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Putting punters on the right track to profit on the sand.

THERE is more to life than betting - at least in theory. But for many punters, the absence of racing on turf can be the source of real anxiety.

You might view the freeze-up as a perfect opportunity to take a break from the daily grind of finding winners. But for what? It can be a cruel world out there with nothing trivial to occupy the mind and there really is no reason to turn your back on the eight all-weather contests that Kempton is pleased to set before you this afternoon.

If you are a jumping diehard and find yourself caught between the devil and the deep brown surface, try surrendering to your dark impulses for once.

One way through the all-weather maze is with course-specific form. No, this is not an excuse for an old bromide about Southwell being deeper than Wolverhampton, but instead the basis of a framework for analysing all-weather form.

When punters invoke the maxim of horses for courses, they do so with little fear of rebuke. Every year, there are hundreds of examples of horses winning multiple races at the same venue. But the two letters that signify past success in today's circumstances - CD - are hardly the pathway to eternal wealth.

In fact, the purported edge with any particular manipulation of course form tends to be eroded as the sample size gets bigger. The truth is that gross and persistent inefficiencies in the betting market are soon exploited.

In any case, course winners are hardly a rarity in many all-weather races.

For example, in the Kia Sportage Handicap (4.30), eight of the ten runners have been successful on the track, but the two exceptions are trained by John Oxx and Richard Fahey. (At best, this will be a pyrrhic victory for the power of course form.) Consider other knots in the course-form wood: an improving horse who sets up a sequence at one track may prove just as effective at another, while an exposed runner with several course wins may end up badly handicapped as a result.

None of this is to doubt the significant advantage some horses enjoy through suitability to a course. But the key is to judge each situation on its merits and find particular spots where course form may be the source of value.

Let's discuss some examples of course-form analysis on today's card.

In the opening apprentice handicap (2.00), the quirky Ymir will be fancied after being beaten a short head at Lingfield last week. The change of venue is no worry here, as he posted marginally the best Racing Post Rating of his career over course and distance a year ago.

In the claimer (2.30), the clear form choice, Danzigs Grandchild, makes her all-weather debut, but chief rival Skeleton posted a good time when winning here two starts ago. Skeleton takes a while to get going, so the long straight at Kempton could be significant.

The front-running May's Boy, third to Skeleton early this month, won over a furlong less at Kempton next time and now runs over the same course and distance (3.30). He has posted the best two efforts of his career at the Sunbury venue, but cheekpieces are probably the real key to him.

This race is a step up in class and the fact his lightly raced opponents have no experience here is no real disadvantage to them.

BY CONTRAST, it is reasonable to think that Iron Condor (4.00) is better suited to Kempton than turf. He has run four times at the track and recorded a careerbest performance each time. His most recent effort gives him a great chance on a track that suits his late-running style.

As mentioned above, Flash McGahon and Dark Lane are the only two runners with no Kempton form engaged in the 4.30. Yet they happen to be the most interesting runners, particularly the latter.

In the same race, it may be interesting that Vhujon has 22 places from 74 career starts (30%) but eight from only 14 starts at Kempton (57%). He has run creditably elsewhere, so is not a course specialist, but is another who can finish strongly.

There are several interesting course angles in the 5.30, but the late-running Mogok Ruby might go well at a price. He has run to 85 or 86 three times, twice at Kempton. A return may temporarily redress the slide in his form.

As these examples show, a big clue to horses who may prove themselves especially effective at Kempton lies in their running style - it isn't the infield lake that sparks their interest, or the pleasant suburban surroundings.

Perhaps some horses do prefer the right-handed bends, compared with the opposite orientation at other all-weather venues. But the biggest factor is the long straight on the outer loop, which may favour a different type of horse than Lingfield or Wolverhampton.

Those are the horses to look out for today - whether they have proved it yet or not.


Action from Southwell yesterday as all-weather racing comes to the rescue for punters this week
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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