An old-fashioned touch …

August 11th, 2020 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there,

As a general rule you don’t see market moves of any great intensity these days but there was a right old touch landed at Catterick last week, when Cormier was backed in the minutes before the off from an opening show of 22/1 to 100/30 favourite.

The bets were duly landed as the four-year-old responded to strong driving to get up inside the final furlong and win by one and three-quarter lengths.

There are a few things to say about this.

The first is that as someone who likes to think ‘outside the box’, for want of a better phrase, I never saw this one coming.

Cormier came into the race a 14-race maiden, having last been seen pulling up on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen on 10 July where he was soon well in arrears and never remotely near enough to challenge.

Before that he had shown early pace in an extended 1m 1f 0-60 at Wolverhampton in March before dropping back three furlongs from home to finish almost 30 lengths behind the winner.

That was his first run for Brian Ellison, having previously been trained by Stef Keniry, for whom he ran 12 times dropping from a mark of 71 to 54. He led or was ridden handily in most of his races but never finished nearer than second, that coming in a four-horse 1m 4f 0-90 handicap on heavy ground at Haydock last June.

Though clearly not entirely devoid of ability, there had not been any recent indication of it. When asked by the stewards to explain the improvement Brian Ellison said the gelding had only run once for the yard, and that was on the AW at Wolverhampton, and he may have appreciated the return to turf.

Apart from all that, it’s very rare in these days of overnight prices to keep the lid on a horse carrying this degree of confidence.

I gather as little as £20 is enough to move the price overnight with some firms, especially if it comes from a well-connected or marked-up source – assuming such people are recognised by the major firms.

Surely someone in Brian Ellison’s yard would have stepped in, or had a contact back the horse, if not overnight then when things picked up in the morning. This would certainly have applied if the horse had done a useful piece of work.

One can only assume that Brian Ellison runs a very tight ship indeed. That’s not a great surprise in this case as Ellison is the owner’s step-father.

The horse is owned by Yorkshire-based professional gambler Kristian Strangeway who reputedly won £228,000 when Optimus Prime won a beginners’ chase at Thurles in November, 2007. That was as a result of putting £270 on the horse at 1,000/1 in running when the commentator mistakenly said the horse had fallen.

The owner admits he doesn’t always win, which may be why he managed to get the money on.

I would, though, love to know more about the background to this extremely well-executed gamble.

Bye for now