British 2yo Racing - 2007 Season
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Racing Review - April 5th 
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  •   April 5th Review : 
    • No 2yo racing until the 7th so this space will be used to do a more detailed review of the Folkestone maiden on the 3rd of April. Hopefully, this will demonstrate how looking at the horses before the race in the context of the preceding analysis and the final result allows the 'story' of the day to emerge. Also, how trainers' methods of preparation for debuts affect the final result and what to expect from their runners in later outings.
    • Although we are only 6 races into the season there have been a number of 'surprises' although only one winner at more than 11/2. The first race of the season saw the trainers who had a recent early debut winner fill the first three places and the clear win for Dubai Princess indicated Jamie Osborne had his string well forward as in 2004 after two later start seasons. The Brocklesby gave us a big field but a race lacking any depth and with the Bill Turner and David Evans 2yos failing a race up-for-grabs. The win of Mister Hardy went against several statistics. Richard Fahey does get debut winners, but not in March! He's not had a winner before May in the period 2001-6 and a grand total of 5 successes with 2yos before July in the same time. Kyllachy didn't sire a winner until May in first season in 2006. 
    • Now, our view of Kyllachy is still developing with more information but what is Mr Fahey doing? He's had a few more 2yos runners in the last 3 years, is he changing his approach? B2yoR would be inclined to think not and take the view that Mister Hardy is a real natural runner who found a winnable Brocklesby. You need to take a view because when the next Fahey 2yo debut comes along and starts at a short SP because of the Mister Hardy win, are you expecting another strong performance or more of the record he showed us up to 2006?
    • The third race of the season was entirely predictable without seeing the runners. A, probably not that good, Mick Channon 2yo (Thunder Bay) manages to get a win in a slowly run Lingfield race because he had just enough nous and was opposed by lesser types from trainers mostly don't even get 'accidental' FTO successes. Here was his early debut win with a natural like Wovoka in 2005 and Hephaestus last year with one of his first two runners of the year. Those two ran 15 and 13 times during their 2yo careers so we shall probably be seeing a lot of Thunder Bay.
    • The only STO runner so far with Baytown Blaze won a, probably moderate, Southwell AW event. The pace was solid and most of the horses in the first half of the field faded and allowed the adrift-at-halfway group to close up on them. Ballycroy Boy was supported before the race depot running for a poor to moderate 2yo trainer. He showed real inexperience and was more than 10 lengths adrift at halfway before staying on through the faders to second. With a Mick Channon preparation, which isn't 'fine tuning' after all, he would have won that race. So, we can take it that he has the ability to win a minor race early but his trainer has a mixed record, as you would expect, in showing a sure hand in turning promise into wins.
    • The Folkestone race will be covered in detail below which brings us to the 25/1 winner of the Novice event at Nottingham yesterday - Fred's Lad. A good, homespun, name for a long-shot winner that, 'Immortal Knight' types don't tend to figure that way. Before the race it looked a very interesting contest with a set of runners who ought to win as 2yos and with some of them competing later in better races. Two of the runners - Tazawud & Fast Feet - were unusually early debuts for trainer & owner combinations and two - Ten Down & Brassini - for trainers who could be relied on to show us solid later winners in this type of event. You could rank those four in various ways but a win for any of them wouldn't have been a shock.
    • The betting told us that the first pair plus Ten Down were expected to run well enough FTO and Brassini held up at a typical 8/1 range for a solid Rod Millman debut. The race was run at a good pace and found out the two that were making early debuts by their trainers' standards. Tazawud gave us a typical early debut performance even for a solid type. Pressing on to fight for the lead, stalling inside the final two furlongs and then getting tired and hanging left (they all go left once tired for some reason). In the last two season both his first runners of the year have done the same. Tazawud is more likely to recover to show similar ability to Mr Rooney (2005 first debut) and win STO than be the moderate type Baileys Hilight (2006) proved to be. Similarly, Fast Feet showed some inexperience having lost ground with a slow start and ought to snap into shape next time. Ten Down was supported and ran a very good race and travelled the best at the pace. He appeared to have seen off all rivals before being picked off late as he slightly faded. Of the trainer's three debuts so far all have shown up well.
    • Fred's Lad managed to keep close enough to the pace to be able to pick up Ten Down who faded slightly late. Here we have a real difference between MW (Mick) Easterby and Alan Bailey (Ballycroy Boy's handler). Mr Easterby might just get into a list of the 'Top 75' 2yo trainers but he doesn't have a good record. However, he does have his runners close to full readiness on debut and if they have ability they can place and occasionally win at longer odds. His low FTO strike rate comes about because of the low quality of most of his 2yos and not because of his preparation. Ballycroy Boy would have won at Southwell with Mr Easterby at-the-wheel, for example. The success looked very similar to Selkirk Storm's 33/1 effort in 2004 with a horse of natural ability and precociousness. That one placed second in a Novice STO before his form quickly tailed off (another trainer trait) with his Official Rating declining from 84 to 66.
    • With that summary of the season to date, let's turn to Folkestone on Tuesday but link to it via a 'Paddock Review' comment from Nottingham. After Fred's Lad had won the Racing UK pundit (Sam Thomas?, formerly editor of the defunct Sportsman newspaper) said something on the lines of "There you go, what's the point of looking at them in the paddock, it won't work. You can't know what's under the bonnet.". Well, thank you for that 'Counsel Of Despair' Mr Thomas, let's all go back to only betting on older horses then, like we never get 25/1 winners there, do we? Giving up at the first sign of difficulty isn't at all clever, after all.
