UPDATE: 11 January 2016 If you are a latecomer to this post, be aware that the trainer says that although PZ will get a Ryanair entry, he will return to hurdles on his next outing.
I’m afraid that since I tipped him, he’s managed to tip himself up – twice, and even if he runs in the Ryanair, the last thing you’d call him now is a value bet.
Apologies to those who took my advice at the outset!
Ante-post betting can be dangerous. If your horse doesn’t turn up on the day, your cash is lost. However, when you get it right, it can be lucrative, and give you a lot of personal satisfaction. When placing an ante-post bet, you need to weigh up the following:
Is the horse likely to run?
Which of its rivals in the betting are likely to run?
Will the price shorten significantly enough to justify the long term risk?
Is the animal sound enough to rely upon, barring accidents?
You can marshall facts, but the biggest decider will be your experience and, often, your instinct. From time to time, a race is priced which appears to throw up an opportunity as close to ante-post perfection as you’ll get. The last one I recall is the 2013 King George, when Cue Card was available at 12/1 early in the year, despite the fact that the front 4 or 5 in the betting looked doubtful runners. Had Cue Card not gone wrong two out at Kempton, the biggest ante-post bet of my fairly long life would have been landed. Still, a couple of years on, I think I might just have found another one.
Here’s the current betting from Stan James for the Ryanair Chase in March:
- 11/4 Vautour
- 5/1 Cue Card
- 7/1 Don Cossack
- 12/1 Ptit Zig
- 12/1 Valseur Lido
- 12/1 Sprinter Sacre
- 12/1 Vroum Vroum Mag
- 14/1 Simonsig
- 14/1 Sound Investment
- 16/1 Road to Riches
The current intentions of connections, gathered from reading race reports, stable tours, blogs etc suggest that the following are likely to be seen in the Gold Cup, not the Ryanair:
Road to Riches
The QM Champion Chase is the likely destination for Sprinter Sacre, who might be joined there by Simonsig (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the grey return to hurdling full time).
Valseur Lido could also end up in the Gold Cup as connections appear to believe stamina is his strong suit. Vroum Vroum Mag might run in the Ryanair, but I doubt she’ll have accumulated sufficient tough-it-out experience by March. Also, she has yet to run left-handed outside France (she has an entry at Carlisle at the time of writing, another right-handed track).
Should all of the above pan out (unlikely, but far from impossible), that leaves the Nicholls pair, Ptit Zig and Sound Investment. The latter is a fast-improving handicapper, who could run well. Ptit Zig is a horse bordering on top class. He is also much more likely to run here than in the QM or the Gold Cup. The QM would mean facing a potential superstar in Un De Sceaux as well as a rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre. The Gold Cup would see him taking on arguably the best field in the history of the race, over a trip he’s not at all sure to stay.
Ptit Zig ran Vautour pretty close on Saturday, giving the Gold Cup favourite five pounds, a performance which brought brickbats raining down on the Irish horse rather than bouquets on PZ. I think it will turn out to be very good form indeed. Prior to that, Ptit Zig had won easily in Ireland on his seasonal debut. In the JLT, he was routed and gutted by Vautour, but so was everything else in that field. Ptit Zig does have a Cheltenham victory, having won there last January. Nicholls has always thought a lot of him (he ran him in the 2014 Champion Hurdle). I’ve a feeling Ptit Zig will progress this year much the way the yard’s Dodging Bullets did last year.
Crucially, Ptit Zig is the one horse in the above betting list who looks most likely to turn up in the Ryanair. Nothing is certain, but that risk is more than built into the price of 12/1. If my hypothesis proves correct, he’s unlikely to be bigger than 3/1 on the day.