower in the saddle and hands and heels saw him continue to increase the gap in effortless fashion. One ace that drops straight into your hand with him, aside from his natural talent, is that he is now a festival winner. I’m not a stats-follower by any means but the one that says that former festival winners have a huge advantage is probably the strongest and most profitable statistic in NH racing. Another factor in his favour, and one I always like on my side – he is unbeaten over hurdles; nobody knows where the bottom lies. He just might be another Golden Cygnet.

      The New One too has that festival ‘winner’ ace tucked away, and I’m hoping he’s the 2014 winner having backed him at 25s to be just that. But I fear/hope this youngster might just be a hurdling Frankel.

  3. I gotta admit ,I opened a coral account on top of my hills and bet365 ones and if it wasn’t for special offers I wouldn’t of made any profit. hills paying 5 places in the supreme ,coral doing a 10£ free bet if you betted on the first race ,10 to 1 long run with hills (although fell for the Oscar whiskey offer) ,sprinter sacre evens and won on Ted veale which allowed me a free bet on at fishers cross with bet365 as that was originally a watching race for me.I also used my free £50 opening match on inash island ew ,so the special offers made the difference !

    i fancy my tent or yours for champion hurdle.can see him winning first time out and odds shortening straight away from the 10s .twiston Davies normally starts the season of good and ends well ,but I have noticed he dips around Xmas time ,so thinking the new one may go out to a bigger price if he ain’t at his best if he runs around December and January time.

  4. I also forgot to mention Annie power at 33s for the champion hurdle.its very hard for a horse to remain at the top of there game beyond 4 or 5 hurricane fly will be 10 also and with this new lot of what seems to be really good /young lightly raced hurdlers coming through ,I’d say the old guard will be making way for the young ones ,just like most expected our 2nd season chasers to take over!she will go to either fairyhouse or punchestown next!

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