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Fate of the Favourites - A Clerk's View

Which race favourite is due/not due? Beaten Favourite last time out?

Fate of the Favourites Table 2019

Fate of Festival SP favourites since 2003. When it becomes 3/1 and under, value needs to be re-assessed. Level stake laying at SP of all 184 SP favs priced 3/1 and under since 2001 would have given you, as the bookie, a profit of +29 units. Not a great return. In the Festival it is now value to back short priced favs. '09, '13, '14, '15 ,'16 would all have yielded a punter's profit. In each of the last two years you would have been about -2 units down. 12 shorties last year, 15 in 2017. In 2018 the big winners for the bookies would have been a 9/1 shot winning the Supreme getting Getabird beaten, Un De Sceaux turned over in the Ryanair, and Apples Shakira not winning in the Triumph, the first race on Gold Cup day when they take most money on and off course. According to Ladbrokes/Corals stats the 2018 Triumph Hurdle was the sixth biggest betting race in UK/Ire last year. The sixth biggest. Think of all the races throughout the racing calendar. A nine runner, G1 four yr old race takes all that money, the fav is backed as if already home and hosed and the race is won by the fifth favourite. All the short priced doubles and trebles that day turned over. Result of the week.


In 2017 Douvan @ 2/9 turned over the big talking point. Great day to be laying off course doubles and above. 2016's bookmakers' heaven/short priced punter carnage was +3 in favour of those punters who love shorties (8 from 15 won). Un De Sceaux the only odds on shot of four not to oblige.

As a clerk I would suggest that the theory of calculating level staking punting on short priced favourites means little or nothing. The shorter the price, the bigger percentage of my screen should be on that horse. In Douvan's case, I would expect 80% plus to have been bet on it so that you stand the fav for the same amount as you stand every other favourite. If that hasn't happened, either the clerk is at fault or the bookie has gone a bit 'cold' and can't see it beat. To be polite to my employer, that is an thing easy to do, especially if you're not having a good day. Oh yes, and in that situation you will discover that the clerk is still at fault!

I look forward to hearing what Ronan Graham is offering on the Belfast Preview Night. Last year it was just enhanced singles and not particularly exciting. The 2017 offer was a 9/2 treble Altior, Douvan and Unowhatimeanharry. The SP return on this treble was under 2/1 and people were queueing to get on. Worked for them, but then, laying short priced trebles tends to always work for the bookies. The theory as old as the hills. Always too many variables. We don't know how, but one will always get beat. Belfast is a great preview, I recommend it.

The W Mullins shorties are paying. 20 of his last 28 sent off at 15/8 or shorter have won for a £1 level stake profit of £11.10. 16 horses sent out by him over the past 11 Festivals have started evens or shorter ranging from Vautour to Douvan. 5 losers, latest Un De Sceaux. Followed Hurricane Fly and Un De Sceaux(again) at 4/6, Annie Power in that £40 million fall at 1/2 in the Mares Hurdle 2015 became the 'shortest shortie' to fail in the last 20 Festivals. Until Douvan, of course.

However in each of the last three Festivals, backing the 28 favs blind would give the bookies a win of +14.50. Last year +3.5, 2017 +2.5 in 2016, +1 2015 and +5 in 2014 on level £1 stakes. As said above, true picture difficult. Getting Getabird beat was a big start last year, and all favourites lost on Gold Cup day. In 2017 the bookies won well especially on Day 1 when a 25/1 outsider wins the Supreme and plunges went adrift on Yanworth 2s and Limini 6/4. Only favourite to win on GC day was Defi Du Seuil and plenty of money stayed in satchels after Death Duty 13/8, On The Fringe 11/8 and Le Prezien at 7/2.

2016 narrowly outstrips 2012, 2013 and last year as the best performing year for favourites since 2003. Nine winning favs and a co fav from the 28 races. 2013 was different again in that all 9 favourites that won were 3/1 and under. Even all three of the odds on shots were successful. Unheard of. And 4 favourites won on Gold Cup day. But even backing all favourites blindly in 2013 would still have cost you 3.5 units. In 2012 the favourites profit for punters would have been +8. That year the 4 miler was won by the 5/1 fav and three of the handicap chases were won by favourites priced 13/2 twice and 9/2. Another anomaly in 2018 was that Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima was the first Festival Handicap favourite in 37 to win.

