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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Here's why Kempton's closure would be a massive loss to punters

Kempton Park: a punter-friendly racecourse
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In the first of a new fortnightly series, Tom Collins argues why the under-threat track should be high on your betting radar

There is no mistaking it, winter is here, and for Flat fans that means a diet of all-weather racing and the occasional flirtation with overseas action.

British and Irish punters are well catered for during the long, dark months, but in a few years' time the landscape will change in ways as yet immeasurable.

While the impending loss of Kempton will reshape the face of the jumps calendar (a Sandown King George?), on a day-to-day basis the relocation of so many all-weather meetings will be a big adjustment for all concerned.

For punters, the proposed addition of an all-weather track at Newmarket will add another piece to the puzzle, while course specialists will lose their happy hunting ground that hosted a total of 58 Flat fixtures in 2017 and have to ply their trade on unknown territory.

The loss of Kempton is disappointing for a number of reasons. Not only will the historic jumps track – which held its first race in July 1878 – be long-forgotten, but punters will have lost one of the most profitable and fairest all-weather racecourses in Britain.

So, with the clock ticking on Kempton's existence, punters should start cashing in at the Sunbury-on-Thames track before the home straight becomes home to the capital's commuters.

Unsurprisingly, being prominent over the minimum distance at Kempton is a plus. The inner of the two tracks has a tight, sweeping bend leading to just under a two-furlong home straight.

Obviously being out the back with such a short run-in isn’t ideal and Kempton's five furlong races, of which there's at least one on a normal midweek card, have become a fantastic betting medium for those who follow forward-racing types.

Statistics show that 32 per cent of front-runners manage to hold on over the minimum – a good record that should play a part in your punting process.

Unfortunately that pointer doesn't really transfer to the majority of other all-weather tracks, with Newcastle, Chelmsford and Southwell's long straights making sectional timing more important than race position.

James Doyle: has an excellent record on the Kempton all-weather track

In contrast, the art to picking winners in races run over 6f, 7f, a mile, 1m3f, 1m4f and 2m on the outer course is to stay away from those drawn low who race prominently, instead finding a mid-to-rear, highly-drawn performer.

Jockeys have become more accustomed to using the 'slingshot' technique off the final bend at other all-weather tracks and, although it can't necessarily be used with a such a long straight at Kempton, it's definitely a huge advantage to come down the centre of the track, with the far-side rail riding deeper since the surface was relaid.

A number of jockeys – notably James Doyle (18-53, 34 per cent strike-rate) and Jim Crowley (19-97, 20 per cent strike-rate) – have mastered the art of pulling their horses to the centre of the track to make their challenge, making them the first port of call when looking for a bet.

However, some jockeys still try to use the cutaway two furlongs out to gain that extra advantage. 

Nine times out of ten it's a shocking move and one that leaves a punter cursing and thinking what could have been had they challenged wide as they get swamped by the more tactically-nous riders swooping down the outside.

Unless you're on a superstar, or a horse named Ply, coming down the middle of the track boasts a clear advantage and consequently those posted two or three deep round the bend aren't at a disadvantage, despite covering more ground.

In a racing world where finding a consistent angle worthy enough to support a horse in a race is reasonably hard to come by, one of the best punting tracks in the country – only rivaled by Chester – is also set to be taken away from us. 

So while we await further news from The Jockey Club, don't be afraid to back a front-runner on the inside course, or a horse drawn 14 of 14 on the outer track. They will pay their way, I'm sure. Do it while you have the chance.

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You should always look for a forward-racing type if you’re looking to have a bet over the five furlong trip
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