horses racing

Some misguided, or maybe forgetful, pundits have been calling for racing to return to the handicapping system.

The forgetfulness from which they appear to suffer is that we were there before. Not only was that system easily manipulated by horses’ connections and handicappers alike, it helped to put the then promoting company into receivership, followed by liquidation.

When a new promoter (CTL) first took over, it didn’t take them long to turn to a claiming system as the preferred method of reducing corruption and giving investors (owners/trainers) more control over the direction of their investment portfolios. The system worked well at first but, as time passed and the economy deteriorated, it became what I now call a “selling” system.

The object of a claiming system is to ensure horses of like ability compete against each other. The deterrent to dropping a horse two or more classes for a betting coup is the claiming tag. Try that too often and you lose good horseflesh in the claim box.

The object of a claiming system is not to have horses claimed. Remember the claiming tag should be a deterrent only. In fact, the sign of a claiming system in perfect equilibrium is zero claims over a period of time. Claims mean someone has made a placement error. Too many claims mean the system is askew. In Jamaica, our claiming system has become a selling system in which it isn’t unusual to have ten or more horses exchange hands per race day and to have upwards of 20 claims entered for one horse.

The solution can’t be to revert to handicapping which was already a failure. What’s required is that claiming prices should be raised once and for all and pegged to the US$ so they can never again be affected by inflation. Dollarizing claiming tags (lowest, say US$3,500 with increments of US$1,000 to US$8,500) will more accurately reflect the value of these horses; discourage idle claims; and incentivize the sagging breeding industry with a more reasonable disparity in pieces. Of course, administrative rules will need to be worked out so the promoter can accept Jamaican dollar equivalents 24 hours before the race.

It’s time to face facts; fix the broken selling system; and return to a proper claiming system.


  1. Clocked In

It’s time for your review of horses’ performances clockwise with predictions based on REAL times.

Remember our abbreviations: TV is “Track Variant” (effect of track conditions, including wind, on official times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” means slow (eg -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second); variants beside an individual horse’s name represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.

Notebook horses Loose CannonNewton’s First Law and Leekout all won next time out while Lightning Lily was disappointing but can be given one more chance, especially at beyond 1200m.

Let’s add two recent race days to the notebook:

April 26, 2017 [TV -1.1 per furlong (Rd); -4 (str)]

CODED SECRET (-14) A narrow 2nd to “Clocked-in” notebook horse Leekout (R1; 4yomsw; 1600m; TV -9) but over 13 lengths clear of the rest. His corrected time of1:43.3 is all of one full second faster than the grade average. Compensation waits.

April 29, 2017 [TV -0.75 per furlong (Rd); -4 (str)]

CAPTUREMYSHIP (-6.5) confirmed debut promise (R9; 3yonw2; 1200m; TV – 4.5) but ran into a tartar in the form of Secret Traveler and could only finish 1/2l 2nd after looking green and suffering some hindrance on the rail inside the final 200m. His corrected time of 1:14.0 is 2 lengths better than the nw2 average (1:14.2). Unexposed and seemingly with plenty improvement to come, he appears a cinch to win at least a nw2.  Again, he gave the impression further would suit.

RUNNING STAG (- 11) was fastest on the clock on the day (R8;4yofnw2; 1300m; TV -5) but his corrected time (1:21.2) isn’t good enough for nw3. It’s good enough to win at $350,000 claiming (Average 1:22.0) and competitive at $450,000 (Average 1:21.3).

The one to take out of Running Stag’s race is the 2ndYOLOVE (- 11) whose corrected time is the same as the winner’s so he’s a cinch at nw2 next time.

  1. Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)

Sandown Gold Cup pick PENDRA was a scratch but notebook horse THE TARTAN SPARTAN won next time as advertised (April 30) at 3/1 so the column is off to a rollicking start.

English racing fans love the valuable big field handicaps run during the flat turf season and, on Saturday, May 13, the Victoria Cup at Ascot is one such. The usual cavalry charge up the 7f Ascot straight is expected and Afjaan is all the rage having made a winning reappearance at Haydock but will start off his highest ever rating (106) and has lost regular partner Frankie Dettori. Champion jockey Jim Crowley takes the mount. I prefer YUFTEN who made a laboured return to turf in the Lincoln as my selection but is expected to show marked improvement for the run over a course and distance he relishes.

Saturday’s Swinton Hurdle at Haydock might go unnoticed with all the excitement at Ascot and Lingfield (Derby Trial) but the likely depth of the field suggests that there is value in trying to oppose probable favourite, Dan Skelton’s Mohaayed, (holds solid big-field handicap form). He’s a deserving chalk but, at twice the price, it’s his stable companion OPTIMUS PRIME that I like. He was a listed winner over hurdles in France (early 2016), but improved on that effort on his first start for Skelton, in a handicap at Huntingdon so has a chance here that’s second to none.

When this is published, the first round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass will already be completed but there’s still time to help RORY McILROY celebrate his marriage to Erica Stoll 2 ½ weeks ago in a lavish affair. Rory tees it up for the first time since and is expected to be as relaxed as any golfer can be on a course he absolutely loves. In form Kevin Kisner could be next best.

Finally, after the quick success of The Tartan Spartan, here’s another Horse To Note this time from the Sir Michael Stoute yard:

MORI very much caught the eye under tender handling on debut at Newbury (April 17) when slowly into stride, soon mid-division, steady progress from 2f out, stayed on final furlong but not going pace to get on terms but finishing 7 3/4l 5th of 14 and giving impression marked improvement is to come next time out.  She’s superbly bred by Frankel out of Yorkshire Oaks winner Midday (16 Group 1 wins between sire and dam) and looks likely to relish a mile and a half or more.  One to be on when next in town

Good Luck! Jake Virtanen Womens Jersey

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