Racing: How Clearly Innocent breaks the heart bar in the Country Championship

Clearly Innocent, who won Saturday’s Country Championship Final, looked a good thing in the race. He was the clear up-and-comer, very well-weighted and boasted outstanding sectional times. During the week, his best price was $2.50.

But on Friday morning he was found to be ‘3 out of 10 lame’.

On race morning, he was said to be ‘right’ [which was confirmed by the official vet] but had to wear bar plates [or heart bars], which have a metal bar crossing the back of the shoe to protect the frog of the hoof.

Punters abhor bar plates far more than any other gear change.

Yet ‘heart bars’ didn’t stop Perlin winning a Doomben Cup for Lloyd Williams 10 years ago, Excelerator the 2002 Epsom, Hasna the 2002 Sires Produce nor Phar Lap, of course, at Agua Caliente.

 Because of the bar plates, I marked Clearly Innocent out six betting turns, to about $4.20 in my assessment.

By 8.30am race morning he was out to $2.70. By the jump he was $6 and better on the ‘Fair’, with punters wanting no part of him – a massive 11 betting-turn penalty. An extraordinary betting drift.

Clearly Innocent was aptly named and won like an odds-on chance. Isn’t racing and punting a wonderful game?

Whip rule needs changing

Stewards have no choice but to enforce the Rules of Racing.

But they must find the new whip rule odd: only five strikes before the 100m pole, irrespective of the race distance, then as many as you like in the run to the finish.

Stayers normally amble in their races and, at about the turn, are ‘woken-up’ and ‘got going’. In last Saturday’s great three year-old staying race, the Australian Derby, Tommy Berry breached the rule, hitting the winner Tavago with one extra stroke before the 100m. Appropriately, he didn’t use the crop again, notwithstanding that the rules allowed him a ‘free-for-all’ from that point on.

The rule is inane in treating staying events the same as sprinting affairs. I don’t think the unlimited use in the last 100m, especially in staying races, is of any utility.

There wouldn’t be a punter who likes the new whip rule. It reminds me of when trotting ‘sanitised’ itself by making all races mobile starts. They inadvertently lost their punting fan base forever.

Major minor trouble

When I first went to the races as a 16-year-old clerk, liquor bars were a small part of the racecourse. We regarded those who drank there as degenerates. The betting ring was the epicentre and completely sober.

Now, it seems most of the stands are actually bars and it is almost as though the punters in the betting ring are now regarded as the new degenerates.

A friend of mine, a country bookmaker, was sitting at a table an hour before the first on Saturday, on the lawn in front of the Randwick stand with his two teenage sons, minding their own business, all looking at their form guides. Two officials approached and said: “Are these boys with you?” He confirmed they were. They asked: “Are they old enough to bet?” He said they weren’t. One of the officials said: “It’s a very bad look. They have got to put away the form guides.”

Under this madness it will be hard to get young fans. I bet the opera, ballet or cricket don’t bar younger patrons from reading programs!

Strong sale

The important Inglis Easter Yearling Sale commences this morning at their Newmarket (near Randwick) saleyard.

I expect the sale to be strong but not spectacular. Reducing the buyers’ ardour, apart from the strengthening Australian dollar, making our sales less competitive internationally, is the fact last year’s boom freshmen sires have not yet lived up to their promise. But there will be some stars of the future sold.

Good crowd

I think the ATC Board would have been delighted with Saturday’s Doncaster crowd of 22,000. However, it is in stark contrast with Oakbank’s chairman who told the press he was devastated with their poor Easter Saturday crowd, which was down to 35,000. The South Australian club does have the advantage of a practical grandstand built in 1927.

Yankee doodle dandy

This is not a tipping column. However, I did the tip winner Giddyup at Moonee Valley recently and he won for us. My only other recommendation this year was two weeks ago: “As regards the 1400m Sire Produce in 10 days’ time, Yankee Rose has ‘back me’ written all over her.” I hope readers paid attention and took the 3/1 on Saturday.

The Sydney Morning Herald: April 4th 2016

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