Posts

Monday Musings: How much soup have you missed?

So we’re to brace ourselves for another retrenchment in the battle against Covid by all accounts? Having voluntarily hidden away for five months apart from the once weekly drive to Tesco, sitting in the car while the shopping was effected by the household’s responsible adult, and some less than regular walks around one of the two massive local parks, I don’t feel minded to go back into that oblivion any time soon, writes Tony Stafford.

By my calculations at the very least I’ve missed a conservative 100 trips to the races and, at Chelmsford alone, at least 30 bowls of soup. Where some things are concerned I just can’t help myself. And they do serve up the most wonderful soup (and chicken goujons and chips) in the owners’ room. Okay, the racing goes on everywhere but where you’re looking, but I love it – as far as I can remember!

I’m pleased to learn that the wonderful Linda is still looking after either the owners or is it the trainers at Newmarket? She never sees this, so how can I tell her how much I miss her. Not everyone it seems is happy that as much is being done to thank the owners for their continuing stoical support in face of reducing prize money and a feeling that the entire race programme in Europe is morphing into a homogenous mass.

Last weekend it was the Arc; then it was the Dewhurst and Cesarewitch and next week it’s British Champions Day at Ascot. The week after that the clocks go back and it’s ten minutes to Christmas. You might disagree but I can tell you I was at Cheltenham for the entire four days and nights and that only seems about six weeks ago so quickly has Covid time progressed.

The three O’Brien stables, father and two sons, had the hammer blow of the French testing of their Gain feed which led to the voluntary withdrawal of their Parislongchamp runners over Arc weekend but the levels were clearly back on track in time for Newmarket. There, the number cloths were transposed for Aidan’s two runners in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile on Friday to cause another stir. Snowfall (50-1) and Mother Earth (18-1) actually finished third and eighth rather than the reverse that everyone believed had happened.

Busy at the time of the race – amazing what you find to do when the alternative is coming over and having to quarantine afterwards! – as soon as Aidan O’Brien saw the race recording he spotted the error. Unfortunately the team based in Newmarket, managing the Ballydoyle UK runners in these oddest of times, was not quite as firmly on the ball.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Part of the confusion, for the viewing public anyway, could have been that both were outsiders and ran in Derrick Smith’s purple colours. So too did the Coolmore partners’ third and most eagerly-anticipated contender, the 7-2 shot Shale who was renewing an on-going rivalry with the favourite, Pretty Gorgeous. The talented pair had met three times previously, with the verdict 2-1 in favour of Shale as they filled the first two places each time, including most recently in the Moyglare at the Curragh last month when Shale, trained by Donnacha, beat Pretty Gorgeous, from Joseph’s stable, by almost a length.

Shale could do no better than sixth here, adding to Donnacha’s frustration just days after the rookie trainer’s stable star Fancy Blue retired to stud following her inevitable withdrawal from her planned Arc weekend target.

Joseph, already with Friday’s fillies’ Group 1 in his locker, would have been excused for thinking the Dewhurst Stakes might be coming his way too.  In the National Stakes last month at The Curragh, the previously once-raced Thunder Moon overcame his inexperience when bursting through to beat the Ballydoyle pair of Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica by a length and a half and a short head.

On Saturday, Declan McDonagh soon had Thunder Moon in a more prominent position. Instead of that being the launch-pad for a replica winning spurt up the hill, less than expected materialised. Rather it was dad’s re-opposing duo, St Mark’s Basilica, ridden by Frankie Dettori, crossing the line more comfortably ahead of Wembley, who again finished well into second, this time under Ryan Moore, who had ridden Saturday’s winner in Ireland. The result in other words was a 1-2-3 exact reverse of Ireland’s main juvenile race and Aidan O’Brien’s seventh Dewhurst.

