Festival Review: Goodwood and Galway
In this blog post I look back at my efforts during Goodwood and Galway, with the aim of learning some lessons for the future. In it I touch on :-
- A brief re-cap on the results from the week
- My starting point to Festival punting
- Why we should all love The Galway Festival
- What can I learn for the future? Looking at a few horses as examples
- Class Matters: the one area of analysis I need to make sure I cover in every c2+ handicap moving forwards
- Jason Watson /Ruby Walsh
Hopefully you can take away something from this ‘long read’. So, get yourself a hot beverage, or a cold one, and let’s crack on…
This was a tail of two contrasting festivals for my ‘tips’ and there was plenty for me to learn from both. With any luck you find the reflections that follow both interesting and useful for your own punting moving forwards. There are a few areas/ideas that I need to hammer into my own punting brain, again. Hopefully some of the thoughts that follow become second nature moving forwards, helping us all identify more big priced winners in the future…
I should start by setting the scene…
My Members ‘Festival Tips’ (focusing on Festivals/C2+ handicaps) are on +179.5 points for 2018.
Or +£1795.00 to £10 per point bets. Not too shabby.
The Tips on the Free Posts (mainly all 3m+ hncp chases) are on +61.5 points.
It’s been a decent year so far, but there is always room for improvement, even if I’d wager that not many would match those results – certainly from the races targeted, the points outlay and the ROI, which I think is north of 100% (I’m working on publishing a full results spreadsheet in the next few weeks)
As always a key plank of my approach to any Festival is the stats groundwork, and last week was no exception. There were a mixture of big race stats/trends and some analysis of trainers / jockeys /owners. All three of those are creatures of habit, and even more so at the big meetings.
(I do something similar before each big ‘Festival’, sometimes less, sometimes more, with the Cheltenham Festival the jewel in the crown)
Some of the angles in that report had a great time of it. The Mullins Micro made north of 30 points I think, De Bromhead had a winner and the T Mullins 17f angle found a couple also.
The odd Goodwood angle worked well, especially the SDS angle for his rides in Class 2 drawn 8 or lower.
It also provides members’ with information to help find their own bets, which is always an important element of what I do.
This was the first year I attacked this week fully, and it didn’t go too well! Sadly, for non-members I decided to post all tips/previews on the free posts as well. Cursed!
12 horses tipped, 13 points outlay, (all win only) and not one winner to show for it.
I kept these tips to the Members’ posts (bar the Galway Plate)) and we had a very good week.
18 tips / 5 winners / (2x paid placed horses) / 20-point outlay / +43.5 points
I was happy to win 30.5 points across the two Festivals, but clearly would have liked a positive result at Goodwood.
There are lessons to learn, and I’ll come back to those shortly…
Why we should all love The Galway Festival
Before some deeper reflections on what worked and what didn’t, I just wanted to sing the praises of this Festival and why I for one relished attacking it. There were plenty of factors in the punters’ favour, especially over jumps…
- As my stats pack indicated, certain trainers like to target this meeting, and there were various ‘ways in’. W Mullins, T Mullins and Henry De Bromhead all had decent priced winners against the various angles, which helped me find 4 winners. This approach has worked equally well at various other Festivals.
- Willie Mullins… us punters went into the week knowing that the best jumps trainer in the world (the best dual purpose also, he’s pretty good on the flat!) was in a rich vein of form. He was operating at a near 50% win SR from memory, in the two weeks proceeding Galway. I knew he’d increasingly targeted this meeting in recent years and it was likely he’d done so again. (unlike Gordon Elliot, who bar his Plate/Hurdle runners, you can ignore) He’d had numerous winners at 8/1+ in recent years here, so I knew there was a chance of some biggies going in. My job was to find them. It’s a potent combination for us punters knowing he was in form, had targeted the meeting, that every horse was likely to be fit (and probably fitter/better trained than the oppo) and running to their full potential, and many had a touch of class. There was no excuse.
- The track/race conditions… Galway is a unique track where it can often pay to race on the pace, especially over hurdles and fences. It’s very hard to come from the back. That’s valuable information, especially if pace maps are a part of your armoury (they should be). The ground was generally soft, which given my liking for such conditions, was another positive. The track also lends itself to track specialists, or at least to mark up those horses that had won here previously. (Riven Light and Top othe Ra my highlights)
- In general I went into the week believing that every horse was there to run it’s race. This was also a chance for smaller owners and trainers to have a good go. It’s the highlight of the Irish racing summer in many ways, with most horses having been targeted at the week.
