Is it me, or has this flat season been pretty, well, flat? I mean, don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of great punting opportunities; and the occasional great race - like Saturday's Haydock Sprint Cup... but, in the main the last couple of months seem to have been typified by a glut of unappealing low grade fare where the going has been as unpredictable as the race outcomes.
As a crude barometer of this, flat turf favourite statistics in 2015 show that the season to the end of June saw 33.13% of clear market leaders winning, for a loss at SP of 8.34%. In July and August, clear jollies prevailed just 31.36% of the time and lost a whopping 14.97% of stakes.
That microcosm is interesting in itself, but some context may shine a brighter light on proceedings. Looking at the previous three summers reveals the following:
Turf flat seasons 2012-14 to end of June: 33.31% winners, for a loss of 6.01%
Turf flat seasons 2012-14 July and August: 34.05% winners, for a loss of 8.03%
There are lots of possible inferences one could draw from those data, not least of which is the potential squeezing of book margins leading to the reduced ROI figures. While that is conjecture on my part and requires a good deal more digging to even begin to confirm, one thing is not in doubt: it's been a pretty tough time for most punters.
Separately, but contributing to a personal muted enjoyment of the flat season, is the lack of quality to punctuate the bloated fixture list these past few months. Racing needs its superstar horses in the same way that every sport needs them. But, whereas Messi and Ronaldo will boot up 50-odd times in a season across all competitions, racing's stars are increasingly sparingly campaigned.
Gleneagles, this year's 2000 Guineas winner, is an example. He has been seen on track just twice since that Newmarket win in early May, and not at all since 16th June 2015. He's been withdrawn due to the ground more than once, and while the commercial realities of the breeding sheds are grudgingly accepted, it is a criminal waste of talent - to say nothing of the disappointment to the viewing public - when tip-toppers are so heavily protected.
Although it may be harsh (actually, it is harsh) to compare any animal with Frankel, that lad book-ended his career with soft ground wins, beating top-notchers in Nathaniel on debut and Cirrus Des Aigles on curtain fall. He reached an official rating high of 135 at the end of his 3yo season.
Gleneagles and his cotton wool ownership have managed to race just once on softer than good - and only good to yielding at that - achieving a rating of 'just' 122.
The form of Gleneagles' Guineas win at Newmarket has taken plenty of knocks, and his Irish equivalent win looks even more hollow. Further smudges appear on his palmarès when one notes that the four horses behind him in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes have been beaten on all five of their collective starts since.
What I'm trying to say, in the context of such hollow form, is that there is little sense in protecting Gleneagles in this way. Surely breeders and buyers will know the house of cards on which Coolmore's flag-bearer's Classic form is built.
[Sure, he was a very good juvenile, and that's attractive enough to breeders/buyers, but with so many other stallion options, Gleneagles would be a swerve in the barns at this stage for the Bisogno millions. Ahem.]
Now, to be fair (actually, I think I've been fair already), Gleneagles still has time to come out and show that he can do more. Perhaps in the Irish Champion Stakes, or the Breeders Cup Classic even. Given his ground dependencies, the chances of him being seen at Ascot on Champions Day look pretty slim from this range. In any case, it's not all about Gleneagles...
Looking at the big meetings, from a personal perspective, I enjoyed Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood as much as ever; and I gave York my usual 'kid gloves' treatment, because I consider it to be the hardest meeting of the entire year - flat and jumps - at which to find winners.
So, since Goodwood, which ended on 1st August, I've found it very difficult to get excited about flat racing. Luckily, that's about to change due to a similar Anglo-Irish call on our time this weekend as there is during Glorious Goodwood, when Galway contends for our affections.
This time, we have Doncaster's St Leger meeting fidgeting uneasily at the increasingly likely prospect of being usurped by Irish Champions Weekend (ICW), despite hosting the fifth and final British Classic.
ICW was a huge success last year upon the inaugural bolting together of two established meetings, one from the Curragh and one from Leopardstown. That success was, without question, down in part to meteorological fortune, and it may again be that the gods (or, more correctly, the sun's rays) shine on Dublin's outer limits.
Currently, the turf is reported to be at least good on both circuits, enhancing the chances of Gleneagles joining The Grey Gatsby and others pre-entered such as Golden Horn, in the Irish Champion Stakes. The full pre-entries can be downloaded here (Saturday) and here (Sunday).
Meanwhile, Donny will bid for screen time mainly courtesy of the Leger, the Park Hill Stakes, and the Portland Handicap. They also report good ground, and have a dry week forecast. So, unless we get some unexpected cloubursts, the racing this weekend could see the high summer funk replaced by some late summer fireworks. Let's hope so.
Even in the teeth of a bombardment of moderate racing, some services rise above the mediocrity to deliver profits for their followers. Stat of the Day is one such. During July and August, while most were suffering punting reversals, Chris's picks notched 19 winners from 47 selections - an 'out of the park' 40.43% strike rate - for £855.80 profit at £20 stakes. That 91% ROI is clearly unsustainable, but Stat of the Day is sure to continue to provide juicy profits for its followers.
Indeed, in 2015 as a whole, this one a day service which forms part of Geegeez Gold (and is free to all on Mondays. Oh, it's Monday today. Woohoo!), has netted 103.75 units to end August. That's £2,075 clear profit from £20 stakes.
And here's a thing: Chris also runs a 'sister service' called Statpicks.
Statpicks runs along the same lines as SotD - data leading to a selection - and after a sluggish start, has netted its followers 67.7 points profit in 2015. Again, at £20 stakes, that's £1,354.
Statpicks has just opened again for new members, and you can get your first month for just £7. Statpicks is available for an extremely reasonable £19 per month (when you take out a quarterly sub), and you can read all about it here:
p.s. Something happened to me this morning which disgusted me. And I don't use that phrase lightly. A major bookmaker tried to install a piece of software onto my computer to spy on my betting activity. I'd heard of this only recently, and have started digging. I will report on this tomorrow hopefully, including how you can check your own machine to see if they're snooping on you, and how you can resolve the situation if they are.
UPDATE: That post has now been published, and can be viewed here.