Overrounds - Always controversial stuff. In each of the last three years the 14 G1s had an average overround of 120%. That's pretty good for bookmakers as on a Friday at Downpatrick for a non handicap you might struggle to get percentages above 112-113. Last year it ranged from the Bumper with 130% to the Arkle with 110%. The bigger the field, usually the bigger the overround unless you have a shortie such as Douvan. In 2017 the overround for that QM was 139% followed by Altior's Arkle at 134%. Probably because of the their prices 2/9 and 1/4. Bookies hate 6/1, 7/1 second favs, 9s bar, in fields of eight or more. All the each way thieves come in for their 'bet to nothing'. Always think a daft bet myself as the bookie now holds your money and the horse has to get placed for you to get it back. And if the shortie wins, you have only two places to get your money back. Somehow it usually comes for the bookie.

Last year the best race for punters on each day (in order) was the Arkle 110, RSA (for the third year running) 114, Ryanair (second year in row) 112, Triumph 113. The smaller fields mean that bookmakers have to bet harder. The average for the 10 handicaps in 2018 was just over 130%, below the 134% of the previous two years. Even so, no bookmaker would turn their nose up at those numbers. it ranged from 124% for the Ultima (betting hard) to 136% for the County. As a clerk, I think it sometimes unfair to concentrate on handicap overrounds in big fields. If everyone is backing everything, there doesn't tend to be time to push things out to bigger prices in those frenzied minutes before the off. Probably why the exchange win prices usually offer better prices as it is self regulating. I have never seen any general conspiracies especially in these times of exchange trading. Bookmakers in a ring may need each other, but they are still competing against each other. Once again Gold Cup Day had the biggest average race overround at 126% which is handy for bookies as yes, that is the day they take the most money.

Other betting stats. 3/1 and shorter favourite winners in handicaps since 2002 are 2 from 25 (No qualifiers in the last two years, 2016 Aloomomo 3s, Josies Orders 15/8, Squouateur 9/4 all lost. 2015 Roi Des Francs beat, 2014 Big Shu beaten in X Country). In amateur rider races they are 4 from 15 (none last year, Cantlow 9/4 and On The Fringe losing in 2017. In 2016, On The Fringe 15/8 winner, 2015 Paint The Clouds 11/4 loser in Foxhunters, 4th).

The Fringe, Back in Focus, Salsify (lucky) and Alderwood in 2013 were the first favourites 3/1 and under to win outside G1 or G2 company since Heads on the Ground in the 2007 Cross Country (23 others have tried).

In the last 23 Festivals 16 of 40 odds on shots have been beat. That's amazing. Six ran last year, Apples Jade and Un De Sceaux left the money in the satchels.

This time last year I put up the shorties as Getabird, Footpad, Buveur D'Air, Apples Jade, Samcro (the Big One) Altior, Cause Of Causes, Presenting Percy, Un De Sceaux, Laurina, and Apples Shakira. Suggested taking on six of them. Well, five lost, but I got three wrong. At the moment this year's short priced beauty parade may include Le Richebourg, Buveur D'Air, Benie Des Dieux, Ok Corral, Champ, Santini, Altior, Tiger Roll, Paisley Park, Sir Erec and Presenting Percy.

Prediction time. A bit worrying as I've backed at least four of these antepost. (Can't resist it.) Like all clerks, although I help to pay out, its not my money. Dan, my employer will repeat, 'We are playing with live bullets here, no George Cross please.' At least six of those eleven shorties don't win. I'll take on Le Richebourg, Buveur D'Air, OK Corral, Champ (Challow winner, obviously), Santini and Percy There, said it. Looking at the early tissues, the bookies may be hoping that getting Sir Erec beat is the important one for Gold Cup day. Tom Segal think's he'll 'start odds on.' I can see Grahams coming in on Preview Night with a first day overpriced treble including Buveur D'Air to get us interested. What say you, Ronan?

On-course bookmakers will once again fight bare knuckle in the car park for a pitch (maybe not lower down in Tatts, but on 11th February 2019 Julie Williams did make the £165k reserve for her father Freddie's No 2 pitch. John Hughes now governs that corner). And with the huge expenses involved for such a tour, it must work for them. 'We are there to lay the shorties' (Brian and Ronan Graham, every Belfast Europa Preview Night, every Monday before, every year).

