The Gold Cup value....

Last Updated: 05.01.2017

Thursday, 5th January 2017

My idea of the ante-post value in the Gold Cup….

I suspect Thistlecrack fans will be able to back him at a bigger price closer to the Gold Cup being run….

That’s how things work with the Festival. The ante-post markets offer bad value and punters are best advised to wait until closer to race day before going in. 

Bookmakers used to roll the dice with punters. Now they won’t roll unless they can load the dice first. The ante-post Festival markets are loaded in the bookmakers’ favour.

Of course, they make a big deal about putting their prices out there months ahead of time. But they bet to massive percentages – putting all the principal contenders in at the lowest quotes they can get away with before social services are called in….

Significant early money acts as a guide as to what to shorten up. And big winners are cut to silly prices – like Thistlecrack – in the hope foolish punters will over-react and take them….

  • The obvious first port of call….

It’s a dirty business run by mealy-mouthed bean counters. But we must work with the situation we have, rather than the one we’d like.

Thistlecrack is so short in the Gold Cup betting – 10-weeks ahead of time – that value must exist elsewhere. But where? Native River is the first obvious port of call.

The 7yo has produced two cracking efforts to win two of the biggest chase handicaps on the programme – the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh Grand National.

But he can’t be dismissed as a high-class handicapper. He’s officially rated 168 now – which is Gold Cup winning territory.

He ticks enough Gold Cup boxes to justify jockey Richard Johnson’s belief that he is a genuine contender: ‘He has to be a big player as he stays and jumps....’

But Native River is clear 2nd-favourite for the Gold Cup now. The time to back him was before he headed to Chepstow. He’s short enough now. (I suspect he will be gettable at bigger prices closer to race day).

  • How quickly we forget….

In 2015 Djakadam was 2nd behind Coneygree in the Gold Cup – beaten just 1.5 lengths. It was a tremendous effort from a horse who was only 6. He was sent off at 10s.

Last season Djakadam finished runner-up again – beaten by Don Cossack. Sent off at 9/2, the margin of defeat was a little bigger at 4.5 lengths.

That was another fantastic effort though – given the horse had taken a savage tumble at Cheltenham just 6-weeks earlier when ante-post favourite for the Gold Cup….

The horse had to have stiches in his chest. It was as nightmarish a final prep run as a mortal enemy could wish on you. Trainer Willie Mullins had initially wanted to find another race for the horse before the Gold Cup – to help the horse get over the trauma. But that didn’t happen.

The horse headed straight for the Gold Cup. His performance was admirable….

  • What a difference a year makes….

Djakadam isn’t favourite for the Gold Cup as he was this time last year.

This morning he can be backed at prices as big as 14s with several bookmakers offering place terms of ¼ 1-2-3…. And at 16s with Betfair Sportsbook (albeit with place terms of 1/5 1-2-3-).

I’ve ignored the place side of things. I play to win in the ante-post markets. I’ve backed the horse to win at the 16s. At more than 3-times the prices he was sent off for last season’s renewal, I think there’s value in his quote….

Okay, Djakadam has been there, done it and fallen short twice. And horses beaten in the Gold Cup don’t have any kind of winning record when returning for additional bites of the cherry.

But I’m not bothered about that. I think that’s a trend Djakadam can reverse. Not many horses go back for a third Gold Cup at just 8-years-old. Such returnees are usually much older.

Djakadam has already proved he is well-suited to the specific and unique challenges of a Gold Cup. He’s done it at a younger age than most. And going back this year at 8-years-old – a stronger, more mature and wiser horse – he could have as good a chance as he’s ever had.

  • The perceived dip in form doesn’t bother me….

Plenty of punters are dismissing Djakadam as a horse on the slide this term….

Fair enough, he made harder work of it in the G1 John Durkan at Punchestown than the betting said he should. And he got beaten in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

But, again, I’m not bothered about general perceptions….

I’ve been keeping an eye on the comments of both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh about Djakadam. Far from being disappointed – they seem pleased with the horse.

Djakadam was nowhere near fully fit for the John Durkan. So, to win the G1 – over an inadequate trip – is all anybody could reasonably expect. In the Lexus, the 8yo’s jumping was ‘spectacular’ – to quote Mullins….

He didn’t find much for pressure at Leopardstown. But I’m not bothered about that either. His season revolves around another crack at the Gold Cup. I don’t think Mullins has Djakadam as fit as he’s been at this stage of previous seasons.

He’ll be tuned to a fine pitch for the Gold Cup – sent there fresher and perfectly-primed in the hope that a less demanding early-season will help him find the little extra he needs to get the job done.

He’s only 8, he’s in his prime as a staying chaser, he’s a proven Gold Cup horse and he’s not been far away. He has the best trainer in the world preparing him. He has the best jockey on his back. If anybody can find the extra improvement required, they will.

At 16s Djakadam is big. He’s my idea of the current value in the Gold Cup market.

  • The last word….

I don’t want to over-play the ante-post angle on the Festival. I get involved only when the prices demand it….

There is one horse I really want to back ante-post. And I want to back it in multiple Championship races – because it could end up running in any one of them.

But I’m not getting involved in that series of bets until I can bet Non-Runner-No-Bet – which means my stakes are returned for races the hose doesn’t contest. 

No layer is up with that concession yet. I think BetVictor was the first firm up with NRNB for the Championship events last season – and they went up relatively early.

I hope they do so again. Once some firm obliges, I’ll share my primary ante-post position….

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with the bets for the weekend. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd