How To Study Form: Part II
by Willy Weasel
In my first article in this series, “How to Study Form: Part I”, I said that I’d start to expound on the finer points of studying form using a real race. The race that I’ve chosen to have a look at is the Racing Welfare Fox-Pitt Eventing Handicap Hurdle at Wincanton, due off at 2.40 p.m. on Wednesday, 6th December, 2012.
What I’m looking for in a likely winner are proven ability and good recent form, so I immediately discount Minella Special, who’s been absent for 256 days, and Royal Rationale, who’s been absent for 1,075 days. Of course, it’s not unknown for horses to win after lengthy absences, but such horses are difficult, if not impossible, for the ordinary backer to find. Horses can only be held at peak fitness for a limited period of time so, as a general rule, it’s safer to discount any horse that’s been off the course for 42 days or more.
Winning form is the easiest to assess, so next I work my way down the racecard looking horses that won last time out. On this occasion, there are three last time out winners, Romeo Americo, Quaddick Lake and King’s Flagship.
Romeo Americo won a similar race to this one, albeit over 2 miles 2 furlongs, at Fontwell 18 days ago and has been raised 7lb in the weights for that success. That win came on good to soft going, but he won on the prevailing soft going at Newton Abbot earlier in the season, so he’s definitely one for my shortlist. A quick look at his winning form reveals that all three of his wins have come beyond two miles on sharp tracks, so while two miles on a galloping track may suit him, it’s still something of an unknown.
Quaddick Lake only had to be pushed out to win a similar race, over 2 miles 3½ furlongs, on soft going at Taunton a week ago and carries a 7lb penalty for that success. He’s yet to finish out of the first three since joining Jeremy Scott’s yard in the summer, but he’s another who’s done all his winning beyond 2 miles, so whether he’ll be suited by dropping back in distance is debatable.
The third, and final, last time out winner in the field, Kings Flagship, sprang a 66/1 surprise when making all the running to win a lower grade novice hurdle over course and distance, on good to soft going, 39 days ago. He’s entitled to improve for that run, his first since March last year and his fourth overall, but he’s clearly had his problems and makes his handicap debut here.
My initial conclusion is that Quaddick Lake has the best form of the three last time out winners and the fact that he’s running within a week of winning affords additional confidence in him as a selection.
However, the case for him is less than ironclad, so my next step is to inspect the form of those horses that finished placed on their last outing, or finished unplaced, but are nevertheless prominent in the betting for this race.
In terms of placed horses, there’s just one, Notarfbad, who was second in a lower grade handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 1 furlong, on good going at Taunton three weeks ago. He’s up 2lb in the weights here, looks the stable second string on jockey bookings and wears a hood for the first time after appearing to hang right after the last flight at Taunton. He has some form on good to soft going, but he’s yet to win a race of any kind and isn’t one that I can get excited about.
Top Wood, who finished unplaced last time, is 4/1 favourite, according to the Racing Post betting forecast, so his form is clearly worth further inspection. It turns out that he finished tailed off in a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 5 furlongs, at Cheltenham on good to soft going three weeks ago. He was entitled to need that run, his first since April, and may be better over this shorter distance, but, even so, I can’t really entertain him as a selection, especially on soft going.
One thing I do notice from his previous form is that he’s made or attempted to make the running on more than one occasion, so there’s a distinct possibility that the pace of this race will be fairly strong. If it is, that’ll suit a hold-up horse like Quaddick Lake and, in the absence of a compelling case for anything else in the race, he is my selection. In my opinion, Romeo Amerigo, Kings Flagship and Top Wood are all possible dangers, so I’ll be looking for odds of 4/1 or better to have a bet.
A quick look at the live betting for this race reveals that Top Wood is favourite at 3/1, with Notarfbad surprisingly short in my opinion, at 4/1, Quaddick Lake at 11/2, Romeo Amerigo at 8/1 and Kings Flagship at 14/1. I’m quite happy to avail myself of 11/2 about Quaddick Lake, a point and a half above what I was looking for, and I’m glad I have, because he quickly shortens to 9/2 and then 4/1 just before the off.
The outcome of the race, itself, and whether my judgement was right or wrong on this occasion will form the crux of my third, and final, article in this series, “How to Study Form: Part III”.
We hope you enjoyed our How To Study Form: Part II the first in our series of advanced horse racing bet tips and guides. Look out for our next installment - ‘How To Study Form: Part III‘ in a few days time…
If you missed it, you can ‘How To Study Form: Part I’ Here