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Forced Kin
03-10-2012, 05:43 PM
Big fan of Donn McClean of Irish Field, his own website, Sunday Times etc etc.

Interesting article below ....Coud be bad news for Barry Geraghty will Burton Port and Riverside Theatre bounce ?

Interesting piece by James Pyman yesterday in the Racing Post on the Bounce Factor.

You know the theory on the Bounce Factor? It’s similar to the Krypton Factor, really, in that most people have heard of it, some people believe that it exists, but nobody really knows how it works. (There’s no way the square peg should fit in the triangular hole, but, guess what, it does.)

Say a horse is off the track for a while, like a year or two – pick any period of time you like that is greater than, say, 11 months – then he comes back, runs a good race, wins, or finishes second in a good race, or clocks a good time. Your natural inclination is to think that he will be better on his next run, that the first run will have blown away the cobwebs, got him racing again, the you-can-get-them-as-fit-as-you-like-at-home-but-there’s-no-substitute-for-match-practice theory. Right? Wrong. Well, wrong if you subscribe to the Bounce Factor theory.

Bounce Factor theory say, horse will under-perform on his next run. Really? Really. He will under-perform on his second run back after a long break. That’s if the Bounce Factor applies, or if the horse ‘bounces’. (Technical term.)

Why? Not sure really. Explanations go something like: the horse has expended so much energy on his first run back, pushed through a pain barrier, dredged energy reserves that he hadn’t needed to call on for a while, used muscles that he hadn’t used in ages, that he has no huge desire to do so again a short while later. He remembers the energy that he had to expend, thought, ah yeah, I remember this racing business, and it hurts. Thought, nah, I don’t really want to exhaust myself again. Physiological or psychological, not sure really, maybe a mixture of both, but there is something there.

The most interesting aspect of yesterday’s piece was the reaction of experts in their respective fields to the possible existence of this phenomenon called the Bounce Factor. Seven professionals were interviewed covering a cross-section of the industry: a trainer, a vet, a trainer/vet, an equine physiotherapist, the chief executive of the Animal Health Trust, a schooling expert and a veterinary surgeon. (Not sure what the difference is between a vet and a veterinary surgeon, but there must be one.)

To a man/woman, they doubted its very existence. Reactions ranged from “It’s not an absolute fact of horse racing, it’s an opinion-based thing”, to “It is an excuse that connections use because they are a bit disappointed”, all the way to “Horses get up with a headache one day just like we do”. Only one of the seven respondents said that they thought it did exist, but that it may be down to the fact “that the sub-clinical problems have now become apparent” after a re-appearance run, than to anything else.

According to Pyman’s research, however, it does exist. Very much so, as Jack Kelly used to say.

Here’s the deal. Since 2005, 19 horses returned to the track within 60 days of recording a Racing Post Rating of 150 or more on their first run in over a year. Of those 19, only one improved on his first run. 13 ran much much worse. If you had had €1 on each of the 19, you would have shown a net loss of €13.46.

Of the 104 National Hunt horses rated 130 or more, who posted a Racing Post Rating that was 6lb or more higher than their official rating when having their first run in a year or more, 20 won. However, 19 of the 20 were dropped in grade, and started at 4/1 or lower. If you had had €1 on all of them, you would have made a net loss. Just one of the 51 horses who started at greater than 4/1 won, leaving you with a net loss of €43.

Why does the Bounce Factor exist? We don’t really know. We don’t really need to know. But this provides evidence that it does exist. It doesn’t affect all horses, but it does exist, and we just know that we need to tread warily when we are dealing with Bounce Factor candidates.

Implications for Cheltenham? Beware the horse who is stepping up in grade (aren’t they all when they go to Cheltenham?), having his second run back after a long break, his first run after an encouraging return after a year or so or more off the track. This list includes Burton Port (Gold Cup), Balgarry (Martin Pipe race probably) and Riverside Theatre (Ryanair Chase). Not that they won’t win, just that they are probably priced up without taking the bounce possibility into account, and that they may be under-priced as a result.

