A Look Ahead …

January 5th, 2021 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

I want to start by wishing you all a healthy and, I hope, successful 2021.

Things are evidently going to get tougher before they get better, but racing offers a welcome distraction to the problems facing the nation as a whole and we just have to hope that it will be allowed to continue, with Cheltenham an obvious objective.

It’s about this stage of the season that the Festival ‘bankers’ start to emerge.

As you are more than aware, perhaps some from painful experience (thinking of the last flight fall of Annie Power in 2015), seldom do they all win. Furthermore ante-post betting does not hold the attraction it once did, with the odds offered on the ‘shorties’ little better than they will be on the day.

There are a few novelty or special bets on offer – the 25/1 with Bet365 on Willie Mullins training eight or more winners was snapped up following the recommendation by Tom Segal in last Thursday’s Racing Post. That bet is now just 6/1, while Paul Kealy was keen on Betfred’s offer of 8/1 on Shishkin to remain unbeaten through 2021.

Given the strangeness of these times some may be tempted by the 20/1 offered by Ladbrokes on any day of the Festival being abandoned due to the weather, while looking to the Flat the 2/1 offered by Bet365 on Aidan O’Brien training the 2021 Derby winner was generous based on the evidence to hand. As Graeme Rodway demonstrated, having won six of the last 10 Derbys the price should be more like 4/6. There is still value to be had at 7/4.

More specifically the ‘bankers’ for Cheltenham at the moment are Shishkin in the Arkle (10/11) and Envoi Allen in the March Novices’ Chase (Evs).

Others that may appeal at slightly longer odds are Appreciate It in the Supreme (11/4), Epatante in the Champion Hurdle (5/2), Monkfish in the RSA (9/4), Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase (6/4) and Easyland in the Cross Country (2/1).

An accumulator bet on all seven would return odds of about 1,500/1 – one of those bets that would look obvious with the benefit of hindsight were it to come off. Yet with uncertain running plans and the risk of injury between now and the middle of March, the odds of them all making it to post, let alone winning, are slim.

The time to consider such a bet is when the bookmakers introduce the NRNB (Non-runner, no bet) concession. That usually happens in mid-February, although it may be sooner this season in order to stimulate interest.

Speaking from a personal standpoint I’m not sure that the horses mentioned will even be my selections on the day. As you are aware I like to try and avoid the obvious when I can, but when the concession comes in nearer the time the multiple bet may be worth considering to modest stakes.

Looking more specially, I would be inclined to forgive Epatante’s defeat at Kempton. Every mare is entitled to an ‘off day’, and the way the race was run – and that mistake at the third last – went against her.

Saint Roi was a little disappointing in Ireland but a strongly-run race in March could suit Abracadabras. I still hold out hopes that Honeysuckle will come here, while Aspire Tower is very game.

The Gold Cup still looks very open, with Al Boum Photo heading the market at 9/2.

We have yet to see Champ back in action while the bookmakers persist in underrating Frodon, who can be backed at 16/1.

The other one that is overpriced on last season’s form is Lostintranslation at 33/1. Colin Tizzard will strike form at some point and if he keeps the nine-year-old fresh, and has another tinker with the horse’s wind, he could outrun those odds.

There are far more important things to be mindful of as we embark on a new year, but let’s hope that the conundrum that is racing will continue to keep us stimulated and intrigued.

Every blessing to you all for 2021 …