Why Fame Game is the one to beat in the Caulfield Cup

The foreign raiders make Saturday’s Caulfield Cup a fascinating affair.

Northern hemisphere-bred horses make up almost half the field and 50 per cent of those (five) are “shippers”, having their first start in Australia.

The UK form “bible” Timeform rates the shippers very highly, with Japan’s Fame Game the highest rated at 125, closely followed by Snow Sky (124), Hokko Brave (123), Trip To Paris (124) and Quest For More (117).

My research shows me that Timeform actually undervalues Japanese staying form so Fame Game’s form reads so well to me that I won’t be losing on him in tomorrow’s cup.

Still at Caulfield Heath on Saturday, Under The Louvre is a good thing in the group 3 William Hill Moonga Stakes (race seven). His run was sensational in the group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes. After finding trouble and being caught wide, he then ran a huge sectional. The drop in class will help. His rider Mark Zahra is my current “pin-up boy”, having excellent figures. He’ll win for us.

Back home at Randwick, Craftiness stands out in the Lightning (race seven). He is being set for the million-dollar Darley Classic over 1200 metres up the straight at Flemington in November.
Three weeks ago at Caulfield, he was forced to go too fast. The pace won’t be as torrid here and so he will be too strong for his opponents.

NSW TAB too greedy with Honkers bets
The NSW TAB started commingling with Hong Kong on their meetings on Wednesday.

Outrageously, the take-out rate for those meetings will now be 17.5 per cent compared to 14.5 per cent for Australian straight-out pools. This is particularly galling to Australian punters because the Hong Kong Jockey Club automatically gives a 10 per cent discount on losing bets of a certain size. NSW TAB really should be fair to the Aussie punter and keep the take out to the regular 14.5 per cent.

Complainers on the wrong track

There was misplaced anger over last Saturday’s Guineas day Caulfield track. Those complainers said the track was too firm. They are totally out of order.

The times show the track was not hard. It had significantly more give in it than at the Randwick Spring Champion Stakes meeting on the same day – about six lengths slower (one second) at 1400 metres – on my figures.

If anything, I feel Caulfield had been over watered with the fence a poor place to be – the winners all came from out wide.

There is no issue that polarises racing people more than the condition of the track. Many owners and excuse-making trainers say they want the tracks softer. Whereas, all punters (racing’s true customers) want firm and reliable surfaces.

While owners and trainers think it is “kinder” for horses, it is not. The stats show 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 higher on “affected” going (it is 13.1 per cent on dry tracks, but 14.6 per cent in the wet). If we just look at heavy, the “break-down” rate goes to 15.8 per cent. It makes sense, as I know from my jogging it is harder on my muscles when I run on softer ground.

Additionally, at every track graduation worse than “Good”, the field sizes are less (with owners and trainers scratching their runners – so doing the exact opposite of what they profess). And, of course, turnover suffers with softer tracks, causing less money to be available in prizemoney for them.

Punters know the results are truer with firmer tracks – more favourites win, so they bet more.

(For a fuller exposition, look here.)

Further and looking ahead, the way the Flemington course is to be prepared is critical to Melbourne Cup betting. A “Good 3” would be to the advantage of Australian and Japanese horses. Fame Game and Hokko Brave have had 45 starts between them for just one single run on a track worse than “Firm/Good”. But a “Soft 6” would a boon to the Europeans. Please let’s just leave God in charge!

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