20th December 2015

There is no rest for the wicked. This is supposed to be our quiet time of the year but, if opportunities for Blethering are anything to go by, it clearly isn’t.
This time last year I had already been to Las Vegas for the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and I had sworn that I would make it an annual pilgrimage but, one year on, the resolution had to be broken. I was also writing, in early November last year, of taking it easy and finding time for cycling, and I was berated by some for saying that while our horses were in the midst of a long losing streak. Well, no such problems this year. The bike has hardly turned a wheel but I can’t say that that is the reason for any apparently better form. We are again operating with a very small string, principally made up of horses which ‘missed the boat’ for one reason or another in the middle of the season, and so the runners and consequently the winners are fairly few and far between. Luckily, however, one or two decent individuals have kept popping one in and have kept us off that dreaded Racing Post Cold Trainers List.

Richard Fahey confessed, over a few drinks at the sales, that he got some perverse pleasure from our plight last October and November and would exchange text messages with Jamie Osborne counting the days that we went without a winner. So I make no apology now for pointing out that it is him that has had a spell on the Cold List this year although he got off it just the other day.

In the midst of our long losing run I heard James Willoughby discussing it on TV and he said that he didn’t believe in ‘trainer form’. He was, firstly, unconvinced by the figures which simply look at days/runs without a winner and take no account of whether the horses are running to form or not, and he said that we were running a ‘subset of horses’ which were not up to our usual standard. I was delighted to accept this at the time but looking back now I see that, of the 67 horses which ran during that period, 53 went on to race into 2015 and 31 of them (58%) won races: a total of 59 races between them. Of the 14 that retired at the end of the year, only 5 retired as maidens. I didn’t count how many of those that failed to win again (22) retired as maidens but it was very few i.e. most had been successful before October of last year.

It was not, therefore, a ‘subset of horses’ in terms of ability to win races but, perhaps, many of them were on the way down having peaked earlier in the season or had not yet had an opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Since then I have done some work with James Willoughby on Breeze-Up sales and we have had discussions on what he can bring to our team in terms of analytics. We will certainly be working more closely with him in future and, perhaps, the phenomena of trainer form will need to be looked at again.

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