For me it was a great week to attack. While Ireland may have a growing problem with competitiveness and the increasing power of certain trainers and owners, there was still plenty of value to be had. I think it’s a positive at these big meetings that you can still back horses from certain connections at big odds, that often have a very good chance of being competitive. (as an aside, a few of Mullins’ supposed first string were inexperienced in big field handicaps and/or coming off lengthy breaks and at the odds alone were worth taking on…thankfully Ruby was on a few, condensing the odds even more and adding value elsewhere)
It’s a festival that should be embraced by the punter. I’m looking forward to next year already and it will probably get more attention than Goodwood.
What can I learn for the future?
This horse won the opening handicap and while my two pokes didn’t do much, there were positives to take from my approach. This horse showed up well on my stats/trends shortlist for the race and hit many other positive pointers from my various starting points. Haggas was also in flying form going into the meeting. I talked myself out of him based on price and it’s always tricky for me when a horse is around 7s in a race of this nature. I get plenty wrong, but I wasn’t too far away from this one. Sadly this wrong decision set the tone for the week!
Under The Covers
She was the one ‘monster’ (33s!) that got away during the week given that she was on my stats/trends shortlist. I should have been closer, and she was not the only sprint handicap winner of the week taking a drop in class. I should have appreciated the level of her listed form as a few of those races had worked out well. This was easier than recent races. I failed to consider that she’d been off the track for 80 days on account that the ground had been too quick for her. PJ McDonald had been booked and while his star is rising I do think he’s still underrated. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been close were she not on my race trends shortlist, but she was, and when these fly in at big odds it’s always frustrating.
I must remember to take more time with any monster on such a list and try desperately to find reasons to back them at their odds…rather than the other approach which is to find reasons not to back them. Asking ‘why won’t this horse win?’ is always a valid question (especially if looking at a short priced fav and why you should take them on) but when on one of my stats lists, I should try harder to find reasons to back them. You can overlook plenty of niggles with 33s shots! For example, this one had won on seasonal reappearance…why on earth was I concerned about fitness?! (80 days off) Yes that’s a niggle for a horse in single figures, but not at this price, with her profile. Poor.
I doubt this one will go off a decent price next time but sadly I got no reward for my over-confident 2 point outlay. I’d like to think that with a clear run he’d have won this, but it’s Goodwood and that’s par for the course. He missed the start and Ryan Moore took his spot as he was shuffled back. If he had his time again I suspect DT would try and angle him out, making his run from wide. But, it’s a game of fine margins and split decisions and that’s easy to say when sat on the sofa. This horse is well handicapped and has a decent pot in him. Maybe we’ll see him at York or another more galloping track.
I can’t complain about the run of this one, tipped up at 40s, backed into 14s and finishing 4th. Alas I didn’t back him EW! Hopefully some of you did. I’m pleased with how I read his profile and have developed my thinking with horses that seemingly ‘fade’ in their previous runs. Before I’d just assume a horse was out of form and/or didn’t stay the trip they were racing over. There is another explanation (ignoring going/bad draw/doing too much from the front/yard out of form etc) – that some horses fade in races because they have been racing out of their comfort zone. This can be a result of running too fast over unsuitable trips and/or being outclassed in their races. This one had looked taken off his feet a couple of times over 5f to my eye, having to do too much too soon. With only 2 runs at 6f in handicaps I thought he was worth stepping back up in trip. I thought he ran well here and I hope connections persevere with 6f. As we saw in the Dash, he can run well over 5f when a hell of a pace to aim at, but over that trip may prefer a stiffer finish.
When horses have been fading in races it’s important to ask why and try and make an educated stab for why they may perform in today’s conditions. A step up in trip and/or a step down in class (going a stride slower/weaker opposition) are increasingly important considerations. That may sound obvious, but I like to keep reminding myself! It will sink into the grey matter one day.
I picked the wrong Jim Goldie horse in this race. Sadly, Golden Steps decided to stay sat in the stalls, so I’ll never know if I was right or not. Two things to reflect on with this one…any recent form analysis may have been pointless to an extent – I should have clocked his 2nd in this race last year and gone from there. He clearly relishes the conditions of this race and it wasn’t hard to predict a decent run in this race again. I also didn’t pay much attention to the booking of SDS! Not sure how you do that really, but I did. Rubbish. Goldie hardly ever uses him and it just had to be significant, given he hadn’t been booked on anything else. Post-race Jim said something along the lines of…’well, when I knew SDS was free, I just had to book him’. Quite.