WHICH FAVOURITE MAY HAVE WON TOO OFTEN RECENTLY? - People don't believe me, but when you work as a clerk, you see these things taking their turn, going round. No, no logical reason, its horse racing, it just happens. The race with the current best rate for favourites is the Arkle with five of the last six obliging and both 11/4 jt favs placed in the other. All the last four have won at odds on. Lay Le Richebourg. Three of the last four RSA, Triumph Hurdle and JLT favourites have won. Santini, Le Erec. Three Ryanairs in the last five, the Champion Hurdle is 5 from the last 8. At the moment I'm not convinced that Buveur D'Air will start fav in front of Apples Jade. 7 of the last 16 World Hurdle jollies have gone in but only Thistlecrack from the last six. Paisley Park. It should will be a few years before the Mildmay and Kim Muir favourites once again both win on the same day like in 2012. Quevega won the Mares a lot followed by Vroom Vroom. Last two mares favs beaten. Ryanair has had four winning favs in the last seven. The 4 mile Chase hadn't had a winning favourite since 1992 then from 2011 to 2013 Chicago Grey, Teaforthree and Back In Focus come together, like buses. None since. Willoughby Lodge 14s biggest priced winner of Neptune in 10 years. Nothing else was bigger than 7s. But three winning favs in the last seven.

WHICH FAVOURITES ARE DUE? - The Coral Cup - Xenophon (Pricewise 8s to 4s when he really had clout) in 2003 was the last favourite to oblige. Sporazene 2004 last clear County Hurdle winning fav. Since the same horses seem to be involved all the time, seems strange that none of the last 11 Cross Country favs have obliged. Coo Star Sivola joined Wichita Lineman to be the first favs in the Ultima since Antonin in '94. No 4 miler fav in the last five, no Close Brothers fav winning since Hunt Ball in 2012. Altior, the first QM winning fav in four. No Fred Winter winning fav in eight (good luck with that one). Moon Racer 2015 is the only Bumper fav to win since Missed That exactly 10 years earlier. In the Pertemps, Fingal Bay 2014 only one since Inching Closer 2003. Majadou'99, Salut Flo' 12, The Storyteller '18 current roll of honour for the Mildmay. No Kim Muir fav in six, Mall Dini couldn't lose last year. No Albert Bartlett in five. Eight of the last GC favs have obliged but only Don Cossack of the last five. Sir Des Champs is the only Fav ever to win the Martin Pipe and Alderwood 3/1 in 2013 is the only Grand Annual winning fav in 14. Favs do work better in the smaller fields conditions races. (If its any help, I'm getting poorer backing the unnamed fav in the Coral Cup, on the theory that its going to happen sometime..)

BEATEN FAVOURITES LAST TIME - In 2016 I was nearly distraught when I realised that six of the Festival winners were fecking beaten favourites last time out. One of my favourite stats. I thought it was over between us. But its always good to see a friend return (or you never lose what a friend gets?) In 2017, 53 of the PPDs (punters previous disappointments) ran at the Festival. One winner, Apples Jade 4/1. And I even backed her, on an outsider of three theory. Makes a profit on the beasts of 48pts on the week, or if you are like me, gives you something to strike out in the comic when pouring over the big fields. In 2018 the doubt returned, 59 ran, winners were Presenting Percy 5/2, Penhill 12s (BF at Punchestown Festival), Missed Approach 8s and worst of all Pacha Du Polder at 25s. Despite that, level stakes loss of 7.5 units if you were to back them all. (Have to confess to backing Pen and Pacha in the middle of Feb '18 without even thinking of this, poor show) In 2016, 55 beaten favourites last time out came to Prestbury Park. Winners were Un Temps Pour Tout, Any Currency (a given), Diego Du Charmil, Black Hercules, Ivanovich Gorbatov and On the Fringe. I consoled myself with the knowledge that backing level stakes on all 55 would still have cost you16 pts but it took me a while to get over it

Drum roll, please. Since the turn of the century, 823 horses have run at the Festival having been beaten favourite last time out. A total of 32 of the PPDs won for a 3.9% strike rate. About a 25/1 chance for each winner. In 2015, a total of 64 ran having been beaten favourite last time out. No one believed me but none of them won. Since 2000 on £1 stakes you will only show a profit of £23 in the RSA, £29 in the County Hurdle and thanx to Pacha, £4.75 in the Foxhunters. No other race in profit. Backing all beaten favs blindly to £1 would have left you £412.75 adrift. It has been suggested by the great James Pyman in the comic that the four SA winning 'beaten favs', Lord Noelie, Hussard Collonges, Trabolgan and Presenting Percy were beaten either at 'sharp' tracks or at a distance less than 3 miles. Maybe. At least seven of the 32 winners had been beaten last time out at evens or shorter (Apples Jade 2/5, Black Hercules and Baracouda, both at 4/11), eleven were Irish trained, six Nicholls trained, three Henderson. Fantastic stuff. This is the Olympics. Do you get a second chance to disappoint? Maybe. Those that may be involved in this poser for 2019 include Might Bite, Road to Respect, Footpad, Samcro, Lalor , Kalashnikov, Santini, Elegant Escape.

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