Joao Moreira just magic for favourite backers
Brazilian puts punters ahead of the game, not only on the public's first choice but across his every ride since his contract began
One of the interesting ways to look at the "Joao Moreira Effect" on this season is to do so through the prism of expectations and how he has performed in the very specific sector where the majority of punters want him to perform - favourites.
The 2013-14 season has been a red-letter term for the public fancies. Here we are after halfway and the favourite runner is winning at a rate of 31.76 per cent and that is a good strike rate for them in any language.
In the past 16 years, the 31.81 per cent win rate for favourites in 2010-11 was comfortably the best season for the market elect and 30 per cent had only been breached one other time.
So 31.76 is a high strike rate for the season so far as a whole and the win rate has been very high indeed in the recent short term - 17 of the last 50 favourites have won, and it's even higher at 38 from the last 100 favourites.
And reading colleague Michael Cox's "Happy Lucky Dragon Win" blog on the pre-Moreira and post-Moreira differences this season made us wonder how much the Magic Man had contributed to the exceptional run for favourites and just how it lines up with his main rivals, Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte.
In the 90 races before Moreira's contract began, for instance, Whyte had ridden about one in every four favourites. Since the Brazilian landed, Whyte has been on one in five favourites in races where he rode.
Purton's percentage of favourite rides has increased, no doubt due to his good start to the term, so post-Moreira the conclusion looks to be that it is Whyte's share of the public first choice in races that the Brazilian has chewed up.
In Moreira's 238 rides since he started his club contract at the October 20 meeting, he has ridden 71 outright favourites - an outright favourite in almost 30 of every 100 rides.
Hardly a surprise, and some might say that many of his rides are favourite just by virtue of Moreira being booked to ride them. Only 20 per cent of Whyte's rides have been favourite, but 24 per cent of Purton's rides have been first choice.
As a casual observation, we might even be inclined to agree that Moreira's rides attract more play because he's on them, but what is a real surprise is that his favourites have outperformed those lofty expectations.
In fact, Moreira has outperformed the market full stop - a flat $10 bet on every ride since his contract began would have cost the punter $2,380 and returned $2,492. No, it might not seem a lot but no banks are offering you 4.7 per cent and that's after the Jockey Club takes 17.5 per cent out of the pool.
On an outright favourite though, things are even better, with your flat bet investment of $710 on his 71 favourites returning almost $800 and around 12 per cent.
By contrast, Whyte and Purton are both losing propositions for the same flat bet on all mounts and even on favourites, where both perform much better.
That's as anyone might expect, although to be fair Whyte and Purton are both performing well vis a vis that takeout rate. In fact, backing both of them on a first favourite with flat bets big enough to attract the 10 per cent rebate is actually a winning wager.
They just aren't going as well as Moreira, whose favourites have been hitting the line first at an extraordinary rate of just under 41 per cent and making a massive contribution to an exceptional winning year for the public first choice.
Whether this is sustainable for a whole season is another question, given the historical annual strike rates for favourites as outlined above.
The favourites are due for a bit of correction in general at some stage, and Moreira's favourites in particular, but one thing is for certain - with the Magic Man leading them home at anything like that sort of frequency, punters are going to just keep rallying to whatever he is riding.
MILLION CHALLENGE FAILS TO LIFT VALLEY STANDARDS
More than a few readers have commented on the nine-race card at Happy Valley tonight, the second one in fairly quick succession after the nine rolled out last month.
The afterglow of the Lunar New Year got the finger point for that one; tonight it's the finale of the 1010 Million Challenge which has been saddled with the responsibility for the extended card, although what one has to do with the other is beyond us.
The Million Challenge, readers may recall - let's face it, no one even thinks about it until the final weeks of the five month-long contest - is the competition at Happy Valley only for horses racing in Class Three or higher.
Points are issued for placings in the first four and at the finish there's a million dollars distributed to the leading point scorers. All well and good, but why does that require nine races for the final night - four of them ineligible for the contest?
The intention of the Million Challenge originally was supposedly to give a boost to the standards at Happy Valley, especially in Class Three and Class Two, as talented horses would stay at the city track chasing the Million Challenge, instead of departing for Sha Tin, where the "good" horses go, according to some warped perception.
Well, on that basis, it has been a crock. There may have been the odd horses which raced more often at the Valley just for that reason over the years, but as for changing the standards of racing there in any dramatic way, the Million Challenge has done little or nothing.
That would only be achieved by putting a few more actual "good" races on at the Valley, and the Jockey Club has been loath to do that.