What follows may turn out to be the most useful points to reflect on for the future, as I do need to hammer them home into my racing brain…
At previous Cheltenham Festivals I’ve stressed the importance of judging a top weight in a handicap and whether they may just outclass the opposition and have too much for them, making handicap marks and weight carried an irrelevance. We saw that with Arctic Fire one year.
Clearly at times I’m not a fast learner as two such winners got away from me, one at Goodwood and one at Galway. I was lucky enough to land on one at 12/1, but missed the other two. Thankfully one of my members who tips regularly in the comments found the other at 14s>20s…one escaped us all…
A group horse in a handicap. Simple. Jason Watson had been booked (more on him shortly), the horse had won the only other time he’d dropped into handicap company, he races on the pace, stays well and was racing in a weaker renewal of the race than previous years. There wasn’t another horse in the race who could have replicated his form in some of those Listed+ races. I can’t think any others in this would have got within 4L of The Tin Man, for example, which he did at Windsor two runs previously. He’s a solid G1 performer. With the claim he was below his last winning mark in handicaps. A repeat of that handicap run would put him in the mix.
I must admit I wasn’t anywhere near him, in part because I decided to just focus on my trends/stats shortlist. That can happen with my approach at times, I can get blinded by the stats – especially after just 5 hours sleep having been at a wedding the day before! 🙂 BUT, even if blinded by the stats, it isn’t hard to take a browse at those near the top of the handicap that have form in Listed/Group races! That should be a standard part of my race analysis – every single time.
We saw this over at Galway…
Luckily my ‘class eyes’ were in full focus on this one and he was tipped in the members’ club, to repeat his win in the race last year… trained by Mullins, it wasn’t hard to imagine that this race had been the plan since his injury in Australia. 12/1 was just big enough given the questions but he was simply a class above these on paper to my eyes. He went on to win a listed race after last year’s success and was deemed good enough to send to Australia and run in a Group 1. Willie doesn’t tilt at windmills with such types and that was a pointer in itself. I didn’t care for his weight or rating in this, given he’d have won by much further last year with a clear run, and he was still unexposed in handicaps.
This year’s Galway Hurdle winner was the most frustrating missed winner of the week for me. I’m still a tad frustrated as he had exactly the sort of profile I thrive off in Cheltenham Festival Handicap Hurdles. He was lightly raced over hurdles and had been knocking around in Graded novice hurdles. He could have had any amount in hand on handicap debut here and would find this race a different sort of test which may have brought out some improvement (mainly a big field/strong pace – which many horses thrive off having not experienced such conditions before, tapping into stamina and allowing them to settle/see out their races etc. Some horses relish coming through the pack also)
However, there was one thing I didn’t consider which should have made all the difference… In the Future Champions Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) at Leopardstown on 27th December, he was going to hack up- but for falling at the last. He would have thumped Whiskey Sour in the process. That horrible fall no doubt knocked his confidence on his next few starts. He was then given a break and returned at Tipperary on his previous start in a G3. He ran well there and showed some of his old spark, in the process beating plenty of horses that would re-oppose at Galway. It wasn’t hard to muse that this was plan.
I really should have been closer to him. He was entitled to win as he did if ever recapturing his best, which his last run suggested me may do. Missing a 12s+ Mullins winner at The Galway Festival is always annoying!
Can I make a case for the top-weight/are they are group horse/class 1 horse in a handicap? That’s the question I need to ask in every C2+ handicap that I analyse moving forward. I’ll add it to the list.
I’ll mention this one as he was the other ‘missed winner’ from the Mullins yard. He showed up on one of my micro angles which was a decent starting point. I did look at him but for some reason moved on and left the race- maybe because it was for amateurs. This one was lightly raced and had a flat mark off 81…compared to a handicap hurdle mark of 132. On that basis he was entitled to have 10-20lb in hand, depending on what comparison you use. (timeform once suggested adding 30-35lb to a flat mark for a comparable jumps mark. I think the RP have suggested 40-45 on one study, but I could be wrong) He looked well handicapped. He was also clearly a fragile beast, given the number of career runs he’d had. (he’s only had 9, aged 7). It’s not hard to surmise that Mullins will have him spot on for every career run. He isn’t the sort where you waste a bullet after a break. His last two wins had come after breaks of 876 and 265 days! I also didn’t consider the jockey, who rode last year’s winner for the same owner (Whisky Sour). It turns out that owner is the jockey’s dad. Easy game sometimes. Missed him, 12/1 SP.
