Recently, traditionalists, programmed to believe only England has answers to anything, have renewed a call for the return to an English system of handicapping/rating as the panacea for what ails local racing.
“Bring it on,” I say. Hurry up! Let’s scrap the claiming system and return to the rating system we once espoused in the 1980s during which time the promoting company went into receivership and eventual liquidation. Don’t worry about that, we know history never repeats itself. Right?
It’s time to give the people whining and complaining about the claiming system what they want. It’s the only way for them ever to understand that local racing is based on such faulty financial fundamentals that it matters not whether the system producing the product is claiming, handicapping, rating or calculating with dice, it’s doomed to fiscal failure. What’s bruited about these days from some ancient, wistful, misty-eyed pundits aching for the good old days is so tiresome and irrelevant that it can only be silenced by acquiescence.
As soon as the whiners get what they want, it should become clear to even the blind that the effect on racing’s bottom line is zero. Nil! Nought! Nada! Zip!
Racing’s fiscal problems, as I have exposed ad nauseam, are due to poor marketing; a depleted horse population; backward betting arrangements; too low returns on investment to owners and punters; and a failure to modernize and supplement the facilities and product. Without addressing at least some of these failings, we can run races on the Barnum and Bailey system if we like, there’ll be no financial improvement.
So, press on regardless. It’ll only mean wasting another year or two realizing we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s required. Maybe then, and only then, we’ll begin to think clearly instead of looking at racing through the roseate chimera of a cloud of nostalgic idealism.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
Recently this department has been doing pretty darn fine, thank you very much. Among others, Alexandra (on April 4, I wrote about her March 31 2nd: “The 2nd, 4/5ths second faster than maiden fillies, can be found races soon). She won and was disqualified next time out but recouped losses on May 19 at 8/5; Lightning McQueen whose impressive March 31 debut attracted this comment “looks progressive and should win again” and he did on April 21 at 1/2; Radical whose April 15 effort was hailed like this: “The winner’s CT (1:26.2) is 4/5ths second faster than nw3/0T so he should win again” and obliged on April 25 at 5/2; and Mr. Universe whose May 5 effort brought forth: “His CT (1:05.4) is 2/5ths second faster than Overnight Allowance standard so, having resumed upward mobility, he should win again” trotted up in Overnight Allowance at Evens on May 19!
So, this department store is the place to be every second Friday. Let’s look at two more race days:
June 6, 2018 [TV +0.1/200m (Rd); -2 (straight)]
Forma L Gladiator (-6) improved in a first time visor (Race 3; 3yo maiden condition; 1200m; TV+1) to defeat a decent yardstick, Lord Ashton, by 8 lengths in 1:14.0! His CT (1:13.4) is 3/5ths second faster than 3yonw2 so he’s nailed on to repeat.
Buck Call (-3) finished a head second to Fortuneonehundred (Race 10; $350,000 claimers/5yonw3; 1100m; TV+1). His CT (1:08.3!) is no big deal in claimers but is 4/5ths second faster than 5yonw3 which status he retains. He is a winner-in-waiting at that level.
June 9, 2018 [TV +0.2 per 200m (Rd)]
The 6th race (Overnight Allowance; 1600m; TV+2) was a KEY RACE and the winner Fayrouz (-5) proved herself a very smart filly by winning at this level against older horses by ½ length from Uncle Taf (-4.5); Bruce Wayne (-3) and Uncle Frank (-3). The winner’s CT (1:38.2) is more than a second faster than Open Allowance standard while the 2nd (1:38.2’); 3rd (1:38.4) and 4th (1:38.4) are also capable of winning at Open Allowance (standard 1:39.3) and should be very good things at Overnight Allowance (standard 1:39.4). Uncle Frank was ridden more forwardly than is appropriate and would be better suited by waiting tactics going further.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
Justify became Bob Baffert’s second triple crown winner on June 9 but readers of my last column weren’t surprised as I wrote then that his Preakness effort, despite the doubters’ crimping of the form “looked to me to be an improvement on his Kentucky Derby win”. I pointed out “What Justify did in mixing it up in a speed duel for a mile and still keeping on well enough to win (while dueller Good Magic faded) was phenomenal especially considering he was unraced as a 2yo and running only his fifth lifetime start”
I closed my comments on Justify like this: “Trust me on this, the Good Magic he put away in the Preakness is a high class colt and Justify looked to me as if he still had something in the tank.” Then I postulated that, if Justify was beaten “….there appear to be two possible candidates namely UK raced Gronkowski and Derby 7th Hofburg.” The result? Justify first; Gronkowski, second; Hofburg third. For a $2 stake, the Exacta returned $69.60 and the Trifecta $141.40! Yum, yum!
Royal Ascot begins on June 19 so let’s make some more recommendations for flutters on the world’s best flat racing meeting. I’ve already put up Gilgamesh (Hunt Cup; June 20) and Sioux Nation (Commonwealth Cup; June 22). On opening day, it’s difficult to see beyond Aidan O’Brien’s fabulous filly Rhodendron in the Queen Anne Stakes (1 mile) after her remarkable win in the Group 1 Lockinge while American Wesley Ward could successfully defend the King Stands Stakes (5f) with his flying filly Lady Aurelia.
On June 21, 2016 Gold Cup winner and narrow 2nd in 2017 Order of St. George is back but there’s a suspicion he’s best on soft while 4yo Stradivarius is on the improve and should relish the likely fast ground so is expected to turn over the favourite. We’ll close off the festival with an each way flutter in the 6 furlongs cavalry charge that’s the Wokingham on outsider Shanghai Glory who has looked more than once as if he has one of these in the bag. He’s currently at 25/1!
Finally, a notebook horse for those looking outside the Royal meeting:
Brilliant Vanguard [(5yo b.g. Fast Company – Alyska (Owington)] took several runs to warm up last season, hitting top form in the summer months and completing a hat-trick at Kempton. Judged on his latest run (Epsom; June 1; 8.5f; soft; 0-105 handicap), he now appears to be coming to the boil nicely.
He was only beaten five lengths into 13th in the Victoria Cup at Ascot (Gilgamesh 2 lengths 7th) and, at Epsom, he looked well; steadied and went right leaving stalls; held up in rear; switched left and pushed along over 1f out; kept on inside final furlong but never troubled leaders. The handicapper has dropped him a further 1 lb for that effort, which leaves him 2 lb below his last winning mark of 89.
Before the season began, trainer Kevin Ryan spoke of Brilliant Vanguard: “He has matured well and, although he’ll be starting on a career-high mark (93), he could take the step up to the top one mile handicaps. Really enjoys a well run race which could see him enjoy the big fields in those sorts of races”
Brilliant Vanguard is entered for the Royal Hunt Cup and is generally available at 50/1 but is also entered on Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. He’s now eligible for lesser handicaps than the ones he has contested this year so, whether or not his trainer decides to take the plunge in the Hunt Cup, it would be no surprise were he to run up a sequence this summer.