Back Beyond

I missed a bit of a trick last Saturday with the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup. Actually, I missed the trick on Wednesday.

The Challenge Cup is one of those fearsome handicaps that scare the life out of you. An entry of about 64, a safety limit of 28, so you can be sure that it’s going to be a tough one to solve, and if you are betting ante post each-way before final decs are in on Thursday morning, you’d better be sure that (a) you are backing a runner and (b) you are at least a little ahead of the market, because the probability is that somebody is going to shout ¼ the odds a place the first five on Saturday morning.

It was a different story with this year’s renewal, however. Because they were trying to save some Ascot ground for the all-singing-all-dancing (sponsored by Qipco) Champions’ Day on 15th October, they had reduced the safety limit from 28 to 18. I did see on the Racing Post website that balloting appeared to begin at number 19, but (shoulda known better, I know) I thought that it was a mistake. At first I thought that, maybe the race was being run on the round course this season, hence the reduction of the safety limit, but they don’t have a round seven furlongs at Ascot. Therefore, thought I, it must be a mistake, it must be 28, not 18.

Not that it is any consolation, but I wasn’t the only one who had erred. The bookmakers had priced up the race as if there were going to be 28 runners, not 18, and that was where the opportunity lay, that was the missed trick. You should really have been backing three or four in the race ante post, getting your money back on the ones that were balloted out, and getting enhanced odds about the ones that made it into the final 18.

I backed one horse ante post, Decent Fella, who ran well up to a point. Regrettably, that point was about a furlong and a half before the winning line. I did have the winner Pastoral Player on side, so at least that, but he was on side at his morning odds of 10/1, not at his ante post odds of 14/1. If you consistently lose those four points, you can be sure that your profit and loss account at the end of the year will be negatively affected significantly.

There’s nothing like that going on with the Cesarewitch tomorrow. There is a safety limit of 34, and all 34 are running at this point, so much so that even the two reserves had to draw stumps this morning. The Cesarewitch is not as big a draw race as last week’s Arc is – that’s now the last eight Arc winners that were drawn eight or lower – but it is a bigger draw race than you would expect for a two-and-a-quarter-mile race in which there is just one turn.

Eight of the last 10 Cesarewitch winners were drawn 12 or lower, and five of them were drawn five or lower. That’s significant, an 80% strike rate from 35% of the runners, a 50% strike rate from 15% of the runners. You really want to be drawn low.

I had a shortlist of nine after the five-day stage on Monday. Seven of the nine were drawn high on Thursday. Thankfully, I didn’t play ante post at all, simply because the draw is such a significant factor in the race, and the market generally takes a little while to take account of the draw, no matter how strong an impact history tells us the draw has.

Rainforest Magic was the horse that I wanted to back most. Dermot Weld’s horse is nicely progressive, he was impressive in winning the Topaz Handicap at the Galway Festival in July, and he followed up by winning a handicap hurdle at the same meeting three days later. You have to stay well to win over two miles at Galway, so the extra two furlongs will not be a problem, he is more lightly-raced and has more scope for progression than most of his rivals, he has been trained for the race since Galway, and he loves fast ground. However, he is terribly drawn in stall 29, so I am leaving him alone unless he drifts to a price that is big enough to accommodate his poor draw. That’s around 20/1 for me.

In truth, at their respective prices, Big Occasion was the one of the David Pipe trio that I wanted to be with, but Beyond wasn’t far behind in my book, even at a significantly shorter price. Beyond has a really good draw in stall three, Big Occasion has a really awful draw in stall 34, so there is no doubt which one you want to be with now.

Beyond’s chance goes way (ahem) beyond his draw though. He was a dual winner for Jeremy Noseda on Polytrack, he was a dual winner over hurdles for Evan Williams last summer, and he shaped really well on his only run for Pipe when he stayed on well to beat Red Kestrel in a not-at-all-bad handicap at Sandown in early July.

Red Kestrel set a fair pace and a fair standard there, but it always looked as if Beyond was going to wear him down, which he duly did, about 150 yards from the line, getting stronger as they went further, with the pair of them finishing clear of their rivals.

Even on a strict line of form through Red Kestrel, Beyond has the beating of long-time ante post favourite Keys, but he also has significant scope for progression. He should be better stepped up in trip from that one-mile-six-furlong race at Sandown, and he is still relatively lightly-raced, so much so that there is every chance that he can cope with an 8lb hike. David Pipe has apparently had the Cesarewitch in mind since that Sandown race, and it is not difficult to see him going close.

The 14/1 that was available after the draw was made is gone, but there is still a little 12/1 available, and that is still fair.

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