The final horse I’ll mention and I won’t agonise over whether I should have found him. I think I should find the winner of every race I tip in, which is clearly impossible but it’s good to try. There are a few lessons to take from his run…
-the blinkers returned here… I should assume that any chaser in first time blinkers or returning blinkers will try and make all! If the track suits such tactics and there is a lack of pace in the race, it should be considered even more. Clearly that won’t happen every time but there are a few examples I can think of at big prices. Blinkers in a chase = make all! (a good starting assumption to work backwards from) The blinkers are there to tap into the horses’ ‘flight’ instinct, and it makes sense to jump them out on the front, away from trouble and not surrounded by horses, which is never ideal given the reduced vision. Holding up a horse in blinkers doesn’t make much sense to me.
-Gordon Elliot / Gigginstown / A big staying handicap chase… every single runner from said connections in a race like this is worthy of study. Every single one. I managed to land on their unfancied one in The Irish National at 33s, but I don’t think I looked at Clarcam in much depth. I probably wouldn’t have tipped him but you do have to give yourself a chance. Slap. On. Wrist.
Just a quick word on the new kid on the block, who by all accounts is a star in the making. Post the Steward’s Cup I was intrigued to learn that his agent, Tony Hind, had advised him to ride Gifted Master. Watson was down to ride the favourite, Foxtrot Lady, for his boss. It would appear Balding was happy for him to ride another horse in the race which I find interesting, albeit he knew he’d have Probert so maybe nothing in it. Maybe he was happy to let Watson make his own decision as part of the learning process.
In any case, I think that’s important given he’s chasing the Apprentice title, which has opened up now David Eagan has gone pro. It’s there to be won and he now leads it. It could be a sign if he’s on another hose in a race when Balding has a runner, and it’s useful to know that Mr Hind is an expert form judge. Watson wants winners and will be worth keeping a very close eye on for the rest of the season. (along with the likes of Nicola Currie and Rossa Ryan)
It was great to see him back at Galway with a winner on his first ride. His booking tended to make the market in some of the handicaps and ensure a few of Mullin’s other horses were put in at bigger prices. I don’t really know what went on in the handicaps, given he didn’t ride a winner yet his boss had plenty. As I think aloud, I do wonder if there are certain horses Mullins/his owners, want Ruby to ride, regardless of their actual chance- he was put on a few lightly raced ones, and some that were coming off lengthy breaks- I wonder if he’s simply the most trusted to give them an education and to keep them out of trouble, with the bonus of the best post-race feedback going. The horses were there to run their best and many ran with credit, but there could be something in that. It could just be nonsense, but I suppose the main point is that in these big Festival handicaps, there is no point over thinking the jockey bookings for the Mullins brigade. Walsh has suffered plenty now and maybe there’s also a case that he isn’t as brave as you need to be in these races? Making all on the best horse in a 6 runner Novice hurdle is probably less daunting. Who knows, but Mullins did hint that he’d like to use him more sparingly and protect him a bit more, although I can’t think Walsh will have any of that. He probably can’t sustain many more long-term injuries though.
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Your 7 Week Trial Awaits
If you’d like access to my Festival Tips, don’t forget you can take a 7 week trial of my Members’ Club for just £7. The club is far more than my Festival ‘tipping’, but given they’re on +179.5 points for the year, even to £2 bets that’s +£359, the subs covered and plenty more left on top! 🙂 It really is a great community of enthusiasts as i’m sure my members’ would attest. And if you like trainer stats/systems/starting points and attacking races yourself also, you’ll enjoy it even more. It’s a journey, but so far it’s been a rather profitable one. Come and join the fun.
You have a full 7 weeks to see if it’s for you and in that time i’ll try and apply some of the ideas above to increase our betting banks even more. If you’d like to be backing more 50/1, 33/1, 16/1 winners, then…
Thanks for reading, and happy punting,
p.s as always your thoughts, ideas and polite disagreements are welcome! Post away…