It would appear from media reports that one of the triggers that precipitated the violent conduct by a small group of irate punters at Hollywoodbets Greyville last week, was primarily aimed at jockey Anton Marcus.
However, his favourite in the first race fractured a leg and the Marcus-ridden favourite in the second, Fergie’s Rock, pulled up lame and unplaced which appeared to spark the protest.
Among other grievances that have subsequently emerged was that Hollywoodbets, the racecourse sponsors and leading bookmakers, also sponsor trainers and jockeys that these punters contended could lead to races being ‘fixed’.
Hollywoodbets have vehemently denied all allegations and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Marcus, who is not sponsored by Hollywoodbets and rides freelance for the most, is one of the sought-after jockeys for his proven expertise in the saddle and consequently rides many more fancied horses than his weighing room counterparts.
He does not always get his pick of rides, “I’m often turned down,” he says, but it stands to reason that his judgement, or that of the trainers who often request his services, may not always be on the mark. In other cases, his mounts may be having an off day or develop some other physical niggle during a race, a fate that can befall any other horse or rider.
Marcus, like all other jockeys, earns his basic salary through riding fees so out of necessity of putting bread on the table, will take rides even if their chances of winning are remote.
The list of possibilities is endless but the simple fact is that his mere presence in the saddle trims the odds on his mounts, whether they have the form to win or not, and are often ‘false favourites’.
The ‘educated’ punter is well aware of this and does not fall into this betting trap easily.
Marcus currently has a national winning strike rate of 30.4% for the season so far, a trend that goes back a decade, while log-leading jockey Warren Kennedy has an 18% winning strike rate. Those percentages increase on their home courses with Marcus on 32.2% and Kennedy 19.4%.
While you can read whatever you like into statistics, Kennedy is riding for his first National Jockey’s Title and the more rides he gets the better his chances. The fact that he still boasts a winning strike rate of close to 20% is testimony to his ability. Marcus, a three-time National Champion and not chasing the title, is more judicious and has 69 winners from just 227 rides. Kennedy has 165 winners from 898 rides.
The national average of winning favourites at all of the country’s courses, Zimbabwe and Mauritius included, for the past three years is constant at around 30% that equates to close to one in every three favourites winning.
By Andrew Harrison
See tables below: