Talking Horses: no such thing as ‘too much information’ for punters | Sport

Among the social media responses to last night’s “Epatante is coughing” story, I was stunned to see some people effectively responding with: “too much information”. The complaint seems rooted in the fact that Nicky Henderson was reporting a potential problem which may or may not become an actual problem, leaving readers wondering how to respond.

I saw one suggestion that the trainer should have waited to have a clearer idea of the outcome before going public. Someone else predicted that, if Epatante should now win the Champion Hurdle, folk will complain they’ve been put away.

But if that does happen, those doing the complaining will be idiots. If you have any faith in your own ability as a punter, there is no such thing as too much information. Since you know what matters and what doesn’t, you can sift through any amount of data while others get bogged down.

What you should fear is a shortage of information, which tends to put you in the same situation as all other punters, judging the likely outcome from a small number of factors and all of you vulnerable to being blindsided by a result you couldn’t see coming because a key fact was unavailable.

Yes, it’s unusual for us to be told when there’s a small amount of coughing in a stable. We owe it to Henderson to say thanks for this level of detail and insight in the build-up to a major festival. But we also owe it to ourselves to add: all trainers should be doing this.

Perhaps we don’t know right away what to do with this news that Epatante is coughing for no evident reason while following her normal regime. But we now have a chance to work out a theory and to see it tested in a couple of weeks. It seems a pretty good way to learn about the game.

I’d far rather have this situation than the converse, a trainer keeping quiet about a cougher, hoping for the best and then feigning bafflement if it runs deplorably. Fortunately, that kind of thing never happens.

Curiosity is an important attribute in a punter. I sense that my daughter isn’t going to adopt my interest in betting on horses but if she does, I will strongly advise her against being the kind of punter who would rather not be told when the Champion Hurdle favourite is coughing.

Cheltenham Festival stat of the day, by Paul Ferguson

The past six winners of the Ryanair Chase were French-bred, whilst previous festival winners (and placed horses) and second-season chasers have a fine recent record in the race, too. All the key trends here point towards A Plus Tard, who really does appear to have the ideal profile for the race.

The Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide 2020, written by Paul Ferguson, is published this week and available through this link for £15.95.

The Cheltenham Festival stat of the day will return next week.

Friday’s best bets

The ground at Ascot before Christmas was extremely testing and it’s going to be worth forgiving a few horses for poor runs then, as fans of Mister Malarky proved on Saturday. It Sure Is (3.50) may follow him into the winner’s enclosure today, at Newbury.

There was a lot of promise in the way he ran on into second on his hurdles debut at this track in November, so he was odds-on at Ascot. He travelled like the best horse and possibly too strongly, given conditions. Soon after the second-last, he was beaten.

A wind operation three days later is a pretty clear hint as to what connections think happened that day to the future chaser, a well-related sort who won his point a year ago. Ground conditions will not be great today but I’m backing him to break his duck at odds of 7-4 or so. Eritage sets a fair standard but concedes 6lb to a rival with more potential.

Another quite impressive point winner goes in the opener. Alnadam (2.10) is a Dan Skelton runner making a step up in trip for his handicap debut. That seems sure to help and his rating looks very reasonable, so 8-1 appeals.

I’m surprised to be getting 7-4 about Miss Heritage (3.40) at Doncaster, given the way she bolted up at Huntingdon a week ago. She had shown before that a testing surface is right up her street and the forecast says she’ll get it again here. The penalty should not stop her.

2.00 Volt Face 2.35 Goobinator 3.05 Imada 3.40 Miss Heritage (nb) 4.10 Molly Ollys Wishes 4.45 First Flow 5.15 Free Ski

2.10 Alnadam 2.45 Monte Cristo 3.15 Financial Outcome 3.50 It Sure Is (nap) 4.20 Invincible Cave 4.55 Dorking Cock 5.25 Whiskey Lullaby

2.20 River Dawn 2.55 Diva Rock 3.30 Healing Power 4.00 Merhoob 4.35 Vipin 5.05 Copper Point

5.10 Top Power 5.45 Lexington Force 6.15 Buniann 6.45 Speed Merchant 7.15 Watheer 7.45 Ghost Buy

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