horses racingIt’s been bittersweet watching 54-year-old Gary Richards teach our pathetic jockey colony how race riding is done.

When Gary started riding in 1979, Jamaica was blessed with a set of jockeys who could excel worldwide.  Gary stood out among them to the extent that iconic jockey Neville Anderson publicly named him one of the best he’s seen.

The difference between jockeys and our motley crew is jockeys know the key to winning races is, first and foremost, to relax the horse; then conserve its speed; judge the pace; and ensure there’s plenty left for the stretch drive. Real jockeys are born with clocks in their heads so they know exactly how fast the race is being run and when to ask their mount for maximum effort.

No horse can sustain top speed for more than 600m, so this ability to think quickly and accurately is vital to successful race riding. Positioning is key. All save our current crop of bicycle riders masquerading as jockeys know the inside rail is the shortest route home, yet 95% of Jamaican jockeys insist on challenging on the outside 500m from home instead of waiting for the inside run and asking for maximum effort in the stretch. So, many fancied horses lose ground and momentum on the turn killing their chances.

Jockeys must learn to keep a straight course especially with trigger-happy stewards anxious to disqualify for the slightest infraction, real or imagined.  Jamaican jockeys suffer from an apparently contagious disease that traps whips in their right hands and activates a reflex to use it as soon as possible especially when challenged on the left. International jockeys know 85% of races are won by the last jockey to use the whip. One last thing (said Lieutenant Colombo): can’t our jockeys understand the secret to winning 1000m straight races is given away in the name? Our dearly beloved twits are so obsessed with the outside rail they ask mounts to run an extra furlong just to get near there.

Most Jamaican jockeys don’t know the value of or how to encourage a horse to change its legs. Switching the whip is a lost art, as is the ability to lean in the saddle to tell a mount it’s time for a change.

How important is this “change of legs”? Try standing on your right leg for a minute. How long before you feel the need to shift your weight to your left leg? That’s how important it is. Most horses, especially those accustomed to going around a left-handed turn, lead with their left leg.  The basic rule is not to hit the horse while it’s on the bend because it might change legs and become unbalanced. Wait until you’re in the straight then shift your stick or your weight to prompt a change of legs. Often, the second wind this produces is the difference between winning and losing.

Gary Richards returned to Caymanas Park on April 14. He went 0 for his first 12 rides (mostly “no-hopers”). On April 15, he won with Radical from 4 rides; finished 2nd on Jamai Raja at 4/1; and 3rd in the 2,000 Guineas on Without Exception at 7/1. He’s 2 for his last 8 rides for a 25% win percentage which is superior to every jockey in the top ten. Even at 2 for 13 for his last three race days, he’s still better (15.4%) than 5 of the 10 and only marginally below Omar Walker and Linton Steadman (16%). Gary’s ride on Queen of Bagdad (April 28; 11/1) was a master class in how to get the job done.

If our home-based jocks don’t stop preening and start learning, Gary could embarrass them even further by year-end. I’ve already proposed Disability Charm as the Oaks winner but, if Gary secures a live ride tomorrow, the embarrassment could begin earlier than expected.



  • Clocked-In


This is 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.

The department has thrown up some great results recently as April 20’s Clocked-in horses included Radical (“CT (1:26.2) is 4/5ths second faster than nw3/0T so he should win again”) who duly repeated on April 25 at 5/2 beating two more notebook horses (Sotomayor and Biblical Legend) for a $610 exacta and $1,880 trifecta. Western Legend (“very much one to follow”) hacked up on April 28 in an 1820m nw2 as a 1/5 banker!  

Two more race days for your notebook:

April 21, 2018 [TV +0 (Rd); +2 (straight)]

Lightning McQueen (-8) progressed significantly on his already impressive debut (Race 1; 3yonw2/Imp Maidens; 1200m) clocking 1:12.4 and beating importees Port St. Lucie (-5) and Harry’s Train (-3). The winning time equals Overnight Allowance standard so he’s a sprinter to follow.

Zugulu (-4) finally popped up (Race 9; 5yonw3; 1100m) but his CT (1:08.3) was only competitive at up to $250,000 claimers (standard 1:08.2) and he won at that level on April 28. But the 2nd, Sure Step (-3’) posted a time of 1:08.3’ which is 7/10ths second faster than 5yonw3. Compensation awaits.

April 25, 2018 [TV+0 (Rd); +0 (Meticulous) +2 (rest; straight)]

Pakman (-6) beat Killer Bee (-5) by ¾ length (pair clear) in 1:12.4 [Race 9; 4yonw3; 1200m] which equals Overnight Allowance standard and is 4/5ths second faster than nw3/0T. Killer Bee’s CT is a second faster than the grade standard so she’s a good thing next time.

Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)

It’s a big weekend of international classic races with the English 2,000 Guineas tomorrow and 1,000 Guineas Sunday while, up north, the Kentucky Derby is on for May 5.

My 2,000 Guineas short list includes Gustav Klimt (Aidan O’Brien) who won the Superlative Stakes last year in impressive style and returned on April 14 to win Leopardstown’s 2,000 Guineas trial staying on well over 7 furlongs both times; Elarqam (Mark Johnston) who’ll go straight to the Classic after going 2 for 2 as a 2yo including the Group 3 Tattersall’s Stakes (Newmarket; 7f); and Expert Eye who looked a superstar before finishing last in the Dewhurst (worked up before and in the race; lame on off hind afterwards).

The first two may find this race happening too quickly while Expert Eye took a step in the right direction  on reappearance, although still not at his best (Group 3 Greenham Stakes; Newbury; 7f; ¾ length 2nd); couldn’t be in better hands than Sir Michael Stoute; and is expected to come on again. He’s the 2,000 Guineas pick.

Aidan O’Brien has dominated the 1,000 Guineas, winning three of the last six, so it’s no surprise he has the ante-post favourite Happily who beat colts in the Group 1 Gran Criterium (Chantilly; one mile; soft) before finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on firm. She’s too short in the betting for a filly unlikely to act on spring ground as well as likely to prefer further so she’s opposed with lesser fancied stable companion I can fly a fluent mover sure to relish the conditions and is massively unexposed so firmly in the “could-be-anything” category.

Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn, a son of Scat Daddy, has been installed favourite for the Kentucky Derby after his mouth-watering win in the UAE Derby (9.5f; dirt; Meydan) by 18 ½ lengths. However, the history of challengers from across the pond together with nagging doubts about the quality of the UAE Derby field (the 2nd, Rayya, is a filly whose 2 wins from 5 starts haven’t been of particular note) doesn’t encourage me to abandon my long time fancy for this race Bolt D’oro who was victimized by the draw in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has progressed in two 2018 races (beaten 3 lengths by lone speed Justify in the Santa Anita Derby over 9f). Bolt D’oro is tremendous value to win this more suitable race.

Finally, a notebook horse:

Breathless Times [3yo b.c. Bated Breath – Bea Menace (Mizzen Mast)] took on much stronger calibre of opposition than before on All-Weather Championships Finals day (Lingfield). He couldn’t complete his hat-trick, but was unlucky not to do so (caught further back than ideal after being slowly into stride; finished strongly despite being short of room final furlong).  This was progressive; his career is still in relative infancy; and he’s sure to keep improving. He could be a great long-term sprinting prospect.

Good Luck! Michael Thomas Womens Jersey

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