The trouble with festivals is that the feature races are exceedingly competitive. Take the main event at the York Festival, the Yorkshire Cup for example. Less than a week from the race, there are 11 horses at odds of 16/1 or less in an event where 13 of the last 21 favourites have failed to win.
However, the last four winners have had an SP of 7/2 or shorter which is good news for clear favourite Stradivarius. But do you want to back him since he was beaten into third in his last race and finished behind Torcedor?
It is a similar story in the other major races. The Dante Stakes is wide open with entries yet to be confirmed while the Duke of York Stakes is often a graveyard for favourites. Obviously, someone has to win and punters will be willing to take the chance that they can cut through the swathe of information and make a fortune at the expense of the bookmakers.
But is there another way? Can we avoid seeing our hopes disappear such as in the 1,000 Guineas this year when 66/1 shot Billesdon Brook shocked the world and made the bookies very happy? If so, perhaps the answer lies in a festival’s unheralded races.
Lower Class Spotlight
The York festival typically has four Group 2 races, a Group 3 event and five Listed races. There are also several Class 2 and Class 3 events; are there any trends worth focusing on?
First up is the Class 3 Conundrum HRr Consulting Handicap which takes place on day one over 7f. At the time of writing, there are 33 possible entries in a race that typically has 16-20 runners. Without the benefit of reliable odds, we have to take a look at past trends and see if any horses meet the criteria.
- 18/21 winners were drawn in stalls 2-10
- 13/21 winners finished in the top 3 in their last race.
- 19/21 winners carried 9-3 or less.
- 18/21 winners had an OR of 83+
- 19/21 winners were in the top 5 in the betting market.
The lack of odds and no draw information means we are unable to use a couple of useful trends. However, even the seemingly limited information we have enables us to narrow down the field.
Only 19 of the possible entries have an OR of 83 and five of them are carrying more than 9-3. After removing all horses that finished outside the top 3 last time out, we are left with nine contenders, several of whom will not run.
Therefore, we can focus on those nine entries and when the information becomes available, you can focus on the top five in the betting and look at horses in stalls 2-10. It is likely that the field will be down to 2-3 possible contenders at this stage, not bad for a few minutes’ work. If you feel that the ‘top 3 in the last race’ trend isn’t strong enough, add horses you eliminated for that reason back in. In any case, focusing on the top 5 in the betting market could bear fruit.
Normally, this Class 2 event would be a big deal at any given race day but it is overshadowed by the Duke of York Stakes and the Musidora Stakes. It is the first race of the festival so you can expect plenty of money, not all of it sensible, to be wagered. There were 25 possible runners at the time of writing so let’s see if there are any useful trends.
- 18/21 winners came from stalls 1-10.
- 15/21 winners finished in the top 3 in their last race.
- 19/21 winners were aged 4-5.
- 18/21 winners carried 8-7 or more.
- 11/21 winners were in the top 2 in the betting market.
- 20/21 winners had an OR of 98 or less.
- 20/21 winners had 0-2 season runs.
Individually, there is nothing special about any of these trends but each one whittles away a couple of possible entries until there are only a handful of likely contenders. Again, we don’t have draw information to hand but even so, we can make a decent fist of cutting possible non-contenders loose.
The OR, weight, and age criteria remove 12 horses so there are now ‘only’ 13 contenders. If you like the trend that eliminates horses that finished outside the top 3 last time out, the list is cut to six runners.
When the draw is released, you can eliminate horses from stall 11 upwards. However, some renewals of this race have featured 10 or fewer runners (the last two years for example). Even so, take note of the draw because no horse drawn in one of the three widest stalls has won the Jorvik Stakes in the last two decades.
Over half of the races at the York Dante Festival are NOT listed events. Of course, the Race Advisor team will be helping you choose possible winners in the big races such as the Yorkshire Cup, but it would be a huge mistake to overlook the lesser-known races.
In one sense, it may prove more difficult to find value in races such as the Class 4 Oaks Farm Handicap because you don’t have the ‘mug punter’ money flowing in. On the other hand, there could be some excellent opportunities that slip under the radar of all but the most astute bettors.
As always, please remember that I am only using trends as a tool to help you whittle down seemingly complex races. Of course, it would be foolish to ignore a trend which clearly illustrates that horses carrying a certain weight or are of a specific age never win the race for example.
The purpose of this article is to show you that there is the possibility of profit in lower grade races at a festival. While everyone else focuses on the big events, you can casually bet on the races people ignore, and hopefully take home a healthy profit.