Picking out a Portland winner....

Last Updated: 12.09.2018

Wednesday, 12th September 2018

Picking out a Portland winner….

The Portland at Doncaster is the big betting heat this weekend….

Contested over 5f and 143 yards up the Town Moor straight, the race is a real target for a unique and peculiar group of specialists....

I’m talking about the horses that need a slightly stiffer test than the bare 5f presents but which are not quite at their very best when asked to go 6f....

It’s a real in-between trip. You can think of it as a stiff 5f or an easy 6f....

Whatever. Top-class handicappers don’t get to race for good money over this kind of trip very frequently – so the Portland is a proper target race for trainers with a horse in their ranks who requires this very precise test....

We’ll be looking for the value and making selections on Friday afternoon....

But in advance of races like this, it is always useful to know what kind of horse generally tends to win them....

And the stats provide a route to understanding….

  • Bear in mind....

All that said it’s important to bear in mind that stats don’t run in races....

They certainly don’t win them. Nor are they 100% fool-proof. Even the very strongest stats, trends and result patterns are there to be over-turned....

Stats are a guide. No more and no less. They provide context. But they are not an entire selection tool that you can trust to entirely....

It might be the case that younger horses have the best record in a specific race. But you can never take the individual out of the general….

Whether or not that young-horse trend is upheld this time round will very much depend on the individual qualities of the specific younger horses that are set to run this time round….

A poor or out-of-form younger horse isn’t necessarily going to run well, win or place simply because it happens to be young....

My basic point is this: the specific facts must always take precedence over the general….

In case you missed it....

I’m not sure what makes 35-year-old IT worker Ian Sharpe so special, but the Daily Mail has chosen to take up the story of Sharpe’s closed-down betting accounts and urgently bring it to the attention of their readers....

Sharpe appears in the article pictured with his wife and then with his child. It seems a peculiar thing to do. More in line with how celebrities are presented rather than some bloke whose had a couple of betting accounts closed. But what do I know?

Speaking about the account closures, Sharpe has this to say: ‘I want to figure out why the hell they're doing this because they never explain anything.’ I say welcome to the world of punting....

He’s also got his own theories. ‘If you complain the customer service team will just say it’s a ‘trading decision’. It isn’t, it’s the algorithm where they look at your account and go ‘nope, we’re going to keep losing money to him so effectively shut him down’.

He seems to be outraged about something that’s been going on for years and which many thousands of punters have experienced time and again....

Make of it what you will....

 

  • The trick....

The trick with stats is to let them guide you to areas and horses of interest – but not to take them too literally....

Let the stats highlight a group of horses, then subject that specific group to full scrutiny....

It’s like due diligence in the financial markets. You know that stocks have always made money for investors over time. But you don’t just invest in any stock and expect the general trend to hold true whatever....

Instead you do the background digging. You look at a few stocks, study the various businesses, figure out their prospects over the long term and then decide....

The general trend acts as a guide to an area of interest, but it is the nitty-gritty of the individual stock that ultimately drives your investment decision….

It’s the same thing with horses. The general trend highlights areas potentially worth of additional investigation. But it is that investigatory process into the individual horse that will (or should) determines whether you bet it….

The stats are an aide to understanding and help to find a route into a specific race. But they are a starting point. Not the end destination....

That’s where we are with the stats at ATC....

  • Key stats in the Portland....

I spent a few hours yesterday studying the last 16 renewals of the Portland – poking about in the dataset and looking for pointers and potential angles.

A few things stood out and highlight areas of interest within the race….

  • 14 of the 16 winners were officially rated 93 to 101. Eleven of the last 16 winners were rated in the 90s....
  • A few have placed, but the 3yo population hasn’t managed to produce a winner over the period – despite 45 having had a go. The 5yo runners have produced most wins. The 4yo runners have produced most overall places over the period. The percentage play would be to focus most attention on those two groups….
  • The least exposed runners (those having raced 10 or fewer times) have a strong record – producing 5 wins and 6 places from just 34 runners overall. Such horses merit serious consideration this time round….
  • The high third of the draw has produced 9 of the last 16 winners….
  • Early this century Kevin Ryan won the race three times on the bounce with Halmahera. He hasn’t won it with anything else but several of his have hit the frame since and he appears to be effective at producing competitive horses for this race. Savalas is a potential runner for the yard on Saturday....
  • Savalas has something else going for him that’s very interesting. He’s sired by Zebedee. That one sired last year’s winner, Spring Loaded and George Dryden who placed in the 2015 edition of the race. Those are his only two Portland runners to date. It is limited evidence. For sure. But it is form in the book and maybe Zebedee excels at producing horses well-suited to this idiosyncratic challenge. Who knows?

Those are the strongest pointers I can extract from the previous 16 renewals of the Portland.

On their own they won’t pinpoint the winner. But they will highlight horses worthy of closer inspection and thought….

  • The last word….

Might Kevin Ryan – who looks like running Savalas – think he is due in Saturday’s Portland?

Ryan has won plenty of big handicaps over the years. Loads of them. But not this term....

By ‘big’ handicap – I mean one which pays winning connections £30k or more. This term Kevin Ryan is 0 from 26 in such races....

He won’t be happy with that and will be looking to get on the scoreboard before the season is out....

In a race in which he’s produced competitive performers so often in the past, he might fancy his chances on Saturday.

Particularly if the Zebedee connection turns out to be more than just a statistical anomaly in a small dataset....

That’s all from me for today.

I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd