Monday, July 14, 2014

Runners and non-runner

Over the weekend I read an idea put forward by Timeform man Simon Rowlands that if a horse is a non-runner on account of the going, he or should should not be allowed to run on the same ground (or on firmer/softer) for a year.  Numerous replies followed, with Australia's own Steve Meakes coming up with "Idiocy ... What's issue now may not be next time/start".  I'd go along with that reply - and, by coincidence, we straightaway have a good illustration of the matter (probably in a case which will have Simon tearing his hair out in disgust).

Indira has run well at shorter distances, but as she's maturing she's developing the stamina which her damline suggests should be there.  She ran a mile and a quarter on good ground last time at Windsor, and I came away keen to ask her to face a greater test of stamina on her next run, either by tackling a longer distance or by running on more testing ground.  I hope that her next run will be this week, during which I have entered her for two races.  My first choice would be a 12-furlong race at Catterick, but I also entered her for a 10-furlong handicap at Beverley, which was definitely the second choice and would only be the preferred option if it was to be run on a wet track.

Although, it has a stiff uphill finish, I think of Beverley as being as much a course for horses with early speed as a course for strong finishers.  The 10-furlong start is higher than the finish, so horses do more running downhill than uphill.  Getting boxed in is a regular problem, so the downhill run in the first half of the race tends to be crucial, particularly as horses looking to run on from the rear are generally either pushed very wide, or denied a run as the field stays tightly packed against the far rail.  I love the place, but rarely run horses there.  In fact, the last runner I can recall there for this stable was the late, great Benedict, who ran there on Eclipse Day in July 2005 and who was beaten because of being unable to handle the track.

Anyway, I wasn't really keen on running Indira as I didn't think that 10 furlongs round there would be the increased stamina test that I was looking for - unless the race was going to be run in testing conditions.  As it happened, though, Beverley copped the rain which lashed Pontefract last Tuesday, so I did stick in an entry for Indira as the track was rated 'heavy' at the time.  It remained on the soft side and was still 'good to soft' at declaration time on Sunday morning, with the forecast for Sunday afternoon being for sunshine and showers.  So I declared her for the race, as if the ground remained as it was, then that would probably be just about testing enough, despite the relative shortness of the race.

And what happened?  The weather has picked up.  No further rain fell at Beverley, where it has got very warm.  Today the going was upgraded to 'good, good to soft in places' and the clerk of the course tells me that by tomorrow afternoon all the good to soft places will have disappeared.  So where does that leave us?  Indira can easily run on good ground (or faster) but the only reason for running over 10 furlongs was that the ground would be softer than good.  If it is only going to be good, there's no sense in running there at all: I declared her for the 12-furlong race at Catterick on Wednesday as a fall-back in case the ground at Beverley did dry up, and it now clearly makes more sense to run there instead.

If we are going to be racing on ground that is good or faster, racing over 12 furlongs is clearly preferable to racing on 10 furlongs. As the ground has changed since declaration time, it is permissable to scratch her from the Beverley race, and run her instead at Catterick the next day.  That's just as it should be.  But to say that she shouldn't be able to run the next day on ground that is good (or firmer) would be ludicrous (never mind to say that she shouldn't be able to run on it for a year).  The only reason for declaring her for a 10-furlong race was that it would be run on softish ground; so, if the ground isn't, after all, going to be softish, should I be running her in a race which I deem unsuitable, rather than re-routing her to a race which has become more suitable?

So I'll be going to Catterick on Wednesday.  Before then I'll be heading to Yarmouth tomorrow with Magic Ice (whose ears appear in this paragraph) who will be having her first run for more than 300 days, which will also be her first run since returning to this stable.  I'm looking forward to that - although she too might conceivably end up being a ground-related non-runner: she loves firm ground and dislikes wet ground, so if the heavens were to open (which I'm certainly not expecting to happen, as I hope that the recent heavy rains have moved on, and that we'll be having hot sunshine for a few days, as today's photos suggest) then she'd be scratched.  And Hugh will be heading off to Uttoxeter with Saleal while I'm going up to Catterick on Wednesday, so we have a busy couple of days coming up.  Fingers crossed.


neil kearns said...

300 days off that wasn't at all bad looks a future winner possibly over a little further
You'll be on the hot list by this time next month !!

neil kearns said...

Nice one John pleased for the horse always seems to give it s best

John Berry said...

Thanks Neil.