So, the Flat turf season 2018 is underway.
Those preseason nerves, excitement and anticipation transformed to focus on the here and now.
The two-year-old season started with the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes, just like the good, old days. Testing ground conditions have made the turf even more problematic.
Those first few weeks, if not months, can be difficult for any age of horse but especially two-year-olds. Considering most early juveniles will be cantering over the winter period the weather can impact on their progress. Also, the going, if running on the turf. It may be a positive if they have soft-ground breeding or a negative if not. Most trainers will not take a chance with a debutante because they want them to have a pleasant introduction. For many, travelling, a change of routine, different environment and hustle and bustle of the racecourse can be a frightening experience.
But how do we consider betting early season?
I would suggest you take care. The enthusiasm for wanting to bet can be strong (and not always a bad thing). The difficultly being you don't want to look for bets but neither do you want to miss gilt-edge chances. That is the difficulty of guidelines because they need that element of flexibility which says: ''You should bet even when you normally wouldn't''.
Reasons why you should be careful when betting early season:
1) Even trainers need time to assess the merit of their two-year-old string. Sure, they have older horses to run against and gauge the standard of, perhaps, their most precocious juvenile. They need a few runners to appreciate their worth. It's a time even the best of the best hold their breath and hope.
2) Assessing form. Early season form horses can be very deceiving. A horse finishes second and it feels natural to think it has ability. That may be correct or a big mistake. Many of these early form horses will start favourite on their second start and often poor bets with little value. In fact, many will be horrendous bets. Beaten out of sight.
3) Going concerns. As detailed above, these early months can see testing ground conditions on the turf. This makes life difficult on the day and assessing horses when making their second start, which may see them go to race on the all-weather.
4) Betting on debutantes. Even after years of betting, I am fearful of betting on debutantes. You just never know how they will handle the day. As all the early races are over 5f, a slow start, running awkward on a bend or just very inexperienced may leave you with a mountain to climb. It is a strange fact, but often the best horses have terrible debut runs. I take note of favourites who trail home in last because they often fly next start.
So what can we look for as positive pointers?
1) Listen to what horse trainers say. All trainers love to get in front of the camera especially when their horses are running well. Mick Channon was buoyant in his view that because Izzer won the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes, they have a decent two-year-old string. It has proven correct with winners and big runs following.
2) Experience counts for a lot. That first start gives a big advantage when opposing debutantes, especially on a turning course.
3) The intention of the trainer. Trainers are creatures of habit. How do they train their two-year-olds? When do they usually win? You will find that certain trainers never win on debut. Others place their horses to go well on their second start. While most of their chances are price driven. They need to be fancied in the betting. That is true for many but not all. I know trainers who go much better with outsiders than favourites. You simply need to have an understanding of what makes trainers tick.
4) Keep an eye on significant entries. If there is one pointer which helps identify a talented juvenile it is their race entries. Group Horse Daily details all this information for free this season. We work hard to detail the best two-year-old horses in training. You can take a look at previous year's analysis to appreciate how good this information is. It is exceptional.
My personal opinion is to be careful betting early season. You should enjoy what you are doing and be confident in your ability which comes from hard work or attaching yourself to people who do the work for you. The best bets always stand out. The only exception I would make about chancing your luck is if you have an inkling a big priced horse could win. You need so few of these selections to win to be in profit that I wouldn't let them pass by without a small bet.