It’s beyond comprehension why Warwick Farm is like quicksand

Track bias is an important string to my bow. I’m very aware of it, when it happens. It gives me a real advantage and I make my book fully conscious of which horses, I think, are suited and which aren’t.

For me, the downside of bias is that most punters hate it and won’t bet. A complete turn-off. No turnover. Variety makes racing interesting. I like Warwick Farm, with the long chute starts, the sharp home bend and the short straight.

Warwick Farm had a great card on Saturday. But the track was simply not “fit for purpose”, especially on an important day, with big-race lead-ups. The course had enjoyed warm, summer weather, having only had 17mls of rain early in the week (and half the February median for the month), no irrigation. Yet the rail was “quicksand”. Beyond comprehension. As early as the second race, the course commentator reported “riders seeking better ground”, out wide. In fact, every Warwick Farm winner came from off the pace, and finished down the middle or wider. Pity if you owned or backed a leader, drawn inside or a runner ridden by a non-thinking jockey. Unfair racing. Warwick Farm course-proper grass used to be invariably brown in colour but it behaved perfectly. I wish they could forget the greening aesthetics and we could return to those days: no watering and the right grass.

Exosphere like Lonhro

Just like his sire Lonhro, two-year-old Exosphere was unsuccessfully ridden in the lead, at his first start, in the spring, when he finished last at odds-on. “Leading” was not repeated with Lonhro and the same seems likely with Saturday’s impressive winner, Exosphere. Exosphere was sent to the provincials after a break. This time, taken back to last in the run, he demolished his rivals, including a very short-priced, unraced stablemate. He displayed more than a little of Lonhro’s brilliant turn of foot. At Warwick Farm on Saturday, those present witnessed a similar devastation of rivals. Ridden off the pace, taken wide on straightening, Exosphere sprinted to a clear, race-winning lead in under 100 metres. This performance bore hallmarks of many of his father’s wins, including that breathtaking Caulfield Guineas victory in 2001. The ability to be ridden off the pace, race around a field and then outsprint them in the straight, is not often seen in Golden Slipper contenders, but in my opinion, it will suit that high-pressure race.

How to improve sale

The annual Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, at Oaklands, started strongly on Sunday. It continues on Monday. It will average less than a third of what the Sydney Easter catalogue will. The Melbourne sale is good value. Over the past five years 2.7 per cent of yearlings sold became stakes winners, compared to Easter’s 4.3 per cent (1.8 per cent is the “population” average), 33 per cent of the cost for more than 60 per cent of the number of Easter Stakes winners. The owners’ bonus scheme, VOBIS, was introduced more than 20 years ago to make Victorian yearlings more appealing to buyers. It was followed by similar schemes in each state. Sounds like a good idea. But the unintended consequence is that yearling buyers are pushed into buying their home state’s product. Because “Oaklands” are normally “VOBIS” and not the NSW “BOBS”, prospective buyers are typically just Victorians. Melbourne would have a better sale if all states abandoned the bonus schemes. And it would save vendors roughly $1000 a year in VOBIS fees.

Betting ring move

Mid-week city meetings are shadows of their former selves. But it is a positive move to have brought the Rosehill betting ring in from the back of the stand to inside the grandstand. Much better. Betting should be where the people are. Before the tote was installed, in the early part of the 20th century, bookies were always “around the front”, as they are today in Britain. They were shanghaied to the rear of the stand to help the tote, then ensconced in big tote houses there. The totes have moved into the grandstand and the bookies should be there too. All courses. The move is only for Rosehill Wednesdays. I hope it becomes Saturdays as well.

1000/1 chance wins!

The love of racing is made from great tales. One occurred last week that has the Sydney betting ring talking. A $4.20 chance at Scone, Gust Of Wind was slowly away, 25-lengths last, immediately under hard riding and going nowhere. Odds of 1000/1 went begging from the “bottom feeders” on Betfair. He won! Anyone would enjoy the barnstorming run in the replay at Scone race 3. Watch it.

Many happy returns for Mo

Congratulations to bookmaker Eric “Mo” Conlon, who attained the tender age of 85 this week and is going strongly. He has been at Randwick almost as long as the Moreton Bay fig Meeting Tree, being a bookie for more than 60 years. He is the last of the figures men. The moment Mo senses a margin with the odds in his favour, he is away and “quotation busting”. An asset to punters, if annoying to the other bookies. Conlon, who as a young man had a Mohawk hairstyle, made his name as an “each-way” bookmaker when few satchel-swingers bet that style. At a quarter the old-fashioned odds, the place bet was often a loss leader for bookies. Mo always knew how much extra value he had to get out of the win to make it work. May he be making a book for many more years, calling his “wire netting, each-way betting”.

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