Talking Horses: bookies behave themselves for racing’s return | Sport

One of the interesting aspects of Monday’s resumption at Newcastle was the sight of bookmakers behaving themselves. Well, ‘sight’ is wrong because all the betting action occurred online but the evidence is there for all to see in the results section of Tuesday morning’s Racing Post, which shows that the profit margin built into bookies’ prices on day one was kept within very respectable limits.

This matters because Starting Prices cannot be determined by on-course trade, the familiar, tested and mostly trusted system that has been in place for eons. The public can’t get into racecourses just now, so racecourse bookmakers are sidelined.

For the time being, SPs are being contrived from the odds offered by various firms online according to some unpublished formula overseen by the Press Association. It’s a new system, lacking transparency and any punter would have to be wary, which is why it’s reassuring to see over-rounds between 113% and 119% for the mostly 12-runner races at Newcastle.

Colin Hord, chair of the Horserace Bettors Forum, tells me: “With the return of racing, it was good to see the off-course bookmakers giving competitive prices to punters, which were reflected by keen over-rounds in the SPs. Monitoring will continue to ensure the new SP system is working well.”

Of course, since we’re all betting online for the time being, the SP is much less of a factor than if betting shops were open. But it’s still relevant for anyone getting the Best Odds Guaranteed concession, so it’s in everyone’s interests for the SP to continue to work. Apart from anything else, it’s really useful as a post-race indicator of pre-race expectation.

As has been well covered elsewhere, Monday’s action was marred by the death of December Second. A faller on the Flat is rare and the circumstances that led to his fatal injury, a horse running into him as he tried to rise, are much rarer still.

December Second was appallingly unlucky. And many in racing will be feeling the sport was similarly unlucky to have such a thing happen on the first day of live sport in this country for months, with a much bigger audience than usual and officials hoping to make some new converts. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that today’s two race-meetings are free of such incidents.

Kempton tips, by Greg Wood

London Eye is a rare runner on the Flat for Harry Fry and is also making his debut for the yard, after a switch from Sir Michael Stoute, with Ryan Moore in the saddle. That profile is seemingly enough to make him favourite at around 11-4 for Kempton’s 12-furlong handicap but he remains a maiden after six starts and his overall form to date does not really justify his prominence in the market.

Several opponents have similar claims on the book, including Secratario (5.05), who made a winning debut for Shaun Keightley shortly before racing was suspended in mid-March and seems likely to improve for a step back up to a mile-and-a-half. At around 8-1, he looks like a decent bet against the favourite.

Grandfather Tom (2.10) likes to make the running and has an ideal draw in stall one, while Dawry (1.35) has shown enough in his five starts to date to suggest a mark in the low 70s is not beyond him.

Newcastle tips, by Chris Cook

While Fry tries his luck at Kempton, another jumps trainer could have more luck up north. Dan Skelton tries Azzuri (5.25) on the Flat for the first time since the horse joined him a couple of years back and he ought to be very nicely treated off this mark, given the progress he has made over jumps.

Admittedly, his form in the last jumps season was poor but he was either competing at a high level or on unsuitably soft ground. A wind operation suggests the problem may have been located. At 6-1, he could be worth the risk.

Similar odds are available in the opener about Amplification (12.45), who went close here in February on just his second start for Michael Dods. An extra furlong can help him.

Mafia Power 1.35 Dawry 2.10 Grandfather Tom 2.45 Science 3.20 Cold Front 3.55 Imrahor 4.30 Galsworthy 5.05 Secratario 5.40 Rodney Le Roc 

Amplification (nb) 1.20 Irreverent 1.55 Custodian 2.30 Cold Stare 3.05 Strike Red 3.40 Digital 4.15 Virginia Plane 4.50 Signora Princess 5.25 Azzuri (nap) 6.00 Jus Pires

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