Thursday, January 24, 2019

It's Winx, stupid!

More non-news.  The Longines World's Best Racehorse Awards.  I shouldn't even be writing this as this fatuous 'honour' has already received far more publicity than it deserves.  It's a laudable concept, and if it were indeed something which attempted to honour the world's best racehorse, then it would be something to applaud.  But it doesn't.  It pretends to attempt to honour the world's best racehorse, but instead does nothing of the sort: it honours the horse who, in the opinion of an international ... (insert, please, the collective noun for a group of handicappers; I don't know what that is.  An addition?  A machination?  A confusion?) of handicappers has put in the singular best performance during the year.

This year, of course, the handicappers found themselves in a difficult position.  They realised that they would be made to look very stupid (unfairly, because it is not their fault that the Longines people misuse their findings and falsely equate putting in the singular best performance with being the best racehorse in the world) if their findings were used to say that Winx wasn't the best racehorse in the world.  The thing is that because of the way she is ridden (coming with a late run) her winning margins always understate the extent of her superiority over her rivals.  So from a traditional handicapping point of view, it's impossible to rate her as highly as she probably deserves.

And then you throw in her soundness, genuineness, durability and consistency (all of which are massive factors in making a racehorse good but which are unquantifiable and/or irrelevant from a handicapping point of view so, insanely, don't usually even enter calculations regarding which horse the Longines people choose to identify as the best) then you have the horse who is clearly the best racehorse in the world, but can't be rated as such unless you fudge the figures.  On the Longines reasoning, you could give the prize to an unsound horse, which would be silly: soundness is a massive factor in how good at being a racehorse a horse is (if that makes sense) but is totally ignored by a ranking that focusses solely on a horse's personal best.

So what we appear to have is Winx being given a rating such that no horse in the world is rated higher.  And consequent to that, we have to rate her rivals unrealistically highly.  And thus we find the figures telling us that 31 of the highest-quality races anywhere in the world in 2018 were run in Australia, which is plainly ludicrous.  Cracksman is the horse she has been put up against because seemingly his Champion Stakes victory comes out so well on the ratings.  But if you think that Cracksman was the best or joint-best horse in his own stable (never mind the world) in 2018, then you weren't paying attention.

You don't need to do any calculations.  You just need to consider that Winx has won her last 29 races, running exclusively in Group races and usually in Group One and/or weight-for-age races.  She hasn't been beaten since April 2015.  Her winning run takes in races from 1400m to 2040m (and she had won a Group Two race over 1200m as a three-year-old before he picket fence began) and includes wins on pretty much all goings.  That's mind-boggling.  What other horse could do that?  Do you think that if Frankel (who in pretty much every sense was the more talented horse) had run another 15 times (he only ran 14 times in his life) he would have remained both undefeated and sound?  I couldn't see it myself.

So that's that.  It's just nonsense.  As was the decision to bar jumpers from racing barefoot behind, which we covered in a previous chapter.  Happily, however, that decision has been put on hold for a minimum of six months.  We had a press release about it today.  What struck me most about the press release was its naivety.  Consider this: "The PJA advocated introduction of the rule on the grounds of improved safety for horses and their (sic) members".  Of course it didn't: it advocated introduction of the rule on the grounds of improved safety for its members.  That's just common sense.  The PJA is (rightly) always going to speak on its members' behalf.

If one scenario was going to produce one horse slipping up and the other was going to produce ten horses striking into themselves, then the PJA is bound to advocate the latter.  Its responsibility is the safety of its members.  When horses strike into themselves, they don't fall; they are pulled up.  (Or, often, they complete the course, and are then put down afterwards).  Of course the PJA is going to advocate the introduction of the rule if it might prevent a horse from slipping up.  The PJA's  job is not to look at the bigger picture.  Its job is the consider the safety of the jockeys, not the safety of the horses.  Looking after the safety of the horses is the BHA's job (and the NTF's job, and the ROA's job).  Using the PJA's viewpoint to justify a move to make things more dangerous for the horses is clutching at straws.  Or just very naive.

On a less contentious note, we should have our third runner of the year at Chelmsford on Saturday night: Solitary Sister in the last race.  She was unshod behind for most of the autumn and winter because she is prone to forgeing and thus pulling off her front shoes with her hind toes when she is trotting, so I kept her unshod behind for as long as possible, particularly as she has very bad front feet and for her to pull off a front shoe is a serious setback.  Happily, she seems to have grown out of that habit (touching all available wood) and hasn't pulled off a front shoe for weeks, even though she has been shod behind for at least a month now.  Let's hope for a good run.

And thank you, by the way, David, for your feedback at the end of the previous chapter.   Much appreciated.  (And I'm sure that any handicapper who happened to read it would have appreciated it too!).


neil kearns said...

on the handicapper issue if you dont like your mark run your horse in a conditions race might stop them having (generally) pathetic fields

neil kearns said...

does anybody really care what Longines think about who is the best in the world ?

Steve Mullington said...

Longines have me shaking my head in disbelief every year. Does the winner receive a Mickey Mouse watch I wonder?