Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spring and a few of its consequent mysteries

Saturday was a great day.  It wasn't merely the day of a great Grand National, won by a great horse ridden by a great jockey.  It was also the day when winter ended.  We'd had the odd nice day, but until Saturday there was no sign of consistent good weather.  Saturday didn't start off particularly well, but the sun came out at around 10 am; and things have continued to pick up from there.  Today we have had unbroken sunshine and a top temperature of 23 degrees.  Tomorrow promises to be similar, only a couple of degrees even warmer.  It won't be unbroken sunshine until September, obviously and admittedly; but the good weather has at last arrived after a dreadful and dreadfully long winter which now, less than a week after its departure, already seems like a semi-distant memory.

In tandem with spring arriving, we might have been having our first turf runner of the year.  That's not to be, though, as Das Kapital was one of 11 horses eliminated from the Wood Ditton Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow.  Safety factor 19; 30 declared.  And the race (at £15,000) was too valuable to be divided, which is fair enough.  God willing we can go to Yarmouth on Tuesday instead.  What was odd, though, about the division of races at that this Craven Meeting was that we've twice seen something which I had never knowingly seen previously: a race being divided which did not need to be.

This was really odd.  A race isn't divided unless it receives at least 18 declarations, so that there will be at least nine horses in each division.  That makes sense: any fewer than that, and you run the risk of dividing a race to produce heats which don't feature each-way betting with three places.  So if, say, the safety factor is 14 and 17 are declared, there will be one race with 14 runners and three horses eliminated.  If there are 18 horses declared, the race will be divided and there will be two divisions with nine runners each.

But I had always assumed that, to be divided, a race not only had to have at least 18 declarations, but also had to have exceeded the safety factor.  Not so, apparently.  This week there have been two races at Newmarket (one maiden race, one novice race) which have attracted 18 declarations and which have been divided, despite the fact that the safety factor for each was 19, so the race could easily have been run just as one race, with every declared horse getting a run.  That surprised me.  But, there you go - you learn something new every day.

What we didn't learn yesterday was who galloped with Elarqam up the Rowley Mile before racing.  If you were watching RUK's coverage, you will know that we don't know which two horses galloped with him, because their supposed anonymity became quite a talking point.  The mantra was that a horse can't have a public gallop on a raceday without being identified.  This is correct: a horse can't come onto racecourse property, whether to gallop or to act as a companion or because he is passing through, without being identified.  His passport has to come with him and be inspected to ensure that his vaccinations are in order.

So these horses weren't coming to gallop anonymously: the clerk of the course knew who they were.  If Mark Johnston didn't want to volunteer their names, then that's fair enough.  But I can't see why it became such an issue for the RUK people.  All they needed to do was to ask the clerk of the course, who was fully aware of these horses' identities.  I can't see that he would have refused to tell them.  What I also can't see, incidentally, is why any trainer would want to conceal the identity of his public gallopers.  I can only see two reasons for wanting to do this, and I can't see that under normal circumstances either would apply.

I can see that the trainer would want to keep the horses' identities private if he hadn't told their owners that they were going to be galloping at Newmarket that day.  However, no responsible trainer would have omitted to let the owner know that their horse was going to the Craven Meeting for a public gallop, so that rules this one out in this instance, Mark Johnston being one of the most responsible trainers you could ever meet.  So that leaves us with the second reason - and, as Sherlock Holmes used to say, when you have ruled out all other possible explanations, what you are left with, however unlikely it may appear, has to be the answer.

This leaves us with the only other possible explanation, ie that the owners of these other two horses like a bet, so wouldn't want it to be public knowledge that their (presumably otherwise under-the-radar) horses have been galloping with one of the best three-year-olds in the country; because if this becomes public knowledge, then the next time they run their odds will be shorter than would otherwise be the case.  That's understandable; and, if that were the case, I wouldn't tell anyone who they were either - the only thing being that if I were getting an otherwise anonymous maiden owned by someone who likes a bet ready for a coup, the one thing I definitely wouldn't do with him would be to take him to the Craven Meeting to gallop before an audience of thousands (well, tens of thousands if you throw in the RUK pundits and viewers) with a 2,000 Guineas aspirant.


Brian Jones said...

was the Wood Ditton not split as you cant exceed 8 races per card?

neil kearns said...

The mystery to me is why any racecourse let's any trainer conduct a racecourse gallop on a raceday when connections could enter in one of the many events designed for this purpose ie races ???

And to the wider picture not running horses in the trials designed for the guineas begs the question why bother with them in the first place ??