Randwick track is finally getting up to standard

Randwick course curator Nevesh Ramdani must have been delighted with Saturday’s track. It was excellent. This is a big concession coming from me, as I have been, over the years, a constant critic of the course. But the only criticism I can make is that it should have been described as “track fast”.

Saturday was initially announced as a “Good 3”, upgraded after the first to a “Good 2” (to be recorded retrospectively). But it was, of course, always a “Fast 1”.
Twenty-five years ago, Saturday’s course would have been unhesitatingly and proudly described as “Fast”. Those in charge knew that punters love betting on firm tracks.

Race times were very slick. The best horse won most races. The punters “bet right up”, on a track they could trust.

Weirdly, the description “Fast 1” has become virtually extinct in eastern Australian metropolitan racing. It is deemed to be politically incorrect. Odd, because describing a course as “Fast 1” would increase betting turnover.

I concede, because of trainers’ concern (I say misplaced) over the firmness of the going, that there were four late scratchings last Saturday. But my wife, Gai, says: “The track was perfect, plenty of grass cover, no horse was disadvantaged.”
Only long-priced Brown Bomber, in the first, was mentioned to the stewards as being possibly affected. And he went too fast, “pulling”. If the track is dead or worse, going is the standard jockey excuse.

Times they aren’t a-changin’ enough
We didn’t see a potential Slipper winner in Saturday’s two-year-old set weight race. The winner, Holler, was well prepared and went nicely but no more than that. The Godolphin stable said after the race, no doubt correctly, that his best distance will be 1600m or more.

Holler’s trainer, John O’Shea, has really hit his straps for Sheik Mohammed, especially with the babies.

In my stats, the 1100m at Randwick is unkind to leaders, contrary to general opinion. Perhaps leading was no help to the opening favourite, Gigolo. So Holler, who raced at Gigolo’s quarters, did well.

The Slipper is still 10 weeks away. There is plenty of water to go under the bridge, but in my personal handicap (ie, ratings), I have:

Headwater 114

Furnaces 113

Paceman 113

Fontiton 112

Ottoman 110

Sooboog 110

Vancouver 108

But nothing has run a Slipper time yet. Times are crucial for betting on two-year-olds .

slow motion

On the way back from Randwick, Gai, who is normally even-tempered and accepts defeat with good grace, was full of complaints about the way her odds-on favourite Mardi was ridden. She had wanted Mardi to lead “resolutely”.

Riding horses on the speed is a skill. Many times jockeys believe that getting to the lead and then slowing down the speed is the best recipe for success. But Jim Cassidy and Blake Shinn know all too well that when you are on a short-priced favourite in front, the only thing that can beat you is turning the race into a “sprint home” from the top of the straight.

Slowing down as much as possible might make sense if you are riding a 6/1 chance, but only bad luck should beat the odds-on favourite.

Gai gets her horses very fit. They are trained to race on the pace and, once there, are hard to get past.

The pace in the Mardi race on Saturday slowed so dramatically that Josh Parr was able to whip around the outside and sool Nisroc to a six-lengths lead. He must have gone a full second faster during that 100m section of the race, showing clearly that the leaders were simply going too slow. The skilful assessment of the pace by Parr proved a winning move.

Gai’s assessment is right. Those punters who “laid the odds-on” should give Mardi another chance.

Who’s to blame here?

Nothing causes more controversy in the betting ring than the “change of tactics” rule, for all sorts of reasons.

On Saturday, the stewards charged, in effect, the connections of Koroibete (race four) for not with informing them of a change of tactics, which were very effective – he won.

Ironic that it is invariably the winners who are in trouble with the stewards over this rule. At the risk of seeming flippant, perhaps connections in general should be retrospectively punished for the past failed tactics instead!

A deserving winner

Sean Bartholomew is Australia’s best racecourse punter. He is also the promptest settler. If he loses, the money is immediately in the bookmaker’s account. So there is no one more deserving than Sean and his wife Tracey, who have won the $30,000 prize from the ATC for prompt membership renewal.

The ATC is trying hard.

Right time to buy

The Magic Millions yearling sales goes from strength to strength. The average and median were both up dramatically. The clearance was more than 87 per cent, proving buyers and sellers were happy.

The factors in the sale’s favour were the drop in the value of the Australian dollar, low interest rates and the new $10 million in prizemoney available for next year.

I fear the upcoming New Zealand yearling sale won’t be so buoyant. The New Zealand dollar is as high as it’s been since the currencies floated, making the New Zealand horses more expensive for us. There is no massive prizemoney injection. And, short-sightedly, New Zealand horses, as a result of the European invasion, are a bit “off the boil” with Aussie buyers. There might be some good value in the Shaky Isles.

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