Last month I ran out of space and I still had one “basic betting rule” to cover. This was my liking for Group races and especially for Group 1 races. It stands to reason that anybody who is seriously interested in racing is going to have a strong focus on the best races in the country.

Nevertheless, I am aware of several professionals and semi-professionals who prefer to concentrate their betting on the levels just below the major Group races.

They rarely travel further than 100km from the metropolitan area and they tend to concentrate on Class 6 and above, up to and including what we call listed races (sometimes known as Group 4).

Their reasoning is that the very top races are too close together, as far as quality is concerned, and you are often left in the hands of Lady Luck. Take as an example the Golden Slipper. We all know my views on wide barriers for this particular race. If you draw a wide barrier you can generally stay at home. Not always, of course.

If it was always so, then horses drawn out wide at Rosehill would always be 100/1 commodities. They do occasionally win (you can check the charts in any edition of Sportsman). The problem is that their odds do not usually reflect their diminished chances. More than likely, the odds will reflect their chances if everything else were equal, and it isn’t.

Given the advantage of a better barrier, you would think that anybody concentrating on the best horses from the inside barriers (up to perhaps 10) would be successful and would be able to sort it all out.

But some of my professional friends will have it that the very best horses are always going to be very close to each other; and because the very best horses and the very best riders, not to mention the very best trainers, are usually involved in the final line-up, you are talking in split seconds as to everybody’s chances. The slightest advantage will mean success, when everything else is pretty equal. Where will that slight advantage go?

That’s the downside of Group races. You can get everything right and be tipped out by somebody who got everything a bit more right. You can do a really great analysis of a race and afterwards there is no reason to reproach yourself. And yet you can still be beaten.

If you were to analyse the runs of Private Steer over the autumn carnival in Sydney, it would be reasonable to decide that anybody who backed her to win her final two Group 1 races was a lucky genius. The jockey was a genius, the trainer was a genius, and the mare may well be a champion. But they all needed a little bit of luck.

That’s because she goes to sleep during the race, switches on late, and produces an electrifying sprint at the end.

She’s a heart stopper, this girl. If you had supported the horses which ran second in the All Aged Stakes and the Doncaster Handicap, you probably would have gone away disappointed. And yet, with half a second to go you were on the winner. I know, that’s racing, but it can break your heart. And here I am saying that Group races still attract me! There must be something else to it. Yes there is, actually. The “something else” is the value that is on offer at this level.

Let’s have a quick look at the Group 1 winners from the Sydney autumn carnival. I’ll list them for you, to jog your memory. Niello (2), Sound Action, Shamekha, Special Harmony, Grand Zulu, Lonhro, Dance Hero (3), Starcraft (2), Private Steer (2), Wild Iris, Spark of Life, Grand Armee and Makybe Diva.

The majority of these winners presented really attractive odds at various stages of the betting. A couple of them I could not come at, but to my mind the bet of the carnival was Makybe Diva in the Sydney Cup.

I managed to strike a very good bet a few days before the Cup, when the final field was declared and I was absolutely sure she would take her place. You may remember that Profit Page had advised readers back in the April edition “Why wouldn’t they try for the Sydney Cup with 55kg? The Cup looks to be at her mercy”. Anybody who recognised this animal as being far and away the best two-miler in the country would have been ecstatic with the odds being offered about her early on.

So it’s a matter of being highly selective with Group 1 races, and also being prepared to leave your money in your pocket if the odds do not appear (to you) to represent genuine value. We have been over the value question many times. It means different things to different people, but what it must mean to everybody is that they are being offered more than they expect for their investment.

For example, if I believe that in the Sydney Cup Makybe Diva ought to be an even money favourite, and I am able to obtain 6/1, I would regard this as one of the most amazing overlays of my betting life. If you, however, believe that she should properly be 4/1, and you go to Randwick racecourse on Sydney Cup day, and you watch her backed into a very confident favourite, you will not have a bet. And that is fair enough.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Roman Koz