Guest post written by Willy Weasel
In my previous article in this series, “Studying Form: Part I”, I said that I’d outline the process of studying form, step-by-step, for a selected race. The race I’ve chosen is the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Fillies’ Handicap, due to be run on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket at 4.45 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24, 2012.
I said in my previous article that I’d select a race “entirely at random”, but it’s no accident that I’ve chosen a handicap, with 16 runners, all of whom have fully exposed form.
In handicaps, each horse has an equal chance of winning, at least in theory, so the betting market tends to be more equivocal than in non-handicaps. Generally speaking, the lower the number of runners the better the chances of winning, but, if you’re looking for value, it’s important to strike the right balance between the number of runners and the odds on offer. In truth, 16 runners are probably a few more than ideal, but at this late stage of the season the choice of suitable races is limited. Fully exposed form, as I mentioned in my previous article, allows you to determine each runner’s level of ability and preferences for distance, going, etc with a degree of certainty.
I also said in my previous article that it’s logical to use the betting market as a guide to possible selections. Although by the time this article is published the race will have been completed, at the time of writing I’m studying the form for this race well ahead of the scheduled off time, so I’ll start with the Racing Post betting forecast.
According to the forecast, Shena’s Dream is the likely favourite at odds of 7/2, followed by Raheeba at 6/1, No Poppy at 13/2, Hippy Hippy Shake and Subtle Knife at 7/1 and 9/1 Sputnik Sweetheart. It’s 14/1 bar those six, so it’s likely my selection will be one of them.
A look at the form reveals that Shena’s Dream is a habitual front-runner, who’s made all to win lower grade handicaps, including two over a mile, on her last three starts. She’s obviously progressive, but faces by far her stiffest task to date, in a better race off a 4lb higher mark. The main cause for concern about her is the fact that she’s never won on soft going and, in fact, ran poorly on her only start on going softer than good.
Raheeba, trained by Mark Johnston in North Yorkshire, is another who’s been in good form of late, winning twice over 9 furlongs on the Polytrack at Wolverhampton on her last two starts. She won on soft going at Musselburgh earlier in the season, but she’s taking a steep rise in class here, which, coupled with a 6lb rise in the weights, suggests that she may struggle to complete a hat-trick.
No Poppy, who’s also trained in North Yorkshire, this time by Tim Easterby, is another seeking a hat-trick. She won a slightly lower grade fillies’ handicap at Musselburgh by 6 lengths on her penultimate start and followed up in a similar race to this one, although open to colts and fillies, off a 7lb higher mark at York last time. Those wins came on good to soft and heavy going, respectively, so she shouldn’t be inconvenienced by today’s underfoot conditions. She’s another 4lb higher in the weights, which takes her to a career-high mark, but that hardly looks insurmountable in light of her recent progressive form. She’s proven over the distance and on the prevailing going and her style of racing suggests that she’ll relish the uphill climb to the winning post on the Rowley Mile, so she makes plenty of appeal as a possible selection.
Further investigation of the form of the other fancied runners reveals that Hippy Hippy Shake ran poorly on his only attempt on soft ground, albeit in a Listed race, Subtle Knife has never won beyond 7 furlongs and Sputnik Sweetheart is another stepping up in class after an absence of 44 days. In summary, No Poppy has such an obvious chance that I’m surprised that she’s not quoted as favourite in the Racing Post betting forecast. If I can secure a bet at the forecast odds of 13/2, I’ll be more than happy.
In fact, when I check the live betting market for this race, No Poppy is disputing favouritism with Subtle Knife at odds around 5/1, with 8/1 Shena’s Dream, 8/1 Hippy Hippy Shake and 12/1 bar the four. Even so, with few apparent dangers I’m delighted to avail myself of the 5/1 available about No Poppy and look forward to the race with eager anticipation.
Of course, I don’t know the outcome of the race yet, but in my next article in this series, “Studying Form: Part III”, I’ll try to provide a frank, honest appraisal of where I went wrong, or where I went right, as the case may be. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or comments on anything I’ve said so far, or on studying form in general, please let me know.