Friday, February 28, 2014

The great Wolverhampton mystery (partially) solved

Good: that's a mystery solved.  Well, a mystery partially solved.  Page two of today's Racing Post, '"Wolverhampton isn't Polytrack anymore," group chairman Malcolm Wallace said yesterday.' I could have italicized 'yesterday' because that's the surprising thing.  I was told four and a half months ago that Wolverhampton was not Polytrack anymore, which explained why the surface was so bad, so unlike Polytrack, despite the fact that, as far as I know, the track has officially remained a Polytrack surface.  So it's good to get that sorted out, thus clarifying a confusing situation. Except that it doesn't really, does it?  They mystery now is that why has it taken the Martin Collins Group four and a half months to put us out of our mystification, when all winter people have, because of the group's silence on the matter, been thinking, "Gosh, that's terrible.  Polytrack?  Mmm ... can't be as good as surface as we thought ..."

What I was told - and this may or may not be true, but the person who told me believed it to be true, and I see no reason to doubt it, particularly after examining the surface on a recent visit, and particularly after reading today's Racing Post - was that some Fibresand which had been taken off Southwell when that track was being re-surfaced had been taken to Wolverhampton and mixed in with the existing Polytrack there.  Which would explain why Wolverhampton wasn't functioning like a Polytrack course, and why  the surface there can no longer be described as Polytrack, as Malcolm Wallace now and belatedly tells us is the case.  Anyway, now we can tell ourselves that we sort of understand what's been going on, even if we remain baffled why the Martin Collins Group has allowed itself to be unfairly portrayed all winter as a purveyor of a substandard product.

On the subject of Wolverhampton, it will be good to watch Many Levels run there in half an hour's time.  Of the six horses who left here to join other stables during 2013, he was the one whom I was most sorry to see depart, as he was the one who stood out as having the most obvious potential to rise markedly in the BHA ratings list, as his handicap mark (48, achieved in the three maiden races he had thus far contested) seemed one which he ought to be able to leave well behind him in due course as he matured, irrespective of who was training him.  Anyway, I was very taken aback last summer when he ran inexplicably badly in his two Flat starts from his new stable, as he was completely tailed off both times.  Far from rising, his handicap mark dropped from 48 to 41.

Anyway, God willing, he'll prove me right eventually.  He resumed last week in a maiden race and, finishing fourth, ran far better than his 41 rating would have suggested.  My immediate thought was that his rating would take a sharp hike, and that his connections would be sure to run him sometime this week in advance of his new rating, whatever that turned out to be, kicking in tomorrow.  My guess was that he would run against Roy at Kempton yesterday in a 45-50 12-furlong handicap - and that he would be certain to beat Roy in receipt of a pound.  And my other immediate thought was that it would be lovely to see them line up against each other, having already done so very sweetly when they made their debuts in the same race at Newmarket in October 2012, going around together before, during and after the race, as you can see in the first three pictures, with Eddie Ahern on Many Levels and Hannah on Roy.

Anyway, I was wrong on both scores: Many Levels was not entered in the race, instead being aimed at the 9.5-furlong 45-50 handicap at Wolverhampton this evening, and Roy did not run in last night's race either as he was eliminated.  I hope that Roy will run at Kempton next week instead, either Monday or Wednesday depending on when we can get in a race; but more immediately we can watch Many Levels tonight.  I'd imagine that he'll be sure to go off favourite off his 45 mark (he can't, of course, run off his correct 41 mark as no horse in Britain can nowadays be weighted to be on a rating below 45, irrespective of how lowly he is rated) when he is '10lb well in', being due to go up to 55 tomorrow.  That's something which all tipsters pick up on straightaway, and needless to say the Racing Post has made him favourite and tipped him.  Let's hope that they're right: he's a lovely horse and it would be great to see him win - particularly as, having advised that he be purchased as a yearling, I'd love to see him turn out to be a good horse, as one never likes to find that one has dispensed bad advice.

After that lovely day midweek, by the way, we've gone back to the usual conditions: the red sky at dawn today did indeed prove to be the proverbial Shepherd's Warning, as, even though it was still nice when Frankie and Indira went up the Al Bahathri shortly after 7.00, it started raining mid-morning and has continued solidly since then.  Ugh!

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