Forced Kin
03-12-2012, 05:12 PM
Difficult to argue why a well-within-himself Hurricane Fly won’t win the Champion Hurdle again, barring mishap, or that a trained-to-the-minute Sizing Europe won’t defend his Champion Chase crown, again barring mishap. But here are three relative outsiders who may out-run their odds and who may therefore be worth backing each-way:

THURSDAY: World Hurdle: Thousand Stars (8/1)

Thousand Stars has a much better chance of winning the World Hurdle than he would have had of winning the Champion Hurdle, so it is good that he is running in Thursday’s race. He is a classy horse, a dual Grade 1 winner, who won the County Hurdle in 2010 and who finished fourth in the Champion Hurdle last year, so we know he handles the track.

He won the (albeit slowly-run) French Champion Hurdle last summer over three miles and one and a half furlongs, when he had Mourad and Grands Crus behind him, so he has every chance of staying Thursday’s trip, and he gave Oscar Whisky a real fright in the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles last April. He may not beat Big Buck’s, but he may run better than an 8/1 shot should.

THURSDAY: Pertemps Final: Catch Me (16/1)

Catch Me was rated 164 in his prime over hurdles, but he gets to compete in the Pertemps off a mark of 140, and that gives him a chance. He is 10 now, he is obviously not as good now as he once was, but he was a top class hurdler in his day, and he ran a most encouraging race in a Pertemps Qualifier at Punchestown last month.

Third in the 2007 Neptune Hurdle, we know that he handles the track, and he has been bought by JP McManus, so he will probably have the invaluable assistance of AP McCoy.

FRIDAY: Gold Cup: Weird Al (12/1)

Weird Al has just two lengths to make up on Long Run on their running in the Betfair Chase, and he is six times the price of Nicky Henderson’s horse. That race came just three weeks after Weird Al had won the Charlie Hall Chase, and we know that he is at his best when he is fresh, so it is probable that he is capable of even better than that.

Weird Al is nine, but he is a lightly-race nine-year-old, he has run just eight times over fences in his life, and he still has plenty of scope for progression. Also, this is his first season with Donald McCain, for whom he seems to have improved. McCain has left him off since last November with the specific objective of having him fresh for the Gold Cup, he has won twice at Cheltenham, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him run a big race on Friday.

Forced Kin
03-21-2012, 03:15 PM
Nail on head again from the Donn.

Is there a void in your life now? Do you spend your mornings clicking onto Oddschecker and wondering where the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle market has gone? Do you miss checking Betfair to see if you can nick another few quid at 110 about that horse that everyone thinks is running in the Gold Cup, but you suspect will end up in the Ryanair? Do you miss the hourly tweets on the wellbeing or otherwise of almost every Fred Winter aspirant?

Or are you just happy that some semblance of normality has returned to your life?

It’s never easy, dealing with Cheltenham’s aftermath. Think child, think Christmas, think returning to school. The loss is commuted somewhat, of course, if you have had a winning week (equals if you have a new Nintendo Wii in your bedroom), but combine the end of Cheltenham with a loss-making Festival: not good.

So how was it for you? I lost a little on the first day, won a lot on the second day, won a little on the third day, lost a lot on the fourth day. Thankfully, the lot that I won on the second day was more than the lot that I lost on the fourth day, so, all in all, it was a decent winning week.

It is always useful to go through your bets, though, at the end of Cheltenham, win or lose, see where you went wrong, see where you went right, see if there is anything that you can learn for the following year. The main thing for me this year is that none of my long-range ante post bets won. Not one.

Of course, as usual, my ante post portfolio going into the meeting included the usual set of abyss bets (like Rubi Light for the Gold Cup), but overall, I thought that I was in a stronger position on Cheltenham Eve this year than I was in for many a year. First Lieutenant at 16/1 for the RSA Chase (SP 9/2), Monksland at 14/1 for the Neptune Hurdle (SP 11/2), Shadow Catcher at 18/1 for the Triumph Hurdle (SP 10/1), Weird Al at 20/1 for the Gold Cup (SP 8/1), Catch Me at 20/1 for the Pertemps (SP 12/1), and others.

It’s all very well beating the market, that is the object of this ante post exercise after all, but you do need one or two of your bets to drop, you need a winner or two to make the exercise pay. We know that, if you back enough 9/2 shots at 16/1, in the long run you will win. In the short run, however – and the Cheltenham Festival is a short run, even if it is a long run to get to it, no pun intended – if none of those 9/2 shots win, you will lose in said short run.

