Tag Archives: Variety Club

A Weekend To Remember

What a roller-coaster week. Culminating in an emotional and dramatic weekend that included a 16/1 winning selection for the 1000 Guineas as well as a winner in the Kentucky Derby that was no winner half an hour later and a superstar on the other side of the globe far too few people have heard of yet!

Throw in a couple of unlucky 2nd places and a 2000 Guineas result that left me wonder “what if” and you’ve certainly got a few days to remember!

2000 Guineas: What Draw Bias?!

Horses loading for the first Classic of the 2019 flat season, a last few words from Johnny Murtagh on ITV: he’s now leaning toward Magna Grecia based on his observation of the existence of a draw bias in favour of the stands-side.

A few minutes later Twitter was running hot as Magna Grecia passed the line in front of everyone else, indeed. The colt trained by Aiden O’Brien – of course – won the battle of his small group on the stand-side, far away from the rest of the field, comfortably. And because his side was always ahead throughout the race he won the 2000 Guineas rather comfortably in the end.

My selection Skardu ran a massive race and finished 3rd, winning the race in his much larger group. I guess, ideally we wouldn’t have this discussion now and instead we’d have seen a “fair” race. But this is racing. Happened in the past. Will happen again.

Whether there was a draw bias I am not so sure. Most likely there was a pace bias, though. And this had the most profound impact on the outcome of the race. This is certainly something that occurs any given day. If you’re drawn close to the pace and you follow it you always have a better chance of winning than not.

Smarter people will be able to explain all the exact reasons behind it in greater detail than I can or want right now. But that is a racing fact.

On balance I believe – at least over 1 mile – there is little between Magna Grecia and Skardu, and possibly Madhmoon. Will we see a re-match at the Curragh in a few weeks time? Magna Grecia is bound for the first Irish Classic. Wouldn’t it be nice to see these three meet there again? I’d love to see that!

Derby Delight Turns Sour

I live for these big races. The anticipation building over the whole day leading up to the moment when the gates crash open – pure excitement!

Normally I’m neither too high nor too low watching bred and butter racing, regardless of betting, the winning or the losing. Big races get my blood flowing, though.

Getting up at 3am in the morning for the Melbourne Cup? No bother. I can’t sleep anyway because of all the butterflies in my stomach!

The Kentucky Derby is one of my favourite races of the entire year. The occasion, build-up and atmosphere transported thanks to the outstanding NBC coverage is simply stunning.

No different this Saturday night. I was cheering home my selection Maximum Security with passion – surely the neighbours enjoyed it too – pumping the first in the air as the colt crossed the line ahead of everyone else. And who wouldn’t? A 9/1 winner in the Kentucky Derby is something to shout about!

Then the dreaded words: “objection lodged…. hold on to your tickets”. What follows are replay after replay dissecting ever aspect of the final three furlongs of the 145 Kentucky Derby. It was obvious Maximum Security was the best horse in the race. The runner-up Country House had no right to be upset with the result. He wasn’t impeded at all!

But it was also obvious Maximum Security impeded other horses when shifting around when turning home. It could resulted in a pretty bad situation on a different day.

Taking that into consideration I can understand the disqualification. And given the strict US rules it probably was the right call in the end.

On the other hand, whether it is truly a fair call to take the race away from the horse that was quite clearly the best one in the race, because of shifting around in an incredibly tight situation, racing on the limit at the end of a tough contest, doing so on a sloppy surface….

After all these are animals, not robots who run straight on rails as if they’d be pre-programmed machines.

It all happens so fast, there are 150.000 people screaming, horses and riders fighting for space, whips flying around…. it’s racing, not chess. These things happen in the sport and the question that needs to be raised in these type of situations is: did the winner got an unfair advantage and did the runner-up lost because of this situation?

The answer is unequivocal NO in this instance.

Ultimately I feel Maximum Security should have kept the race. What a fairytale it would have been. A horse thought to be so bad he started his career in a $16k claimer, going to win the Kentucky Derby…..

The Best Ever? 

South Africa as produced a lot of fantastic race horses over the years. The likes of Variety Club or Igugu come to my mind, in particular. But there is a new kid on the block and he could be the best there ever was in South Africa – some already suggest!

Well, one thing is for sure: Hawwaam is an incredibly exciting colt, with a turn of foot you rarely see produced in such stunning manner. How he races away from his rivals in the closing stages, like it’s the easiest thing in the world, is nothing short of breathtaking.

I took note for the first time – and was immensely impressed –  when Hawwaam stepped into Grade 1 company for the first time in the SA Classic earlier this year as he arguably exploded in the final furlong putting a handful of lengths between himself and the rest in a matter of strides.

He followed up on Saturday in the Grade 1 Champions Challenge when stepping up to the 10 furlongs distance and he couldn’t have been more impressive. How often do you see a horse in a top-level contest travelling hard on the bridle approaching the final furlong and then shooting clear under hands and heels? This horse is special:

On to the Durban July now? He surly will go off a warm favourite. And only luck or the lack of can stop him there I reckon.

How great would it be to see this superstar travel the world?! And what a shame that it remains so difficult for South African horses to travel. In turn it means far too few people get to know these classy horses that race on the other side of the globe.

Wayne Lordan Defies the Stats

He was 1 for 42 rides in the UK for Aiden O’Brien and his mounts went off a 25/1 average SP – Wayne Lordan couldn’t have been an unlikelier hero in the 1000 Guineas today – at least judged by the numbers.

Riding the least fancied of the Ballydoyle string once more, Hermosa was a largely ignored runner coming into the race. You could back her at 20/1+ this morning.

I missed those massive prices, but still got 16s with only a few hours to go to the race when making her my sole selection for the 1000 Guineas.

All credit to Wayne Lordan, though. What superb ride: incredibly brave, at the same time keeping it simple, bouncing the filly out of the stalls sending her straight to the lead, knowing Hermosa would likely stay all day and night long.

And she did! She was gutsy, stuck to her guns when challenged and won well in the end. A supremely well bred filly, adds another big race success to her superstar family, given she is a full-sister to Group 1 winners Hydrangea and The United States.

It brings a hectic week to an end. I had 30 bets. Way too many. I go carried away on Monday in particular but was bailed out by New Show at Windsor, thankfully. 4 winners & 120pts profit this week – the highlight obviously Hermosa.

A week of what would have been. 10 placed horses, multiple of those beaten in tight finishes on the line. A winner in the Kentucky Derby that was taken away half an hour later.

Well…. onwards and upwards. 

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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.