On visiting my local bookmaker on the second Wednesday of Wimbledon fortnight, I listened to a conversation between two people I know well, both highly knowledgeable about racing.
However, it was tennis that was on their minds – or rather Andy Murray. Put simply, they both vented their spleen about how much they hate the guy. It was all down to a throwaway comment by the young teenage Murray that he would always support any side playing England at football. And that’s it. That one comment – years ago- was still producing a storm of vitriol. They were both supporting Janowicz to win the semi-final and, even if Murray won, they would both be ‘lumping on’ Djokovic in the final. Apparently Murray would have no chance whatsoever against the Serb, irrespective of what happened when Murray landed the US Open title last year against the very same player.
All of which got me thinking. Do we adopt the same attitude with our betting strategies when it comes to racing? The answer is almost certainly yes – to an extent anyway. The trainer who clearly polarises opinion more than any other is obviously, as we touched on in last week’s column, Mark Johnston. I have come across more strategies involving the Scottish (is a trend developing here!) handler than the rest of the training fraternity put together.
From a punting perspective however, the message is clear. If you get involved in supporting any runner from the Middleham yard then it’s best not to moan afterwards if things don’t go your way because they frequently will. There is no other yard in the country that is so difficult to read (even Clive Brittain!) even though you will also be guaranteed a hatful of winners. Sorting them out is the difficult job as the yard sends a double hatful to the races most days of the week.
In a nutshell, the Johnston horses have become predictable in their unpredictability. Accept that premise and backing in races where they have a runner becomes far easier. An obvious example was Galician on Saturday.
Back to the Murray story and what intrigued me more than anything was the decision of the two men in question to actually support Murray’s opponents on both occasions, semi and final, just because they hated (their word) him – and even though, by their own admission, they know little if anything about tennis. Such is life and it’s a view that permeates the world of football betting too.
We probably don’t do precisely the same thing with racing but there are parallels, especially when it comes to jockeyship. It’s human nature for us to have our favourite pilots – for me it’s Ryan Moore (by light years) and Jimmy Fortune on the level and Noel Fehily and Denis O’Regan over jumps. Jamie Spencer is probably the obvious one to focus in respect of this column as he seems to be the love/hate jockey on the level at present.
I well remember seeing Spencer in his very early days on these shores riding more experienced rivals to sleep on Southwell’s fibresand week after week. As time has moved on, including being champion jockey, he’s been regularly criticised for exaggerated waiting tactics, be it in a Leicester seller or at Royal Ascot. However, the fact is this – that is how he rides and it must be factored in to any bet placed on any Spencer mount if the the horse is not a prominent racer. In the words of Nike – just do it.