Thankfully, I managed to happen upon a few winners during the week. Son Of Flicka in the Coral Cup made a huge difference. I had a shortlist of five for the race, and I backed just two in it, so thankfully Son Of Flicka was one of the two. He was a 40/1 shot when I decided that I was going to back him, and he was a 28/1 shot by the time I had the rationale written, so that was a pity. Even so, I still thought that he was a bet at 28/1, given that he was backed. He was at least as good a bet at 28/1 in my book, given that there was money for him, as he was at 40/1 when you didn’t know if there was market confidence behind him, if that makes sense.

I’m not certain what to do with this information, mind you. You spend five months studying Cheltenham, studying the ante post markets, trying to bet the horses you think are value at the prices, so to come out with no winners from all long-range ante post bets after all that is a little disappointing.

It was different last year. Bostons Angel and Zarkandar were both long-range ante post bets, while Sizing Europe was the only winner backed on the day of the race. In 2010, Imperial Commander, Big Zeb and Weapon’s Amnesty were all long-range ante post bets, but all day-of-race bets went down. In 2009, there was a nice mix: Cooldine and Imperial Commander were long-range ante post winners, while Oh Crick was a day-of-Grand-Annual bet.

Maybe the betting landscape is changing in this context, but I doubt it. Bookmakers are as competitive in the ante post markets for Cheltenham as thay are at the meeting. I think that it was just one of those years, just one of those weeks in which the long-range stuff didn’t click. A mere blip, if you will. I don’t think I’ll stop studying the Cheltenham ante post markets next season, please God. The main difficulty now is in exercising restraint until October.

Forced Kin
03-26-2012, 02:22 PM
Donn on the flat

So we’re off on the flat. No sooner have they crossed the line in the Grand Annual than the talk is of the Guineas and the Derby and Frankel and Most Improved and Camelot. Stick your thumb in the dam, talk about the Grand National and Fairyhouse and Punchestown all you like, stick the Whitbread and Ayr and Perth in for good measure but, whatever way you skin it, even if you want to, you just cannot halt the irresistible march of the flat.

You know that the flat is rolling when you see the Ballydoyle battalions charging down the home straight after racing at The Curragh on Irish Lincoln day. Well, not so much charging as casually sauntering, but it was great to see them back, great to see The Curragh in use again as a racecourse. And the sun shone.

As ever, an interesting season for Ballydoyle stretches ahead of us, and, all things being equal, specifically, an interesting one for Joseph O’Brien. A couple of recent developments have resulted in the youngster suddenly morphing into a real live contender for the Irish Jockeys’ Championship.

First, on Thursday there was the announcement of the raising of the weights that flat horses will carry in Ireland this season. The weights in two-year-old maidens have been increased by 2lb to a minimum of 9st, which is great news for Joseph, who seemed to be able to ride at 9st comfortably enough last season, but probably had to waste at least a little to ride at 8st 13lb or 8st 12lb.

The maximum weight in nurseries has been raised from 9st 7lb to 9st 10lb, with the resultant increase to weights further down, which should increase the number of horses that Joseph will be able to ride in nurseries this season.

The maximum weight in three-year-old handicaps has been increased by 2lb – to 9st 12lb to the end of June and to 10st from June on – which should have the same impact for Joseph as the increase in weights for nurseries. As well as that, the minimum weight in conditions races and black type races has been increased from 8st 12lb to 9st, unless that pushes the top weight up over 10st (as would have happened in yesterday’s Park Express Stakes), which should mean that Joseph will not be restricted by weight from riding any horse in a conditions race, at least from a little later in the season.

The second development is that Joseph appears to be gradually assuming the mantle as Ballydoyle’s number one rider. Yesterday at The Curragh, he rode five of the seven Aidan O’Brien-trained runners. The only two that he didn’t ride were Twirl and Homecoming Queen in the Park Express Stakes, both of whom carried 8st 9lb, a weight that, presumably, Joseph couldn’t do.