It was tempting for bookmakers to put St Mark’s Basilica, a $1.3million yearling by Siyouni from the Galileo mare Cabaret, at the head of the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas after this as he is half-brother to Magna Grecia, (by Invincible Spirit) who won the Classic two years ago. If you prefer to stay with the authentic Guineas-winning formula rather than make do with the broodmare sire, you can always hope that Wembley can turn the form around over another furlong. He’s certainly strong at seven. Battleground (by War Front), another stable-companion and a Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood winner, is also an early 8-1 shot.

When you work every day in close proximity to such giants of any business as Coolmore, Juddmonte or Godolphin, there must be deep down a latent wish or belief that some of the magic dust might percolate on to you. Over the years many of Coolmore’s senior staff have dabbled, or in truth much more than dabbled, in breeding and bloodstock. Always, it seems, they do so with John Magnier’s full support and encouragement.

On Saturday at HQ, when the big cats had done their day’s work finishing 1-2 in yet another Group 1 championship-defining race and metaphorically vacated the scene, some of the “Coolmore mice” were allowed to come out to play. Not that the Group 3 Darley Stakes which ended the two-day meeting was an insignificant affair.

On a day when the only winning favourite came in the 34-runner Cesarewitch with Willie Mullins’ hat-trick-completing Great White Shark, events concluded with a 28-1 success (some people got 40’s!) for a Fozzy Stack-trained four-year-old filly ridden by Jamie Spencer.

It will not be a shock to learn, if you didn’t see the race, that the Co Tipperary Spice Girls who own the filly – and who also raced the filly’s mother, similarly a Group 3 winner before her - had to wait until the last 100 yards for Spencer to put them out of their misery and go into the eventually comfortable winning lead.

I’m sure that the smaller than usual contingent over for the yearling sales at Tatts, but still witness to two massive multi-million buys in M V Magnier’s name last week, would have stayed behind to cheer as the racecard – if there was one – puts it, Mrs Tom Gaffney and Mrs Barbara <wife of Clem> Murphy.

Attempts, admittedly after sensible people will have been long tucked up in bed, even the afore-mentioned no doubt still-celebrating Mr Tom and Mr Clem, initially failed to elucidate Mrs G’s first name, but the wonderful Wendy Normile called just in time to remind me it was Marie. Their filly is called Lady Wannabe, a daughter of Camelot, the nearest we’ve had to a Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970, out of Wannabe Better, who was a half-sister to the even more talented Wannabe Grand.

Both fillies were daughters of the 1990 foal, Wannabe, coincidentally who arrived on this earth seven years before the song of that name which launched the Spice Girls’ careers. So it’s a stretch, but that’s what I’m calling them. I know that with Camelot doing so well in his early years as a stallion and the blue chip female family, even if their two husbands cannot continue to keep the two Tipperary girls in the style in which they are in danger of becoming accustomed, Lady Wannabe will!

As for next Saturday, this morning the entries for Ascot, where soft ground is expected, will be eagerly awaited. Magical, in whichever race she targets, must be a prime candidate for another win having dethroned Ghaiyyath last time, but I’ll be looking for The Revenant, so smooth on his delayed comeback in Paris a week ago to perform a minor giant-killing against Palace Pier in the Mile race.  Fresh is best at this time of the year and no horse will be fresher than the French five-year-old.  In the Balmoral Handicap it is hard to look beyond the Brian Meehan-trained recent course winner Raaeq. He’s 5lb well in despite his penalty and he seemed to love soft ground on the track last time out.

- TS

George Rooke bounces back with Chelmsford winner

George Rooke enjoyed a morale-boosting success on Vincenzo Coccotti at Chelmsford on Sunday, less than 24 hours after being stung with a 14-day riding ban.

The 5lb-claiming jockey was suspended for riding a finish a circuit too early on the Paul D’Arcy-trained Sophar Sogood in the Download The At The Races App Handicap over an extended two miles at Wolverhampton on Saturday night. He will sidelined on October 3 and from October 5-17 inclusive.

However, he quickly bounced back when scoring on Vincenzo Coccotti (5-1) for trainer Pat Chamings in the tote.co.uk Now Never Beaten By SP Handicap.

