So what do you do with an Aidan O’Brien-trained juvenile who has been backed for the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy all week as though he has gone by, but has only raced once in his life?
Here’s what you do. You do what you do when you are assessing any horse’s chance in any race, you put all the information that you have into the mix, determine the probability that he will win the race (subjective of course) and compare that probability with his odds. If his odds are higher than the odds that correspond to your defined probability, you back him, if they are lower, you lay him, or back against him, or both.
The Camelot positives then. Firstly, he is really well-bred, a son of Montjeu out of a Kingmambo mare, a Group 3 winner herself, from a good family. Secondly, he has obviously always been highly regarded. He was sent off the 1/3 favourite for his racecourse debut, his only run to date, and he duly won fairly easily, if not quite doing handsprings, in a good time, faster than the three-year-old maiden that was run a half an hour later. Significantly, he was promoted to clear Derby favourite on the back of that one run.
Thirdly, he is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who has trained three of the last 10 winners of the Racing Post Trophy, and five of the last 14. Fourthly, as above, he has been backed all week, from an opening show of 5/2 when the ante post markets for the race made their first shaky steps into the world, to a situation now where you can’t do any better than 11/8. Furthermore, he is shortest with Ladbrokes, the only firm who are going odds-on, and they tend to know more than most about most things Ballydoyle.
There are negatives though, plenty of them. For starters, he has run and won just once in his life. That negative is commuted somewhat by the fact that he hails from Ballydoyle, given that High Chaparral and Aristotle both came from the same address on the back of a maiden win apiece to win the Racing Post Trophy. That said, High Chaparral had run twice, and both he and Aristotle had a better-fancied stable companion in the race, Castle Gandolfo and Zentsov Street respectively. (Digression: With that in mind, I wouldn’t be going putting a line through Learn, just because it looks like he is the stable’s second string.)
Camelot is having his first run for 100 days tomorrow, and that can’t have been the plan.
On top of that, the maiden that he won at Leopardstown is not working out at all well. Three of the four horses that he beat that day – two of them stable companions – have run since, two of them twice and one of them three times, and none of the three have won. That’s seven attempts, no wins.
Also, you can view O’Brien’s record in the race negatively as well as positively. While he has won five of the last 14 renewals, he has only won one of the last eight, the 2009 renewal with St Nicholas Abbey, and he has had 18 runners in that time, some of them well-fancied.
Then there is the opposition. Fencing was admittedly beaten on his racecourse debut, and he has only won a listed race, but he was really impressive in so doing, coming clear inside the final furlong. Encke, like Fencing, was beaten on his racecourse debut and, like Camelot, has only won a maiden, but, again, he was impressive in winning that maiden, at least as impressive as Camlelot was in winning his.
The most interesting horse at the prices for me, though, is Zip Top. It is significant that Sheikh Mohammed allowed Jim Bolger talk him into paying the supplementary entry fee for Zip Top, who will wear the Sheikh’s old maroon and white silks, despite the fact that he was already committed to paying the supplementary entry fee for Encke, who will wear Godolphin blue.
Another highly-regarded juvenile colt, Zip Top ran a cracker to finish third behind Crius in the Group 3 Somerville Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket last month. He was the first horse to come under pressure, he didn’t handle the Dip at all, yet he stayed on really well when he met the rising ground to finish third, just failing to beat Farraaj for second. That race is working out really well, with fourth-placed Crusade coming out and winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes on his next run, and with fifth-placed Letsgoroundagain running out an impressive winner of a decent listed race at Pontefract on his next run, and the step up to a mile tomorrow should suit Zip Top.
It is a peculiarity of the British markets that the Ballydoyle horses tend to be over-bet, while the Coolcullen horses tend to be under-bet. Camelot may win out of the park tomorrow, and Zip Top may finish last, but, on the evidence that we have to date, in my book Camelot is too short (2.31) and Zip Top is too long (10.0), and my betting on the race will centre around those two hypotheses.
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