horses racingAs far back as May 12, 2017, in Public Opinion, I wrote about the Claiming system:

The object of a claiming system is to ensure horses of like ability compete against each other….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…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….

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…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….

Instead, SVREL experimented with dropping the lowest claiming tag to J$100,000 and introduced new high-end claiming races of $850,000 apparently to give those horses exhausting their “conditions” but unable to cope with Overnight Allowance an outlet without undervaluing them excessively.  At least this was the reason given by Director of Racing, Chris Armond, in a TV interview aired on January 19.

It doesn’t seem to be solving the problem of horses playing musical stables. On New Year’s Day 30% of entries in three claiming races were claimed (almost 50% of those in two of the three).  On January 17, 25% of entries in two claiming races were lost to claims.

In that interview, Chris explained that horses unable to manage Overnight Allowance were valued at approximately $1.5 million hence the provision of $850,000 claiming races for them to gradually ease into the claiming ranks. I’m no genius but that math defeats me. Why we can’t just admit we live in a de facto dollarized economy and set claiming tags at between US$2,000.00 and US$10,000.00 is beyond me. The lowest level can be expressed as “US$2,000 or lower” allowing connections to enter for less in exchange for weight concessions.  “Cheaper” races can be created with restrictions by races won or money earned.  If we don’t do it this way, we’ll be forever adjusting claiming tags as J$ values fluctuate.

While on the subject of errors, there are too many in the Track and Pools that sells for an exorbitant price relative to the value offered. Last time I pointed out a two-seconds error in the publication of Concur’s winning time for December 30’s second race. Again, in the January 20 issue, the first race published a past performance line for #2 Urban Principal that had him finishing 1 1/4l 2nd (January 6; 1200m) to a winning time of 1:11.4!

To nobody’s surprise, except ye olde Touty, Urban Principal started the 4/5 odds-on favourite for January 20’s first race, a $350,000 Claimer (Standard time 1:15.0).  To punters’ surprise (save, again, for your not-so-humble scribe), Urban Principal limped home 4th of seven starters carrying down a truckload of hard earned cash. Those paying close attention to official times and track variants knew that the actual winning time of Urban Principal’s last race was 1:14.4 (a THREE-SECONDS mistake by Track and Pools) which, when corrected for that day’s track variant and January 20’s allotted weight, converted to 1:15.1 (one-fifth second slower than the $350,000 claiming average). Odds-on favourite? No thank you very much. In the end Urban Principal was beaten by 2 ¼ lengths.

C’Mon, Track and Pools, do betta dan dat!


  1. Clocked-In

It’s time for our regular review of local performances 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” means a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside individual horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.

Readers should take careful note of the comments made regarding each “Clocked In” notebook horse to make sure one isn’t suckered in, usually at a short price, when the time isn’t right. The potholes presented to trainers by our sometimes unfathomable program designers can force connections to start horses in unsuitable spots rather than risk injury at home.  Also, some trainers don’t read condition books properly.

For example, on December 8, I wrote about the winners of both sections of the 1100m 4yonw2 as follows:

Papa Albert (-6) and My Way (-9) took both divisions of the 4yonw3 apart (Races 3 and 5; 1100m; TV-3) but it was the latter (1:05.4; CT 1:06.2) who impressed more with a facile 6 lengths win. His CT is 4 lengths better than 4yonw3/0T and only a tick slower than Overnight Allowance standard. He must be kept on the right side.”

Since then, My Way ran in a $550,000 claimer over an inadequate and unsuitable 1,000m (straight) and followed up over 1100m on Boxing Day at $450,000 where he ran into a tartar that had already won at 4yonw3/0T and narrowly lost at $550,000 claiming. Beaten by less than a length, he was claimed by Carl Anderson and, finally, on January 17, entered at nw3/OT (now a 5yo) but too late as another tartar, Dragline, unexposed and going places, beat her by over 6 lengths into second. Papa Albert, about which I concluded on December 8 “will win any claiming race” was 1 ½ lengths behind My Way (5th) on January 17.  Since December 8, he was entered at $450,000 claiming (January 1) but stretched out to an unsuitable 1500m (led 1100m; hampered top of straight; weakened; finished 7 lengths 5th). Sigh.

Let’s look at two recent race days:

January 13, 2018 [TV -0.6 per 200m (Rd); -2 (str)]

Secret Traveller (-11) was very brave, keeping on strongly and battling back to win a KEY RACE (Race 5; 4yonw3; 1400m; TV-4) by one length from Musketoon (-10); Uncle Frank/Simply Outrageous (-9).  The winner’s CT (1:26.3) is 3 lengths faster than nw3/OT and good enough to win any claimer.  The second, an apparently exposed 4yo among unexposed 4yos, took a step forward with a CT 6 lengths better than the grade so 2nd, 3rd and 4th have nw3 to win.

January 20, 2018 [TV -0.6/200m (Rd); +3 (str)]:

Disability Charm was visually impressive on debut (Race 4; 3yo maiden condition; 1000m (Rd); TV -3) lengthening stride and readily drawing clear final 200m clocking a minute flat! His CT (1:00.3) is only 2/5ths of a second faster than nw2 but his breeding [by winner of 4 U.S. Stakes races, Soul Warrior, out of  (Go Rockin Robin), herself a daughter of Triple Crown winner Simply Magic] and manner of victory makes him an exciting prospect over further.  Wouldn’t it be cosmic justice if a son of Soul Warrior out of a daughter of Go Rockin Robin won a first classic for longtime horse racing supporter, investor, owner and singing sensation Cocoa Tea?

Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)

Nicky Henderson won the Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Ascot; December 23; 3 miles) as I had predicted when I wrote in December 22’s Public Opinion: “Nicky Henderson has a stranglehold on this race…” but with the ‘wrong’ horse as Gold Present who I felt “doesn’t seem to relish true winter ground” capitalized on drying ground (good-to-soft) and won with my selection O O SEVEN, about whom I wrote then “has the class to carry a big weight in handicaps (4th in the Topham…over the National fences on only his fifth chase start) and relishes soft ground” only 11 lengths 4th.

Tomorrow, they renew rivalry (Sky Bet Handicap Chase; Doncaster; 3 miles) at revised weights.  O. O. SEVEN now 9 lbs better off should be able to turn the tables if the going is properly soft.

December 8’s notebook horse, Oxwich Bay promptly obliged on December 18.  Subsequent notebook horses (Longtown; December 22 and Copain de Classe; a repeat, January 12) are yet to appear.  Forget them at your peril. Now an early horse for your Cheltenham Festival portfolio:

DIABLE DE SIVOLA [5 b.g. Noroit – Grande Route (Lost World)] Seems to relish Cheltenham as he added a creditable fourth to trailblazing winner Coole Cody (November 18; 2m 5f handicap hurdle; weakened on the flat) to an eye-catching fifth in last year’s Fred Winter. One to be on in a festival handicap at 2 ½ miles or shorter.

Good Luck! Antoine Vermette Authentic Jersey

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