4 Results Found For: August 2014

18th August 2014

When driving to Nottingham last Tuesday, I was listening to an interview with comedian Ricky Gervais on Radio 2. He said that strangers have a habit of asking him to ‘tell us a joke’. He seemed to think that this was completely ridiculous and pointed out that you wouldn’t meet a builder in the street and say, ‘build us a wall, will you?’

He should try being a racehorse trainer. ‘Give us a winner’ – I get that ridiculous request, without fail, every single time I go racing. And others ask, in all seriousness, ‘will it win?’. When I try to explain, as politely as possible, that I don’t actually know and, if I did, I would be mega-rich and there would be no bookmaking industry to speak of, they invariably laugh.

It gets wearing as do the countless text messages and e mails claiming that I am a cheat and wishing all manner of ills on me, my family, the jockeys, and their families. They usually come when favourites get beaten but, on Saturday, I actually got one when a favourite, Bizzario, won at Chester.
It came from some idiot calling himself ‘Head Gate’ (‘Head Case’ would be a better name if you ask me), e mail address gathot@live.co.uk, and it claimed that Bizzario had either been doped or we have been cheating and had prevented Bizzario from running up to his best on his last two starts. If you know him, tell him what a plonker he is.


On the same trip to Nottingham I came up behind a white van of ‘tranny’ size and shape but this one was not the ubiquitous Ford Transit. This one was a Renault and the model, highlighted by the chrome plated badge on the back, was a Renault Trafic (yes, one f) Sport. ‘Sport’? What’s that all about?

On checking their website I found that the ‘sport’ model has a number of extras including alloy wheels, leather covered steering wheel and fog lights. There was no mention of what type of sport it is equipped for. The mind boggles!

13th August 2014

Jim McGrath, of Timeform and Channel 4 fame, calls it ‘sliderule handicapping’: moving horses a pound or two in either direction while, effectively, leaving them in the same grade. It works in the end, for most horses, as those going down will eventually drop into a class where they are competitive and, as we all know, the handicappers push them up much faster than they bring them down in an effort to make them jump up in class and stop them winning. But I have to wonder why it seems to be beyond the wit of man to come up with a better system.

In this week’s round of handicap changes, Busatto went down 1lb from 92 to 91 having run 9th beaten 12 lengths. What is the point? This change, in itself, cannot have a bearing on his chance of winning next time.

Cayjo also went down a whole 1lb for finishing 7th beaten a mammoth 66 lengths on his first start in a handicap and it isn’t as if there was some previous form to say that the rating of 50 is accurate as, on his only three starts, he has been beaten 14 lengths, 26 lengths and 37 lengths. Having said this, at a rating of 50, a further drop is immaterial as there is no lower grade to run in.

Outbacker is, perhaps, the best example of the subjectivity of handicapping amongst our horses this week. She went down 3lbs to 62 for finishing 5th of 8, beaten 7 lengths at Catterick. But she also went down 1lb to 72 on the All Weather. It makes sense that she should have two different ratings as her form is clearly better on the All Weather but I defy any handicapper to explain, in arithmetic terms, the two rating changes which resulted from this one run. In any event, neither change is likely to make a material difference to her chance of winning (something she has failed to do in her last 12 starts) as she has not been dropped in grade.

Even more ridiculous is the change made to the handicap rating for Travel. Her turf rating of 62 has remained constant but her All Weather rating was dropped 1lb this week to 78. She last ran on 2nd June and has retired.

Conversely, Fire Fighting was raised 5lbs for winning by a head, and surviving a stewards enquiry, with the six runner field all covered by five lengths.

7th August 2014

I, perhaps naively, thought Simon Holt was a commentator but I see now, from his column in the Weekender that he is also a journalist and a radical thinker to boot.

Last week he discussed the damage that the handicap system does to British racing (see Straight Talking in the Klarion) and now he is questioning the weight-for-age scale which has been used since 1860. His ideas, if nothing else, are worthy of serious consideration but I think he goes slightly astray when he suggests that, perhaps, we should abandon 2yo racing and move everything back a year. I think he is maybe thinking that this would reduce the imbalances due to varying levels of maturity but, overall in his piece, he claims that the weight-for-age scale is now defunct because horses mature so much more quickly than they did 150 years ago. He probably also hasn’t considered that, if you moved the time that horses enter training back by a year, you would probably delay their maturity, at least in terms of their skeletal conditioning, by a similar amount of time.

4th August 2014

The racecourses, and in particular Jockey Club Racecourses, tell us that there isn’t too much racing and that fixtures shouldn’t be cut. I think we can assume that they wouldn’t agree that the weekends are too congested either as they are racing on Friday evening and Saturday on seven consecutive weekends at Newmarket with, apparently, no consideration for what is going on elsewhere.

Today, doing entries, we are faced with five races on Friday that have re-opened due to insufficient entries and you can rest assured that there will be many more which need to re-open at the declaration stage. That has become a daily routine. I am also at a loss to decide which entries to leave out for some horses which have numerous options.

Busatto, rated 90, and with good form from a mile to a mile and a quarter, has four options to make for Saturday ranging in value from £12,500 to £45,000. Salutation, rated 98, has two options on the same day in handicaps, both over 10 furlongs, and worth £20,000 and £45,000. And at a slightly lower level, Skytrain, rated 77, has three options to make at 7 furlongs or a mile with values ranging from £10,000 to £12,500. And that, of course, is just one day, in the space of one week there are 11 option for Skytrain at around a mile where he is within the handicap range. And lower again, Staffhoss, rated 63, has 32 possible handicap options in the space of a week.

Today, 15 races have had to re-open due to insufficient declarations for Wednesday’s racing.