Albertas Run – 7 from 9 on good ground: can he do the Ryanair double?



Seasonal form figures of 4FP are the type that give a horse a bad name and a big price coming into a Grade One race at the festival. Albertas Run, last year’s Ryanair winner, has had a poor season by his standards; he fell when under pressure against Master Minded at Ascot then pulled up in the King George next time (jockey thought AR had ‘gone wrong’ but the horse finished sound).

An RSA trophy alongside his Ryanair one didn’t prevent the ruthless boys at Timeform giving him the dreaded and thoroughly undeserved squiggle (all they needed to do was check his going requirements).

He has won seven of his nine races over jumps on good ground (Timeform going description used). In the other two he was 2nd to Kauto Star in the King George and 3rd to Madison Du Berlais at Aintree.  Assuming good ground tomorrow as forecast, failure to make the first three would be a career first, yet he can be backed each way at around 6/1.

His Ascot fall was his first ever (he can hit the odd fence) and it might have left its mark mentally, but at 6/1 I am willing to take the chance that his favourite surface and track (won 3 of his 4 races over jumps at Cheltenham) will see him back to his best.

Good luck

The ‘winningmost’ Timeform squiggle horse in history

The chestnut mare Lupita cantered down to the start for the final race at Exeter on Tuesday saddled not just with the life-changing hopes of heating engineer Steve Whiteley’s jackpot ticket, but also with the dreaded Timeform ‘squiggle’.

Timeform was founded (as Portway Press Ltd) in 1948 by Phil Bull, who wanted to establish a mathematical link to a horse’s performance, based on the time the horse recorded, in an era when such data were virtually unheard of.  The company developed into one of the most respected brands in racing and betting, producing numerous publications aimed at giving the time-starved punter and form student an edge. Timeform was purchased by Betfair in 2006.

Timeform’s main output – covering every horse in every race run in Britain – required some shortcuts which signified placings, going, racecourse and a horse’s character.  So they produced a sort of hierogyphlic print form of short text messaging.

p commonly referred to as a small ‘p’; the horse is likely to improve

P commonly referred to as a large ‘P’; the horse is capable of much better

+ the horse may be better than rated

? the rating is suspect or (used alone) the horse is out of form or cannot be assessed with confidence

§ the ‘Timeform squiggle’; the horse is unreliable (for temperamental or other reasons)

§§ the ‘double squiggle’; the horse is so unsatisfactory as to be not worth a rating

x a poor jumper

xx so bad a jumper as to be not worth a rating

So poor Lupita, with 28 unsuccessful runs over hurdles, found herself with the shameful squiggle. Those jackpot players in the know would have shunned her for the squiggle alone and moved on.  But if ever you need proof that Ignorance is Bliss, you find it in Steve Whiteley who was unversed in squiggle language and form in general.  He chose Lupita because “the name Lodge, stuck in my head” (Lupita’s rider was Jessica Lodge and it made a refreshing change for racing to have an appealing Lodge as a jockey than a jockey lodging an appeal).

And the rest is history.  Steve is now richer by £1.4m though he managed to upset his wife by forgetting to buy her a birthday present, hurrying out to get a 65p birthday card to which his wife said “You can’t stay mad at a millionaire, can you?”

Lupita might not have won much prize money for her owner, but she must go down in history as the highest earning squiggle horse in Timeform history.

Seabiscuit!   Who wants the Lupita squiggle movie rights!?

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Are you a stats follower? You might think twice after reading this

Stats and trends have become hugely popular in the past few years, especially for festival meetings.  Maths was never my strong point – if I could work out a £2 double at 11/4 and 9/2 I was happy.

So when stats came to the fore in racing, I, like many, welcomed them. They were the S-Plan diet for form students – lose work, gain time painlessly.

The first time I was alerted to the cracks in the stats ceiling was in 2008 when I had a very strong fancy for Captain Cee Bee in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.

But the stats boys said – “Ignore seven-year-olds, they have a very poor record”.  The Supreme is a race for novice hurdlers aged four and older. I set about digging a bit deeper and found that in the previous ten years, only a handful of seven-year-olds had run in the Supreme.  That blew the stat’s credence, making it a non-stat.  It also helped Captain Cee Bee go off at a longer price so the ‘stat’ was helpful to me in the end.

Another, bound to pop up somewhere before next Friday, is “ignore six-year-olds (Long Run) who have a very poor record in the Gold Cup”  But as the popular Paul Jones, the man who is to stats what Brian Epstein was to The Beatles, tells us in his annual Festival Guide , only three six-year-olds have run in the race since 1963.

My simplistic view is that, unless stats are published with a sample size, treat them with extreme caution.  For a much more comprehensive and learned insight, you will find James Willoughby’s article, enlightening.

Another excellent article from Timeform’s  studious stats guru, Simon Rowlands is here

Good luck with your betting.

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