On what was his only ride of the day, Rooke delivered the eight-year-old to lead over a furlong out and hold the challenge of Delagate The Lady by three-quarters of a length.

“It was great. He rode him very well indeed,” said Chamings.

“It was very good for him. The horse loves Chelmsford and that makes a big difference.”

Last month, Rooke, 19, had five wins taken from his career record after his failure to report three successes in Jersey resulted in some of his mounts carrying incorrect weights.

He told Racing TV: “Last night was mistake, I can’t express how sorry I am.

“Riding a winner then, I’m over the moon.”

Pace Wins The Race: 6f All Weather Handicaps

In my most recent article, we looked at pace bias in 5f handicaps on the all weather, and as promised here is a follow-up looking at the 6f trip, writes Dave Renham.

For regular readers I appreciate the next few lines in some form or other seem to appear in all my pace articles, but for the benefit of new readers I need to clarify the following: when discussing pace the main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. At www.geegeez.co.uk there is a pace tab within the racecards for each race, and the stats in this article are based on the site’s pace data. These pace data on Geegeez are split into four sections each of which are assigned points – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). For all my articles I concentrate on the numerical values to create a plethora of hopefully useful stats.

The minimum distance of five furlongs gives the strongest pace bias on the flat as previous articles have illustrated. However, there is still a bias to pace horses/front runners over an extra furlong, which I will demonstrate in what follows.

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace perspective for 6f all weather handicaps with six or more runners (the data for this article has been taken from the last 5 years 2014 to 2018):

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 325 1812 17.9 1.75
Prominent (3) 523 4448 11.8 1.15
Mid Division (2) 155 2003 7.7 0.79
Held Up (1) 357 4886 7.3 0.72

 

These stats give front runners a solid edge – it is not as strong as over 5f but it is still significant. Just for comparison purposes let us look at the strike rates (SR%) and Impact Values (IVs) for 6f and for 5f:

 

Pace comment 6f 5f   6f 5f
  SR% SR%   IV IV
Led (4) 17.9 22.3   1.75 2.04
Prominent (3) 11.8 12.5   1.15 1.15
Mid Division (2) 7.7 6.5   0.79 0.62
Held Up (1) 7.3 6.7   0.72 0.61

 

Over 6f front runners are still winning 1.75 times more often than average so we still have a decent starting point.

The main data for this article covers all-weather six-furlong handicaps with 6 or more runners. I then split the data into different field sizes – 6 to 8 runners; 9 – 10 runners; 11 or more runners. I did this ‘runner split’ for the 5f all-weather data in the previous article, and over that trip bigger fields produced the strongest front-running bias. As it turns out, this is replicated over 6f too:

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 536 104 19.4 1.41
Prominent (3) 1093 167 15.28 1.11
Mid Division (2) 304 27 8.88 0.66
Held Up (1) 988 107 10.83 0.79

 

9 to 10 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 548 100 18.25 1.73
Prominent (3) 1351 163 12.07 1.15
Mid Division (2) 549 43 7.83 0.74
Held Up (1) 1477 113 7.65 0.73

 

11 or more runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 728 121 16.62 1.98
Prominent (3) 2004 193 9.63 1.14
Mid Division (2) 1150 85 7.39 0.88
Held Up (1) 2421 137 5.66 0.67
Your first 30 days for just £1

 

The IV for front runners increases as the number of runners increases. This is somewhat counter-intuitive and is therefore worth bearing in mind.

The article that discussed 5f all weather sprints looked at each course and distance individually. Once again this is the plan here, as different courses have different layouts, and also there are differences between certain track surfaces too. Let's start with Chelmsford and work through alphabetically.

Chelmsford

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 58 278 20.9 1.97
Prominent (3) 71 562 12.6 1.19
Mid Division (2) 31 422 7.3 0.71
Held Up (1) 44 671 6.6 0.62

 

Just over a fifth of the 6f handicap races (SR 20.9%) at Chelmsford have seen the early leader going on to win. This compares with a strike rate of 26.3% over 5f: not quite as strong but with an IV close to 2 the front-running bias is still clear.

