Festival tipping. Sounds like a minor offence governed by parish council by-laws.
Preview events used to be a cheeky route to garner the odd pointer from those on the inside track, build up the anticipation and witness some healthy banter. The last five years or so has seen the phenomenon grow to an industrial scale. When coupled with social media reporting, I had started to think they had become both watered down and plumped up.
Never fear. This clip from a Boylesport-sponsored event in Dublin restores my faith. Ruby Walsh is in cracking form, berating Kevin O’Ryan for suggesting Vautour got an easy lead in the Deloitte at Leopardstown. Leon Blanche doesn’t fare much better in defending Boylesports’ offer of money back if your horse is beaten one ridden by McCoy. “What kind of offer is that? he drawls. “How many favourites am I riding? Seven. How many has he got? None!”
And what is Davey Russell on about?
This is common territory for Walsh. A few years ago, a mate sent me an amusing transcript (the days before Twitter) of some of his choice observations from a previous preview evening. Walsh is never short of a refreshing view, even if it’s not always on the money:
Supreme – “I imagine Cousin Vinny runs here and if so he will take all the beating. Go Native won't get up the hill.” Go Native won and Cousin Vinny was unplaced.
Arkle: “There is no future Champion Chaser amongst these. Kalahari King has been winning donkey derbys, Forpadydeplasterer won't win but can be placed.” Of course Pady won by a short head from Kalahari King.
Ryanair: “Vor Por Ustedes is a cert. Imperial Commander is a handicapper, Monet's Garden gets lost outside of Aintree, Tidal Bay ran like a hairy goat last time and Our Vic ran terribly on his only run this season.” Imperial Commander won from VPU, but Monet’s did absolutely get lost in the race.
This is unfair though. Ruby had a superb festival that year and in the preview he tipped up the winner of the Gold Cup (Kauto Star), the Champion Chase (Master Minded), the World Hurdle (Big Buck’s - 1st victory at 6-1), the RSA (Cooldine) and the Champion Bumper (“Patrick Mullins has ridden in a lot of bumpers this season and I know he fears Dunguib” – 6-1).
So what have I learnt this year?
Well, that many of my confidently struck ante-post shouts are not flavour of the month. Irving in the Supreme, has been rubbished by Barry Geraghty (“I don’t fancy Irving or Vautour”) who likes Vaniteux (“working great”). He and his other panelists also described one of my other bets, Red Sherlock in the Neptune, as ‘”too slow”. Ho hum.
If the tipsters don’t do it for you, there are plenty of angles, systems and approaches out there to assist in finding your own answers. And you don’t need to dig too hard. A couple of nuggets:
- AP McCoy has a 42% strike rate when riding Jonjo O’Neill trained horses in handicaps over further than 2 ½ miles. And McCoy is a slow starter at the Festival these days, so focus on Thursday and Friday. Hmm. A narrow window of opportunity, perhaps.
- Charles Byrne’s has returned a £16.50 level-stakes profit since 2008, including 3 grade 1 wins. Promising. I’ve backed his Trifolium in the Arkle. Is this a sign?
- Side with the Irish in the Bumper and the Cross Country. Well yes. Just not sure how far that really closes down the options.
- And a word for that nice Mr Hobbs: Non-handicaps have produced the most profit for the Withycombe team at 6-64 (for a +£17 profit), compared to handicaps at 3-100 (-£73). Seven of Hobbs’ nine winners arrived here having raced last time out at either Kempton (3), Sandown (2) or Cheltenham (2). Does that shed any light?
- Good lists always have an odd number of bullet points. Never even. Sound advice.
Happy hunting. It’s a jungle out there. Don't break any by-laws.