Tag Archives: Queen’s Plate

The Good, Bad & Ugly – Week #1:2019

It’s a new year – the time for a New Year’s Resolution: be more active on the blog again! Plain and simple.

The last year in particular I’ve focused on the betting side neglecting the other rather important side of why I initially started this blog a good eight years ago: to write about all the things I love about horse racing – the sport, the horses, the global aspect of the game!

So, with the new year still fresh, I gonna try to be a bit more (pro-) active: a few more insightful (hopefully!) columns, opinion pieces, educational stuff and so on – starting with the introduction of a new weekly column right here:

The Good, Bad & Ugly – a short review of all the good and not so good things in racing that caught my eye and lit up my emotions during the past week. Let’s get started with Week #1:2019!

good.pngThe Good:

Do It Again – he did it again, indeed! This imperious looking son of the great Twice Over and reigning Durban July champion, has followed up on his biggest triumph with another massive success.

On Saturday he was one of nine starters in South Africa’s premier 1 mile race, the Queen’s Plate, that took place at Kenilworth racecourse.

The powerful gelding overcame a slow pace and produced another stunning performance to get his head in front when it mattered most:


The Candy Man
– What a lovely name for a horse, isn’t it? The performance of this lad in a Handicap on Sunday at Australia’s Sunshine Coast was certainly as sweet as candy!

The grey missed the start completely, still standing in the gates while the others flew out to race. He was trailing the field by half a dozen lengths for half the race, until making a swift move to the rear of the field as the pace slowed. He then unleashed a devastating turn of foot in the home straight – WOW!

Watch a replay of this unreal performance here.

First winner of 2019 – It was the perfect start: first bet, first winner! Paparazzi strolled home on Wednesday in a Newcastle handicap to win as easy as he liked, despite a 12/1 price tag.

It’s those magic moments when the picture you painted in your mind beforehand comes to fruition in reality, as I concluded in the preview:

“This is the poorest opposition Paparazzi will encounter for quite some time. If a slow start doesn’t see him falling back too far too early he should run a huge race today.”

bad2The Bad:

Racing’s Staff Crisis – Becomes one of the biggest threats to the industry. It was reported over the weekend that there’s an estimated shortfall of around 1,000 staff in the UK. Brexit fears enhance the feeling of uncertainty in relation to employing foreign staff to offset the shortfall in yards.

Often long hours, not enough off-days and low pay – those are the main concerns brought forward. Understandably so: the stable staff is preparing the horses day in day out, hence they play a pivotal role in the industry.

If they can’t be retained in numbers enough to keep the show going, plus if the jobs aren’t attractive enough for new people to join, then the game is in incredible danger. Falling prize-money surely isn’t helping, particularly for smaller yards it adds even more pressure.

A viscous cycle: working long hours, physical work, often starting very early in the morning, ordinary pay at best – that isn’t attractive to a lot of young people these days.

Stable staff does it for the love of horses. Without this love and duty of care for the welfare of our equine athletes these wonderful people show any given day, horse racing would be long gone.

Add to this the rather low pay at times where everything else becomes more expensive and the possibility of Brexit which could make it harder for yards to employ foreign staff – there you have an existential crisis.

It was surprising to see it so blatantly called out by the biggest names in the sport over the weekend. Nicky Henderson commented that the threat is no longer only a threat but  it “has already become a reality”.

Now, not everything is black and white. Not all staff are impacted by issues the same way. Plenty love their job, enjoy their day to day doing, are paid well enough and feel treated fairly.

Not all, though, and there is, no doubt, a balanced and fair discussion needed right now – a solution oriented one that addresses issues. Because the issue of staff shortage is at the heart of the game.

badThe Ugly:

 A Bad Loss – “I’m excited as heck because I feel Blue Harmony could be supremely well handicapped in this race!”

I got that spectacularly wrong. Blue Harmony finished nearly last, never went a yard. There was zero confidence in the market either. The filly was obviously not as well in as I felt she is.

Well, that’s racing. Can happen. It was a 16/1 shot. But it hurts. Particularly if you go and shout it so loud as I did in my preview.

Irish racing video archive – Gone. Since Racing TV has taken over the rights to show Irish racing, the complete video archive of all races prior to 1st January 2019 are no longer accessible – neither on ATR, the Racing Post- and Sportinglife website and certainly not on the RTV site.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? They had months and months time to prepare for this transition. But they didn’t seem to think about this rather important piece – or shall we say didn’t care – which shows a complete disregard for the racing public.

Please also read my latest opinion piece on the matter: Racing’s Problems bigger than ATR vs RTV

Got your own ideas of what was good or not so good in the the last week? Want to share feedback? Let me know in the comments! 

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Saturday Reflections

Dundalk All-Weather

First things first: Toriano (5/1) got the job done at Lingfield! Got his head in front when it mattered. The third winner of the still quite fresh year.

Late money arrived for American Patrol at Kempton in the evening. From an impossible position he was never any serious questions asked, though, and to my eyes it looked as if PJ McDonald saved him for another day. Still, American Patrol made eye-catching headway in the closing stages. His day will come soon.

The End of the Southwell Dream?

Media reported that Southwell racecourse is likely to change its racing surface to Tapeta next year. The installation of floodlights is also in discussion.

Only a proposal at this point in time, so the official statement. However, the Twitter machine suggested otherwise. The end for the Fibresand surface is more a given than a mere possibility.