It has already been noted that in bigger fields at all of the all-weather courses the front-running bias seems to be more evident. This is certainly the case here: in races of 11 runners or more at Chelmsford, the front runner has prevailed an impressive 21 times from 87 giving a strike rate of 24.1% and an Impact Value of 2.93.

The draw seems to be material here, too, with those horses drawn nearest to the inside rail performing best when taking the early lead (all 6+ runner races). That makes sense as they will be taking advantage of the shortest route. Horses that have led early from one of the three lowest draws in these big field Chelmsford 6f handicaps have won 25% of their races with an Impact Value of 2.28.

 

Kempton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 72 388 18.6 1.85
Prominent (3) 107 938 11.4 1.14
Mid Division (2) 41 542 7.6 0.78
Held Up (1) 84 1123 7.5 0.75

 

The 6f trip at Kempton has a decent number of races each year giving punters plenty of opportunities to get involved. Front runners have a clear edge here and, as with Chelmsford, field size accentuates this.

In 6f handicaps of 11 or 12 runners (12 is the maximum at Kempton), front runners have secured 39 wins from 176 runners (SR 22.2%) with a very high Impact Value of 2.53. However, the draw data suggest there is no clear advantage to front runners drawn near to the inside rail (low).

 

Lingfield

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 68 297 22.9 2.07
Prominent (3) 76 590 12.9 1.16
Mid Division (2) 32 380 8.4 0.79
Held Up (1) 50 745 6.7 0.61

 

The statistics for Lingfield seem to suggest front runners there have the biggest edge compared with the other five UK all-weather courses. Any front runner here that is well fancied has done extremely well: horses that were either favourite or second favourite and led early over 6f here went on to win 39 times out of 80 runners equating to a win rate of nearly 50%.

 

Newcastle

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 23 143 16.1 1.74
Prominent (3) 34 394 8.6 0.94
Mid Division (2) 17 197 8.6 0.97
Held Up (1) 40 485 8.2 0.89

 

Coincidentally, the front running IV over 5f at Newcastle is also 1.74. Front runners do have an edge here but it is not a course I personally get heavily involved with, as the straight track for all distances up to a mile makes it a unique test of an all-weather horse in Britain. That greater emphasis on stamina produces the reverse to Kempton and Chelmsford, with front runners struggling in bigger fields.

 

Southwell

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 33 166 19.9 1.85
Prominent (3) 102 690 14.8 1.38
Mid Division (2) 7 124 5.6 0.57
Held Up (1) 17 491 3.5 0.32

 

A reasonable IV of 1.85 for front runners, but it is also worth noting that horses which come from midfield or off the pace really struggle here just like they do over 5f. One other area worth sharing with you is when a front runner also happens to be in the top 5 of the Geegeez speed ratings, it has won on 22 of 79 occasions (SR 27.9%) producing an IV of 2.50.

 

Wolverhampton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 71 540 13.1 1.33
Prominent (3) 133 1274 10.4 1.06
Mid Division (2) 27 338 8.0 0.87
Held Up (1) 122 1371 8.9 0.9

 

Comfortably the poorest stats for front runners are at Wolverhampton, where there is a very small edge only and little to write home about. Indeed, pace seems to be far more balanced across the run styles at Wolves than at any of the other tracks.

*

Before I finish, in other articles I have used the various figures to create course and distance pace averages. I do this by adding up the pace scores of all the winners at each course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more ‘biased’ the course and distance is to horses that lead early or race close to the pace.

Here are the 6 furlong handicap C&D pace averages for the six aw courses:

 

Taking all the data into account, six furlong handicaps on the all weather do offer ‘pace’ punters a potential edge. It is, unsurprisingly perhaps, not as strong as over five furlongs, but still strong enough to give clued in bettors a good leg up on the opposition. All we need now is to find a fail-safe method to predict the front runner...

- Dave Renham