There are a number of pieces of evidence to note when considering the John Smith’s Cup at York on Saturday, but arguably the most important is that a 20-runner handicap in which bookmakers are betting a minimum of one-quarter the odds the first four places is ripe for an each-way bet rather than a win-only bet.
The maths – which I will only partly bore you with here – shows that you would need to stake about £128 proportional to the best early win odds to guarantee a return of £100 come what may – not an especially appealing proposition – but only about £103 to do the same on the place part. Some bookmakers may even offer better place terms than that.
You cannot back place only at fixed odds – in large part due to such scenarios – but you can bet win and place, or each way as most people know it. At the end of this piece the recommendation will be to back two horses each way rather than win only.
Other important evidence includes what we might expect from various “trends” over the last 10 years of a race that has had 58 editions overall. The following are what those trends say, with the most important indicators, as usual, being Place Impact Value and % Rivals Beaten to the far right.
Three-year-olds and four-year-olds have outperformed chance, but not by much once opportunity and non-winners as well as winners have been considered (the only three-year-old has been scratched).
The draw has favoured inner stalls over outer stalls over the years, but it is a slightly murky picture overall, with the nearly-outer stalls having been responsible for six of the last 10 winners (races have been recoded to take into account non-runners).
A short absence or a medium absence have been positives in the last decade, but absences of more than eight weeks have been the opposite.
Interestingly, last-time winners have performed rather worse than by chance (other than in terms of wins only) despite a reasonable expectation being that they would do a good deal better. All the last-time winners (as well as one penultimate-start winner) on Saturday will run penalised.
One consequence is that last-time seconds and thirds have a good record by the measures that matter, having presumably run well but escaped a penalty in many instances.
The likely pace profile of Saturday’s race is somewhat ambiguous. You can have odds against with me that a field of 20 dawdles, but there are no real out-and-out front-runners in their number. Dash of Spice (who is returning to a shorter trip), Born To Be Alive and Appeared have the lowest Timeform EPFs.
Ultimately, all that matters – all that ever matters – is whether or not horses are overpriced or underpriced, though there is no definitive “truth” in this area: betting is, in effect, an extended test of an individual’s ability to judge value.
For me, Mordin and Thundering Blue are the two to be most interested in, the former a qualifier on trends, the latter more form-based.
Mordin is a four-year-old last-time runner-up who may not be perfectly positioned in stall nine, but he is better placed than the other horse who ticks those two boxes, Afaak, who is out in stall 21 (effectively 19).
Mordin has been getting steadily better, winning his first three and finding only one too good in his three starts since, and he gets to go off the same mark as when short-headed by Mooltazem at Ayr three weeks ago, in what was admittedly a weaker affair.
Trainer Simon Crisford continues in good form, second only to Roger Varian by % of Rivals Beaten in handicaps since May (64.1% compared to 64.6%).
Thundering Blue does not “fit the trends”, such as they are, in being a five-year-old among other things. But he is a gelding who won remarkably easily at this course and distance two starts ago and who can be excused his defeat behind Dash of Spice and Sir Chauvelin at Royal Ascot last time on account of the 12f trip there almost certainly being too far.
Thundering Blue went well enough for a long way – too well if anything – to think that he remains in form, and York’s long straight should enable jockey Fran Berry to adopt the usual waiting tactics.
On his day, Thundering Blue looks listed if not lower-Group class, and that should be enough to see him go close here.
Recommendations: 1 pt ew THUNDERING BLUE at 8/1, 0.5 pt ew MORDIN at 25/1, ¼ odds, first four places