By the time he lined up in the 1997 King George Chase, the Martin Pipe-trained Challenger Du Luc had already finished runner-up in his three previous races.
This habit of travelling well before not finding any extra when asked had already come to the fore prior to Boxing Day and he was a 16/1 shot on the off in the main win market due to that particular tendency.
This is one of the first times I can recall noting that the potential Straight Forecast returns would be greater due to a trait, which actually increased a horses chances of finishing in the runner-up spot; when See More Business outbattled Challenger Du Luc from the final fence to the winning line, the resulting SFC paid £125.40.
I have paid close attention to similar situations ever since. Strong-travelling bridle horses, and one-paced front-running horses, are particular favourites of mine to consider for a potential second place finish. If a one-paced leader is left alone out in front, more often than not, the hold-up horse(s) will not be asked to challenge until in between the final two flights and possibly not until after the final obstacle. This inevitably increases the chances of a lone front-runner hanging on for second spot.
A good case in point is Petit Mouchoir when he recently competed in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on 1st February 2020. The fact that he was competing against two favourites that would both probably beat him on a going day increased his price in the win market further, and therefore the potential returns from a straight-forecast play (the combined price for the two favourites to beat Petit Mouchoir in two Straight Forecasts came to 7/1+).
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The chances of two strong favourites both running to their best is always going to be less than the likelihood of one favourite performing to his or her best. In this recent example, Honeysuckle played her part in the script by running out a ready winner, whilst Sharjah very kindly ran down the field on a day that should have suited him. This left Petit Mouchoir to make the running until the mare headed him at the final hurdle. Everything fell into place until Darver Star’s late burst took him past Petit Mouchoir to claim the runner-up spot close to the line!
I tend to prefer to use as many, if not more, losing examples when discussing the past. Nonetheless, I believe this particular losing Straight Forecast bet still highlights the thinking behind the Challenger Du Luc strategy.