By and large, the marketers behind horse racing do a good job of building anticipation for big races even if they are months away. Right now, for example, there is a lot of buzz about Galopin Des Champs, a novice Irish horse that is being tipped to be the star of his generation. Despite a fall at Cheltenham 2022 (when leading), his talent is such that he is the ante-post market leader for the greatest prize in jumps racing – the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2023.
But his favourite status should come with a big caveat. His talent is not in doubt, but next March is a very long time away, and a lot can happen between now and then. As a young, lightly-raced horse, Galopin Des Champs is still learning his trade, and it is asking a lot for his evolution to continue on a perfect trajectory.
Hitotsu might swerve Melbourne Cup
Similarly, there is a buzz about Hitotsu, the current favourite with Ladbrokes Australia for the Melbourne Cup. Around six months away, there is nevertheless a huge amount of anticipation for the “race that stops a nation”. In fact, you might say that the excitement for the subsequent Melbourne Cup begins the moment the previous ends.
But while Hitotsu is more experienced than Galopin Des Champs in the big time, the six-month gap between now and the Melbourne Cup provides throws up many uncertainties. Most notably, whether Hitotsu will run in the Melbourne Cup at all. His team have plans to take him abroad in the Australian spring, most notably to Japan for the Japan Cup. There is a very real chance that we don’t see him at Flemington Racecourse.
The point we are making is that bettors should always be cautious when deciding to pick horses in a long-term ante-post strategy. What can make matters worse is that you are not always guaranteed to get your money back if the horse does not run in the selected race. The system is complicated. In Australia, it depends on nominations, while in the UK, it’s declarations. But it’s enough to say that you might lose your stake (you should always check this with the bookmaker.
There is an art to ante-post betting
But it begs the question, why place ante-post bets at all? Why have people already placed large bets on Hitotsu and Galopin Des Champs when it is possible they may not run? Why not simply wait to race day? Well, ante-post betting is considered an art, and a particularly difficult one at that.
The idea is that you are not just betting on the winner of the race but on the market conditions over the coming months. For example, those taking the odds on Galopin Des Champs now are hoping that his supersonic career trajectory continues, and that he lines up for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 17th March 2023 as a red-hot favourite, with shorter odds than he has today.
Yet, as we said, none of that is guaranteed. Moreover, the real art in ante-post betting lies in pinpointing those horses who have not yet fully demonstrated their potential, those who are offered at huge odds today but might be much, much shorter should they have a breakout season leading up to the big race.
In the end, the key is to be careful. A horse might be the odds for the Gold Cup, Melbourne Cup or Kentucky Derby, but that does not necessarily mean they will be the favourites on race day or even partake in the race. You must take a calculated risk, and it might pay dividends in the end. But you should also prepare for that risk not to come off.