Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Moneyball: Refuse To Bend

I originally had this ready to go on Apres-Demi-Moi-La-Deluge day. If I had posted it then I would have felt like Aaron Ramsey.

In Clarissa Explains Moneyball I wrote that to find value in dynamic markets you should be able to explain why the market would get it wrong. The aim of this series is to explain the situations where this guideline has worked for me. My first example is the 2003 2000-Guineas winner Refuse To Bend. After winning the Guineas he flopped in the Derby before producing his best effort in a Group 3 at Leapordstown. However, he finished the season with two more flops in the Prix Moulin and Breeder's Cup Mile.

At some point over that winter I loaded his form to see if I could figure out what was wrong with him. When the page loaded a pattern emerged more quickly than I expected it too. The hint is that I thought I had loaded only his wins. Can you see what I saw?

I saw the line of ones and realised that Refuse To Bend had never finished from second to ninth. My first thought was that he performed better in small fields but then how do we account for the 2000 Guineas win in a field of twenty. Fortunately, I had a vivid memory of him being drawn on the outside and winning unmolested. The story was not over there, however. He was purchased by Godolphin and sent off favourite in a large field around a bend  and never featured. His next stop was the Lockinge. Newbury is a wide track was drawn in the middle and again showed little. I had not backed him in the previous two races - in fact I had never backed him at this stage - would I back him if conditions were favourable?

His next stop turned out to be the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. I really hoped that it would be on the straight course but it was not. He did however get drawn low and this meant he had a chance to get to the first turn with space. The deciding factor for me was that the ground was very fast. At the time it was wrongly believed that the progeny of Sadler's Wells were better on soft ground - this meeting was the first time I saw someone in the racing media point out, with trepidation, that they seemed to be enjoying the faster ground. This would add some extra value to his price. The race went exactly as hoped and I had him at 16/1, he also won the Eclipse next time out in a small field at 10/1.

What they missed:

  • The 2000 Guineas run was more like a small-field race for him
  • Sadler's Wells produced horses that liked fast ground. I think this may have something to do with conditioning. Before Ballydoyle had an all-weather gallops the horses liked soft ground because it was what they were used to.

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