My criticism of Tommy Berry hits close to home

Sorry, Gai. My wife was furious when she read my piece last week, before publication, on Tommy Berry’s poor ride on Mardi: “You can’t publicly knock my jockeys. You’ve got no right to put into print our private thoughts. Please ring the editor, now, and remove that part from your column.” The conversation wasn’t helped by our being in the company of a couple who were lawyers, with a lot of defamation experience. One said: “On reading it, Gai, it is fine, it is only defamatory of you and your training!” He didn’t help the situation.

My complaint last week was that Berry rode the “pretty race”, slowing his horse in the lead, but allowing an opposing rider to take the initiative and steal a march on him. What a contrast to Berry’s brilliant ride on Dana’s Best on Saturday. He led the field at a “resolute” pace, nothing able to take the opportunity to challenge him, but an “appropriate” tempo, keeping Dana’s Best within his comfort zone. Brilliant. Hopefully the ride will be shown at apprentices’ school.

Little bleeder

Having enjoyed Berry’s glorious ride, the win by Dana’s Best and seeing the famous Tommy Smith blue and green colours being worn, I am saddened that the gelding has bled. And for the second time, which de facto bars him from racing in Australia, forever. The gelding now is a great opportunity for an American prospective owner. The US racing rules tolerate bleeders (this type of bleed is actually not dangerous) and US trainers are allowed to use medicines that prevent bleeding. Seems sensible to me.

Setting sales

Today is the first day of the New Zealand Premier Sale. It is telecast live on TVN. Gai is there to buy a Derby winner. Once the catalogue was purely New Zealand breds, but times have changed and now a good proportion are Australian bred, many of which are “pinhooked” by New Zealand vendors and resold at this sale. The Australian-bred, non-pinhooked (some owned by NZ studs) are the most expensive as a group. The Aussie pinhooks are a bit cheaper but not as cheap as the NZ breds. Gai is concentrating on the good old NZ breds. And the stats show clearly, that is where the value is.

On a lighter note, Gai said to me on Sunday morning: “I just love these Jimmy Chouxs, they are so creamy” (whatever that means). She was referring to the first-season NZ sire, whom we all saw race in Sydney.

I replied: “No, Gai, you have enough shoes!”

Pies in the eye

The big discussion in the Randwick betting ring on Saturday was the price of pies and sandwiches. Apart from the punters complaining they were overpriced, they discovered every item was cheaper in the members’ area than it was in the public. Many plates of sandwiches were passed over the rails. Punters always want the best price, I know. The battlers can’t understand why the “toffs” had cheaper prices. Nor can I.

Perfect Randwick

If Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are considered Saturdays, Randwick has raced five weeks in a row. And it raced perfectly on Saturday. There was no bias. Horses won on the pace and from behind, close to the fence, in the middle and out wide. It is a credit to Nevesh Ramdani. I particularly liked it because I again classed it a “fast” track, perhaps three-quarters of a second slower over 1400m than a week ago. The best horses, by and large, won; no horse’s connections complained to the stewards they were disadvantaged. A correspondent wrote to me during the week: “As an owner, and not a punter, having to pick up the pieces of injured and jarred-up horses, the last thing we need is to give the course curator further encouragement to produce tracks like” the previous Saturday’s. But the stats don’t support his argument:

I believe there  were about 123,000 Sydney/Melbourne horse starts from 2008 to 2013, 94,500 on “dry”, 28,500 on “wet”. Looking at those that haven’t started anywhere subsequently, the attrition rates are much higher on “affected” going (13.1 per cent dry, 14.6 per cent wet). If just heavy is focused upon, the “break-down” rate goes to 15.8 per cent.

Not so perfect Moonee

It is easy to congratulate Randwick but Moonee Valley’s track was unsatisfactory. To my eye, the fence was completely “off”. The Moonee Valley leaders all underperformed. Some, in old racing terms, were distanced, ie, beaten a furlong (200m). Unfortunately, such tracks sicken punters. Media personality, racing statistician and punter Daniel O’Sullivan wrote a very good piece on artificial watering and track bias. MV course curator Martin Synan should read it.

Whither Carrington?

I am sad the Carrington Stakes has disappeared in all but name from the racing calendar. For most of its 129-year history, it has been a sprint race. In my young years, it was a 1000m affair. It was worth good prizemoney, in real terms, and was run at the Tattersall’s meeting on New Year’s Day. The oddity of the 1000m distance and the prizemoney had given the Carrington a marvellous honour board. Ubetido, Zephyr Bay, Snippets, At Sea (thrice) and Blazing Saddles in my time. Now the time of year is changed, as is the club running it. Moreover, the prizemoney, if you add the Benchmark Bonus, is, outrageously, the day’s smallest, the distance is the commonplace, ho-hum, 1400m, and the race means little. I am pleased the former governor Lord Carrington, after whom the race is named, isn’t around to see it. The first Carrington was worth 1000 sovereigns, the average race £100.

Museum space

There is talk Racing NSW’s Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory is to be moved to Druitt Street. No doubt that will speed up these drug inquiries. I hope the former premises at Randwick might become available to be used as a racing museum. It would be perfect. A great building. Both Racing Victoria and Flemington have beauties. Even Newcastle’s Broadmeadow has one. This is an opportunity,

What a display

Exhibition gallops are a great initiative by the club, putting the coming stars on display. Good for the horse, good for the punters. What a shame the punters in the betting rings can’t see them. We have a cloth material over a temporary stairway blocking any view. They can see everything else, whether it be dogs or trots. And heaven knows, there are enough televisions. Additionally, they should be recorded, in the form, as trials are.

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