John Mac, our race analyst writes:
When evaluating any race, the key element in the multi piece jigsaw puzzle is what the ground conditions are likely to be. This in itself can be something of a game of Russian Roulette, further complicated by historical performances which are quantified and recorded by many. I would like to bring to your attention an article written recently by the much respected if somewhat quirky race reader/come journalist Nick Mordin, which highlights the quandary which we as punters face in our lifelong battle with the old enemy.
I have reproduced some of his article below. The full article can be read at:
“The runaway success of Great Endeavour in last week’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham highlights the urgent need for more accurate official going reports in Britain. According to official going reports Great Endeavour has won on soft and even heavy ground. But if you judge the state of the ground by Raceform’s going allowances, which are based on race times, a very different picture emerges. They show that he’s won six of the seven times he’s raced on what race times indicate was good or faster ground over trips short of three miles, with his sole loss being a one length second to the smart Poquelin after meeting trouble in running.
He’s run well below his best and lost every time he’s run on ground Raceform rated slower than good. If punters had known this, along with the fact that the ground was good last Saturday (it was officially good to soft – good in places) I doubt that Great Endeavour would have started at anything close to the 8-1 he ended up at.
British Clerks of the course clearly aren’t very good at assessing the state of the ground. They don’t even seem to know how to use the equipment they’re provided with if Great Endeavour’s record is anything to go by.
I say this because when Great Endeavour won at Towcester on November 29th 2009 the going stick reading was 7.8 according to every source I’ve been able to find – including the BHA’s official web site. The going stick reading was also 7.8 on October 6th 2010. But on the first occasion the clerk reported the ground as being ‘Heavy (soft in places)’ and the second time he said it was ‘Good’. A few weeks later on December 16th 2010 the going stick read 8.0, indicating faster ground, but the clerk reported it as being ‘Good to soft (soft in places)’.
At the very least the BHA should monitor going stick readings as they come in and suggest a revised opinion when a clerk of the course submits going reports that conflicts as sharply with them as these. Better still clerks should be required to monitor race times, compare them with the standard times listed in Raceform’s official form book and adjust their going reports as soon as a race time is faster than their estimate of the ground suggests it should be. This is hardly rocket science. The required calculations could be done in seconds with a pocket calculator.
I cannot fathom why blindingly obvious and cost-free improvements in going reporting like these haven’t been implemented. If they were, punters would surely be much happier to trust horse racing as a wagering medium and betting turnover would increase (which surely has to be the BHA’s main goal given the sport’s current financial position?)
While we’re on the subject it would also be more than a little helpful (and also cost nothing) for the BHA to make British Clerks of the Course tell us the true distances of races and inform us which course is being used. At present we’re left to guess when hurdle races are switched to the flat course or when the inner or outer course is used at many racecourses. The impact of such changes on race times can be enormous.
Having got that off my chest, let me return to Great Endeavour who now has to rank as one of the top two and a half mile chasers – especially when you consider that he’d have won by two or three more lengths and run a faster time but for blundering at the last.
The logical thing to do with Great Endeavour now is to follow his schedule of last season when he was laid off from early December to March to ensure he gets his ground. If this is done he’ll be one of the leading candidates for the Ryanair and the Melling Chase at Britain’s two big Spring meetings.
I think it was misleading for most bookies to mark Great Endeavour up as favourite for the Hennessy following this run. You only have to look at the horse’s record to agree with trainer David Pipe’s assessment that the 3m 2f of that race ‘might be a bit far’.”
Back to John Mac
Bearing all that in mind we approach next weekend’s eagerly awaited pre-Christmas highlight at Newbury with some valuable, insightful opinion on our side.
For me the race revolves around two horses. WYMOTT and MICHEL LE BON. Without boring you with more statistical blurb it is my opinion that one of these two promising chasers will take the prize.
WYMOTT is probably the more solid option having already been declared as an intended runner by his punter friendly trainer, Donald McCain, who has a weekly column on the Betfair pages which is well worth a read.
MICHEL LE BON is slightly more speculative but if he returns from his year off in peak condition then he is also a big player. They will be my two against the field.
It may well be worth having a speculative bet on the two for the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, for if either were to win the Hennessey in style, the 66’s and 50’s currently available would look mighty big come 4.00pm next Saturday.