There’ll be many who won’t mind. Some who’ll be more than happy to see it go. A few are probably going to miss it.  I’ll be sad. Southwell would becomee “just another one”. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tapeta, or Polytrack for that matter.

Wolverhampton, Newastle, Lingfield, Kempton, Chelmsford – all fine tracks. I love All-Weather racing no matter what. Nonetheless, Southwell is unique. Unique because of the Fibresand. A different test for horses, a different way races are run. It suits some horses. Other don’t act here at all. That’s the fun!

As a betting medium I love it. As a racing fan I applaud it. For being different. A stand-out in the British racing scene. Here’s hoping Southwell will make the right decision: keep the Fibresand and keep the uniqueness of the racecourse alive.

Legal Eagle Does it Again!

For a third consecutive time South Africa’s highest rated horse landed the Group 1 Queen’s Plate over a mile at Kenilworth racecourse. A stunning success, perfectly timed by Anton Marcus in the saddle.

For a moment or two it looked like pace setter Captain America might have got away with it. However, from 2f out Legal Eagle kicked into top gear and cut back the lead rapidly. No problems in the end.

He reminds me a bit of former South African superstar – Variety Club. An impressive Plate winner himself, who went to win at Meydan and Hong Kong. In fact, comparisons aren’t to far off, given Legal Eagle could seek his own international glory in November this year, as thanks to the Queen’s Plate success, he’s automatically earned the right to contest the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Teenage Triumph in the Welsh National

Horse racing simply delivered the best stories. More often than not. There is young jockey James Bowen, a year ago still riding the ponies, 16 year of age, still claiming five pounds, sitting on 13 year old Raz De Maree.

That in itself is kinda odd But then these two go on the romp home in the Grade 3 Welsh National! That success didn’t look all that likely when the field turned for home with four fences to jump. Raz De Maree had lost contention to the front group, Bowen tried his best to keep the 16/1 longshot going.

The veteran responded. Between third and second last, he seemingly found another gear and with two out suddenly jumped to the lead, which he never gave away again.

A heroic effort, from both, horse and jockey. And certainly a day young James Bowen won’t forget too quickly.

Preview: 2016 Queen’s Plate

finishding

Fasten your seatbelt – the 2016 Queen’s Plate will take you for a ride! It’s gonna be fast and furious! South Africa’s best milers; no hiding place as they’re all there to land the big price!

Last years brilliant winner Futura, currently the highest rated horse in the country, is trading as the favourite at this point in time. That doesn’t come a shock, given Futura seems well in himself after an excellent prep run in the Green Point Stakes.

He finished second behind eventual winner Captain America that day, who himself will have a good crack at it today. The son of of Captain Al used to be headstrong and keen earlier in his career, but wiser and more settled now, he’s become a proper Grade 1 horse. He’s likely to attempt to make all.

The outcome of the race could very much evolve around 2014 Durban July winner Legislate. The former horse of the year had a troubled 2015 season, but is reportedly in good shape at the moment. His record as a fresh horse is notably strong and talent wise he’s probably the best horse in South Africa; he has the speed to be a world-class miler, plus the stamina to stay and win over the demanding July trip.

Last years Derby winner Legal Eagle can’t be taken lightly either, although he’s best suited to distances beyond 1.600m and his trainer didn’t make a secret of the fact that this race is a stepping stone towards the J&B Met. However Anton Marcus jumps on board, which is a significant move.

This comes a bit a surprise given that Marcus is also associated with another leading contender, Act Of War. It’s certainly not a vote of confidence in last seasons Cape Guineas winner. Future prospects may have to do with that, so could have the bad draw that AOF has to deal with today. From a similar unkind scenario he stayed on well in the Green Point the last time, though.

Not fully to be ruled out is Summer Cup winner Mister Sabina, who overcame a troubled passage in the big Grade 1. He’s better over further ,however, and may need this run. The Met is his main target.

Only one three year old tries to take on the best in class – Mike De Kock’s Noah From Goa has been a big surprise in recent weeks and month, improving dramatically from race to race. The Dingaans and Cape Guineas winner receives plenty of weight from the older rivals, however it usually is a tough task for three year olds a to be competitive in this type of race t this point of the year.

Prediction: There should be plenty of pace in the race given that a handful of runners want to be up with the speed. Expect Captain America to cross over from his wide draw pretty soon after the start. Legislate on his heels most likely, followed by Noah From Goah. That says Futura shouldn’t be too far off either.

The set-up of the race and the longer straight on the outer course could help those having to hope to feature from off the pace. Still, I expect the race to be won by those close to the speed. That means all the top contenders are likely to be in contention when it really matters and that should make for an exciting finish.

If Legislate is at his best, and he can be as a fresh horse with his record, he’s the winner and hard to beat. In my view, if Futura and Legislate are both 100%, the later one wins. But there are the questions marks about his soundness, given he was lame only three month ago.

So is it wise to go against Futura then? Maybe not, however he’s a short enough price given the competitiveness of this race. Yes, he won this making handstands last year, but value wise I can’t ignore the fact that he has to give 5kg to exiting three year old Noah From Goa.

De Kock supplemented the gelding for the race; you simply have to take notice then. Also he seems to grow fast. I liked the look of him at the Guineas, and his performance was superb that day, finding more once hitting the front. He looks more like a grinder, but that should be a perfect fit for the way I expect this race to be run. At 9/1 Noah From Goa is too big a price to ignore for me.

Noah From Goa @ 9/1 William Hill – 5pts Win