Everyone wants to be a wise-guy and find the best betting angles, says Betfair Ambassador Kevin Blake ahead of this weekend's Dublin Racing Festival. But sometimes it pays to keep things simple...
"The wannabe wise-guys will unleash a cloud of smug upon all around them if their horses get the job done. However, such behaviour offers the potential for another layer of opportunity, one that can be exploited by the Reverse Contrarian."
Betting on horse racing these days is all about finding wise-guy angles. Everyone wants to find the not-so-obvious viewpoint that they think will get them ahead of the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking this approach. Sure, trying to be a wise guy is my bread and butter. However, in the pursuit of contrarian angles, some of these would-be wise guys seem to forget that the whole point of the exercise is to get value by going against the crowd.
Such is the enthusiasm for left-field approaches these days that the markets often have the wise-guy factor built into them in first shows, especially for the bigger races.
Mullins' runners set to improve at Dublin Racing Festival?
This tendency is very clearly illustrated by the markets for a number of the big races at this weekend's Dublin Racing Festival. One angle that has gained momentum in recent weeks is that many of Willie Mullins' runners are tending to need their first run of the season more than would normally be expected. Those who have been on board with this thought and allowed for greater-than-usual improvement from their first run to second will have benefited in recent weeks. However, like all the best edges, one will only have so long with it before others cotton on and drive down the prices.
Two very obvious candidates that fit the above angle this weekend are Chacun Pour Soi and Kemboy. Both shaped as though they were too fresh for their own good on their seasonal reappearances at Leopardstown, showing up well for a long way prior to having no more to give close home. Given the overall pattern amongst Willie Mullins' (pictured below) horses this season, they are both prime candidates to improve from those runs and make a right good go of reversing the form with those that finished in front of them over Christmas.
With both of them having just shy of four lengths to make up to reverse that form, any wise guys looking to exploit the angle will have been licking their lips at the prospect of both of them being an attractive price. Alas, the angle into them has become so popular that they are both trading as favourites, with Chacun Pour Soi clear at the head of his market.
Such is the enthusiasm of the wannabe wise guys, they are likely to kick on regardless and get stuck in just so they can unleash a cloud of smug upon all around them if either of those horses get the job done. However, such behaviour does offer the potential for another layer of opportunity, one that can be exploited by the Reverse Contrarian.
With the likes of Chacun Pour Soi and Kemboy now trading at prices that arguably overestimate their chance even allowing for the anticipated improvement from their seasonal reappearances, they very much make the market for those who are willing to either keep it simple and swim with the tide or dig digger for a less obvious wise-guy angle.
Backing A Plus Tard makes sense
In the case of the Dublin Chase, keeping it simple by siding with A Plus Tard makes plenty of sense to me. The six-year-old has stuttered at times since joining Henry De Bromhead, but there is now a firm view that he isn't nearly as good going right-handed as he is going left-handed, which offers mitigation for three of his four defeats in Ireland.
Having thought to be in need of the run on his seasonal reappearance at Navan, he improved to register a career-best effort when beating Chacun Pour Soi by three-and-three-quarter lengths at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting. A Plus Tard was very authoritative up the run-in and while his main rival is entitled to improve, A Plus Tard makes much more appeal at 11/4 than Chacun Pour Soi does at 7/4.
While Kemboy isn't quite as under-priced as a wise-guy angle as Chacun Poi Soi is, he still looks too short at 13/8 at the head of the market for the Irish Gold Cup. The one that makes the most appeal against him only finished half a length behind him in the Savills Chase under an eye-catching ride, yet is available at 9/2. That's right, it's Presenting Percy.
The Presenting Percy (pictured above) that so many of us fell in love with was campaigned aggressively and brought along steadily as the season went. This approach yielded victories in the Pertemps Final and the RSA Chase at consecutive Cheltenham Festivals. However, last season was different.
As everyone knows, the flow of information from the Pat Kelly yard isn't the best, but one wouldn't have to be an expert at reading between the lines to conclude that they had serious issues keeping Presenting Percy right last season. He only ran twice, missing a slew of potential targets all season, then came home lame after running in the Gold Cup. As a campaign, it was a write off.
Thankfully, Presenting Percy has clearly been much more straightforward to train this season. What has been strongly suggested by his performances in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and the Savills Chase is that he is being brought along steadily, presumably with a view to peaking for the Gold Cup. There was loads of promise in his fifth-place finish in the Savills Chase, with Davy Russell giving him a very sympathetic ride throughout until a shortage of peak fitness perhaps told in the final strides.
That run should put Presenting Percy near enough spot on for this. With him being such a bigger price than Kemboy, the case for him being an attractive price is clear.