The 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.