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    Bombs dropping in Britain!

    Monday, 28 September 2020

    UK racing journo, Ben Linfoot recently wrote an entertaining article in the Sporting Life, entitled, “The Year of the Long Shot.” Generally, between 4 and 9 horses per annum at odds over 100/1 win races in Britain but in 2020 already 15 have stunned the public. What has lead to such an unprecedented sequence of shock winners in the only seven months that racing has been staged so far this year?

    The reason is partly technical, somewhat due to unusual circumstances and might also be put down to plain randomness. The technical explanation is with no bookies on course due to lockdown restrictions, the starting price has been produced by off course layers stretching the odds. The change to the racing program bought about by months off during April and May has also scrambled the usual reading of the form book, throwing training schedules and experienced punters out of kilter.

    To illustrate, the biggest bomb of all and the longest priced winner in the UK since SP’s were recorded is He Knows No Fear at 300/1 trained by Luke Comer. The conditioner, a former plasterer, is one of the richest men in Ireland having made his fortune in property and construction. He trains a few racehorses for kicks and his last flat winner was way back in 2011. He Knows No Fear had made a tame debut finishing 18 lengths back and was making remarkable improvement second up in the 2.30 at Leopardstown.

    Another shocker was 200/1 Intercessor at Newbury. Interestingly he was also making his second start, typically the race where horses make the most development. This is an extreme example as he’d only beaten one horse on debut when 26 lengths back. After prevailing in this five-way photo, he reverted to his tardy ways and has only beaten one of 19 rivals in two subsequent outings.

    Even the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting yielded a massive upset – the juvenile Nando Parrado at 150/1 in the Coventry Stakes. He too was making his second career start after faring reasonably well in a strong heat on debut. This inflated SP was surprisingly generous, especially in hindsight, as he has subsequently placed in a Group 1 in France.

    Andrew Balding delivered this post-race comment with typical British understatement after Oo De Lally’s 125/1 stunner at Newbury two weeks ago, “Someone would have backed him as our horses do tend to step up for their first runs.” This was Balding’s longest priced winner ever and again fits the upset “trend” of youngsters making marked improvement on a dull debut.

    It's human nature to clutch at straws to try explain what happened after an event. How about the dubious credentials of freak victor, Seanjohnsilver, sensibly quoted at 150/1 after coming an abject last in his four most recent slow-motion jogs around the track?

    Track bias can be an extreme influence on results at certain courses and he got a perfect tow on the much more favourable near side to wake up dramatically and win at Tipperary. Maybe he indeed found the best strip of going or perhaps it was just one of those utterly bewildering, aberrant results that crop up about 0.03% of the time yet have been occurring more ‘frequently” of late.

    Interbet racing fans know all too well that forecasting is hard enough – sometimes results are so daft that even after the event we still can’t work out how it was possible!

    Mark VD Bio Image

    Mark van Deventer

    Mark van Deventer has been refining his speed figures for thoroughbred racehorses over three decades. He’s long been intrigued by the intellectual puzzle of form study. Andrew Beyer, creator of the Beyer speed figures in America, has always been his inspirational “guru.” So, the figures that underpin Mark’s analysis use Beyer’s main concepts, and have been adapted to suit South African racecourses.

    The racing bug can be compelling - since 2013, this U.C.T. Psychology graduate has settled into a career as a full time journalist and racing manager.

    Mark uses the insights gained from time-based analysis to convey well-researched handicapping opinions, building a reputation of integrity in the media as an imaginative handicapper with the ability to unearth live runners at juicy prices.

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