Six bets last week, no winners but a potentially valuable learning experience. I count Lacdoundal, Gidam Gidam and Maktu as good bets; they came 6/21, 6/18 and 4/15 respectively. Chief Yeoman and Group Captain were poor plays.

With hindsight, Witchita Lineman, Something Wells and Russian Trigger had caught my eye but I disregarded them.

My biggest mistake though was to miss Snake Charmer on Saturday. Maktu ran well and might have done better but for being hampered. Nevertheless, I had watched Snake’s previous race and been impressed by his gameness. He was one I had noted but, perversely, disregarded on the big day.

Why was that? After much pondering over the weekend, I find two objective reasons:

Firstly, the ‘6/1 or less’ rule led me onto Maktu as first preference. This rule is soundly based in theory but flawed in practice in that it applies to smaller fields. The maximum sensible odds are a function of the field size and also the spread of the probabilities. Larger and more competitive fields will allow longer maximum odds. There may well be a tabular form for this idea but it is pretty much clear for any particular race. One just has to bear it in mind and see what comes up when the odds line has been made. So, that rule is out and I will go back to looking at any runner that is true value, backing the longest priced of these. In Snake Charmer’s case, that would have been obvious given the ’11/1 to 25/1′ disparagy.

Obvious, that is, had I seen the odds on offer first and not the forecast line. I don’t have internet at home for the moment, so have to nip to the library to get the bookies early prices. Not a problem except that, in my eagerness, I use the forecast in the Racing Post. Mistake! Of interest, of course, to see how one’s own line parallels any other informed opinion, but practically an error in that it puts a fixed idea into ones mind as to what is likely to be value and by how much.

This gave me Maktu 7/2 to 1/11 and Snake 11/1 to 16/1 not so much in it that Snake stood out. On the other hand, the early prices gave Maktu 7/2 to 11/1 and Snake 11/1 to 25/1 The ‘longest-priced value’ rule is clear here and I should not then have wavered (as, indeed, I did) about getting on Snake Charmer. In a hurry, in fact.

The ‘6/1 or less’ rule is out and no use of the forecast – get the actual prices straight away. These are the new rules then:

Bet the longest-priced contender which is genuine value.

Why ‘genuine’? This means not only 50% (as a guide anyway) but more significantly the differential between the odds and the probabilities. For example, 3/1 = 25% and 6/1 = 14%. This is 3 odds points but 9 percentage points difference, which is significant. On the other hand, 25/1 = 4% and 50/1 = 2%, only 2 percentage points difference in the win probability but 25 points in the odds. Tempting, but really not genuine value. I think 5% has to be a minimum so 11/1 to 25/1 counts (8.3% to 3.8%). This is the origin of the 6/1 rule, a sound principle but to be applied with regard to the field size (bigger in the UK the the US) and odds profile. Judgement is needed but a value offer should be fairly clear in most cases, again, Snake Charmer is a good illustration.

Enough chewing over one’s mistakes. Positive lessons from the week:

1. the above
2. big fields are predicatable for the value bettor and can offer big priced value. Nick Mordin confirms that handicap hurdles, in particular, are chaotic. He takes a ‘most likely winner’ approch though. The value bettor potentially is in betting heaven with these ‘random’ events as the public will go for sentiment and obvious factors such as recent form.
3. I now appreciate the significance of the Cheltenham week in the Jumps calender and will bear it in mind next year.
4. Get to Cheltenham for real sometime. I am a fan of festivals (mostly goth and chess so far) so a whole week must be seriously intense in a good way.

That’s it then. I start now with a clean slate and new tools in my prospector’s toolbox.