All Weather Racing

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I’VE decided I’m spending the rest of the winter on the sand. No, I’m not jetting off to some almost uninhabited Caribbean island to sit on the beach and drink rum all day until the sun sets.

The sand I’ve got in mind is much closer to home – at Britain’s all-weather tracks, Great Leighs, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

These hardy perennials keep the Flat going over the winter months when most punters have turned their backs on racing on the level to follow the jumpers.

First, I must assure you I’m not a Flat snob, who won’t entertain watching horses jumping hurdles or fences. I love the jumps game and all its characters, especially the fact that the horses go on much longer than their Flat counterparts. The best three-year-olds often don’t race again on the Flat after their Classic season, being whisked off to stud.

Of course, there is no stud value in a six-year-old gelding who has just won the Champion Hurdle so he has to carry on racing to justify his existence. But all gamblers have to be hard-headed in their approach to making a profit.

What works for one, doesn’t work for another. A friend of mine has made almost £100,000 in the last 12 months betting in handicaps. Personally, I rarely even look at a handicap. After all, it’s the handicapper’s job to ensure that all horses in a handicap have an equal chance. Now, to me as a punter, that’s simply not fair!

I try to keep things simple when I’m punting, concentrating on two- and three-year-old maidens. In my view, the two-year-olds have picked up few, if any, bad habits, unlike older horses who have got wise to the game and don’t always give it their best shot.

Of course, two-year-olds become three-year-olds on January 1 2009 – whenever they were actually born – and it’s these horses I’ll be hoping to provide me with some rich pickings on the all-weather in the coming months.

One thing about the all-weather is that all the tracks – apart from Southwell, which I will come to later – race on the same surface, Polytrack. All-weather racing was very much the poor relation of Flat turf racing in its early days and there are still some people who look down their noses at it as if it is some form of unregulated flapping.

Its brief flirtation with the dreaded concept of banded races for horses rated below a certain level didn’t help with cards full of equine dross run once or twice a week. But all-weather racing has, by and large, been accepted by the top trainers, surely the best barometer. Many good horses have had their first runs on artificial surfaces and there is even a Polytrack gallop at Flat racing’s headquarters in Newmarket.

Of the four Polytracks, my most successful venues are Lingfield and Wolverhampton, but the jury is still out as far as Kempton is concerned and Great Leighs is a little too new to have established a definite pattern just yet.

It’s at Southwell, which races on Fibresand, where I have had most success from a punting perspective. The surface here is much slower and deeper than Polytrack with horses who have gone well on soft or even heavy ground on the turf doing particularly well at the Nottinghamshire track. The surface sets it apart from the other all-weather venues and that’s an aspect that potential punters must take very seriously.

Only the other day, the three-year-old Irish Pearl ran at Great Leighs having sauntered up in its two previous races at Southwell. But it couldn’t translate its Fibresand form to Polytrack and never really looked like completing the hat-trick, finishing a disappointing fourth despite being a well-backed third favourite at 7-2.

Another thing to bear in mind is that two-year-olds do get jaded just like humans and I make a point of not giving a two-year-old too many chances. Horses that keep getting beaten, even by small margins, usually do so for a reason – they are not completely genuine.

As in all walks of life there are expectations, but generally once a juvenile has had four or five runs I think you should almost certainly leave him or her alone as far as betting is concerned.

Remember, you don’t have to bet in every race. Yes, bookmakers have to price up every race, but we can give any race we don’t fancy a miss. It’s a bit like a batsman building a big innings. He doesn’t have to hit every ball, just the bad ones or the ones he is confident he can hit with little or no risk.

It’s the same with racing. Pick those races you feel most confident about – and then steam in.

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