As well as that, Joseph rode Camelot and Maybe and Excelebration in the post-race gallops, three of the big Ballydoyle horses for 2012. And he is set to ride So You Think in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday, despite the fact that, presumably, Ryan Moore, who rode So You Think in four of his eight races last season, and who rides Planteur on Saturday, was available for the ride, as was Seamie Heffernan, who did nothing wrong on So You Think in his four other races last season.

It makes sense that Joseph should emerge as Ballydoyle’s number one. Of course he is the trainer’s son, but he is also a top class rider who has earned a shot. He has everything that a top flat rider needs, he usually has his horses in the right position, he is calm in the saddle, he is a top class judge of pace from the front, he is strong in a finish.

He does lack the depth of experience that the very top riders have, but he is quickly getting up to speed on that one, and he proved with his rides on Roderic O Connor (from the front) in the Irish Guineas last year, and on Camelot in the Racing Post Trophy and, most notably, on St Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November, that the big stage doesn’t faze him.

O’Brien finished third behind Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen in the riders’ championship last season. He does have 30 winners to find on that pair this term, but he was only an apprentice last season, he had 120 fewer rides than Murtagh and almost 300 fewer rides than Smullen. If he does have more or less the pick of the Ballydoyle horses this term, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he can bridge that gap. As well as the Ballydoyle horses, he is sure to be in huge demand from outside yards, and his agent is one of the best around.

Smullen and Murtagh will be difficult to overhaul, and the 4/1 and 5/1 about O’Brien winning the title have gone, but you can still back him at 3/1. They should probably be betting more or less 2/1 each of three, so even the 3/1 is probably too big.

Forced Kin
03-30-2012, 10:10 AM
Donn on the grey space :). Strange time of year this.

Difficult to know where to look these days, innit? Now that we are in that grey space that exists between the end of the Cheltenham Festival and all the Grand Nationals and the Punchestown Festival and the Guineas.

25/1 Flemenstar and Last Instalment for the Gold Cup, 6/1 Riverside Theatre for the King George, 16/1 Al Ferof, 16/1 Sunnyhillboy for the Grand National, 20/1 Killyglen, 14/1 Up The Beat for the Irish National, 11/2 Eton Forever for the Lincoln, 5/2 So You Think for the Dubai World Cup, same price as Camelot is for the Derby then. 4/1 Tiger for the Masters. Tiger is back, apparently.

There was plenty going on in the lead up to Cheltenham, plenty of spinning plates, but at least you could train your focus on just one meeting, even if there were 27 races in it. If there were 27 plates spinning at the same time, at least they were all within touching distance. These days it feels like there are about 100 plates spinning, almost all of them in different rooms.

There’s not much betting about on the Punchestown Festival, but there are a couple of press releases, and the Punchestown Gold Cup – newly under the thetote.com banner (that’s two the’s, a little like Matt Johnson) – is shaping up to be a goodun. Quito De La Roque is apparently on track to run, in what would be his first public appearance since he finished third in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. Rubi Light, one place and two and a half lengths in front of QDLR in the Lexus, also has the Punchestown Gold Cup on his radar, and the Lexus form is looking mighty strong now, given that the race was won by the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero. (Who would have thunk?)

It would be a fascinating re-match between the Lexus minor placers. In Rubi Light’s favour is the fact that he is two for two at Punchestown over fences, and he should benefit from stepping back up in trip (I still think you should have left him in the Gold Cup Robbie!), he just appeared to get a little out-paced in the Ryanair Chase. However, both his Punchestown victories were achieved on soft ground, which he is unlikely to encounter at the end of April. Also, he has been to Cheltenham and back, he just may not be as fresh as QDLR.

Colm Murphy’s horse’s near-four-month absence is a potential negative, but he does go well fresh, and he won the Grade 1 novices’ chase over the Punchestown Gold Cup course and distance at last year’s Festival on his only run at the Co Kildare track. He remains the possessor of potential untapped.

Captain Chris would add a fascinating dimension, should he make the trip. Philip Hobbs’s horse won the Grade 1 two-mile novices’ chase at the meeting last year, Hobbs often has his team well-primed for Punchestown, and Captain Chris did remarkably well to finish fourth in the Ryanair Chase at left-handed Cheltenham, given that he had his right indicator light on the whole way. He probably stays three miles, he goes well on good ground and, even though he has a little to find on the big Irish duo on official ratings, he could be the one to make them go a bit.