    • B2yoR wasn't at Nottingham but would diagnose Mr Thomas' problem as follows. There are probably 4 relatively well known types of physical review of horses that can be used and the most common we shall term 'Classical'. In this form factors which indicate a horse's wellbeing are highlighted and in particular looking at the coat. On TV pictures Tazawud had lost his winter coat (i.e. the long haired coat which you will often see cut & shaved with NH runners) and was a bright chestnut. Just in case you couldn't spot him as a 'shiny one' he also has white feet and blaze to set the ensemble off. Fast Feet was a dark bay and with a similarly shiny, summer coat. In 'Classical' terms these were the horses to mark highly. But, as you might have picked up from the summary above there would be reasons to doubt their readiness for this early a debut.
    • Classical review is very useful when dealing with tight-knit handicaps. The main reason being that the handicapper and weight of evidence will have gathered together a group of horses in a relatively narrow ability range and weighted them down accordingly. The few lengths difference that wellbeing factors make will often do a good job in ranking a field into contenders-midfield-rest categories. The Paddock Review that B2yoR uses for 2yos targets assessing raw ability and race readiness for the day (fitness & maturity) and coat condition doesn't figure. It developed this way because the range of abilities on show in a 2yo maiden can be very wide and the odd length difference that wellbeing makes can be relegated to a minor factor.
    • Fred's Lad still had his winter coat which was tight shaved over his body and lengthy hair on his legs. The shaving down to the skin always make judging coat condition difficult. So, we can imagine Mr Thomas looking at Fred's Lad wearing his hoary-old-chaser outfit and an 'X' goes on his racecard without a second look. On the TV the horse looked a bigger frame than either Tazawud or Fast Feet although probably with less muscular build and his trainer gets his 2yos readier for debut. If you'd been at Nottingham and been able to park the 'Classical' outlook you might have thought Fred's Lad less of a surprise winner. A subject to return to when B2yoR has seen him. Mr Thomas also needs to remember that Paddock Review, along with form study etc., isn't a 100% correct tool. It's about being right often enough and picking up on the clues when they are present to find angles to improve your betting. 25/1 winners are a chance to learn where you are going wrong and to improve your approach, not to give up and go back to entrenched views.
    • Folkestone, then. Having written the Preview for that race B2yoR's views could be summarised as :-
      • An interesting race with three more expensive runners (Sirjoshua Reynolds, Cee Bargara & Silver Guest in decreasing cost order) for established trainers. All had been seen at the sales but none had looked much above average given the prices. However, they would need to be above average to win on debut for their trainers. This left an uncomfortable feeling that this type of race set-up usually sees one of the supporting cast step forward to the line first.
      • The most likely lesser cast members to compete to win would be Nikindi & Non Sucre from trainers who can get debut winners and both with just enough in their pedigrees to believe they might be good enough. The others looked too 'cheap' to compete for the win.
      • A race with similarities to the 2003 edition which was won by a supporting cast member at 7/1 from a Mick Channon runner who showed inexperience before coming home well for second at 11/2. Neville Callaghan's favourite for the race, a similarly expensive purchase to Sirjoshua Reynolds for another important owner in Michael Tabor, ran moderately in 3rd (of 4 runners) with Keiran Fallon looking down as if the gearshift and accelerator pedal weren't working at various points. If you look at the Result for this year's race you don't have to work too hard to see that the similarities extended beyond the pre-race thoughts. (Nikindi was backed from 7/1 down to 7/2 late on, by the way).
    • With this analysis in place the paddock review task is to see whether any of the top 3 have developed well enough to win on debut for their trainer, whether the second tier were good and ready enough to provide the upset and finally (as always) to look for a dangerous lurker. So, you are stood by the prep-parade ring at Folkestone and the horses start coming in. In this section the links to horses name will take you to pictures of the horses on the day to work with the text. 
    • The first horse you see in Sauze D'Oulx who cost 4,000 guineas at the sales and his dam hasn't produced a flat winner in 8 previous foals including two useless full siblings. He's by the minor cult sire Makbul and trained by Rod Millman who buys most of the Makbul yearlings offered at the sales - it's The Rules. You aren't expecting much but he's an ok little chap. Small, of course, but with ok build and a very relaxed and professional attitude. He's a 50s to early 60s rater at best but you would think Mr Millman ought to find something, possibly a seller for him. Something which none of the previous 8 foals have managed. So, he isn't going to win today but ok at a minor level.
    • Another one walks by and a similar size to Sauze D'Oulx, who's that? Oh dear, it's Cee Bargara, who cost 54,000 and is sire Acclamation's first runner. He hasn't grown at all from the sales and is shrinking into himself and finding this experience a bit of a trial. Head down and looking smaller than he is as time goes on. He isn't going to win today and Mr Osborne is going to have to work to find a race for him. One to oppose in future in the right race set-up. He drifts in the market from 4/1 to 8/1 and this is no surprise if you have seen him in the preliminaries.
    • Blimey, the third one is even shorter than the last two - it's Fox's Den who was retained by his owner for only £2,200 (Pounds sterling rather than guineas because he went to the lesser Ascot sales (Brightwells) whereas the major English sales companies - Tattersalls & Doncaster BS - still sell in the traditional guineas (i.e. Guinea = One pound plus 5%)). However, although shorter and lengthier than the previous two he's well enough built and is fitter and readier than either of them. Another in the won't win today but can compete at the 50s-62ish level. Receives late each-way support at 12/1 to 8/1 to confirm the view the trainer has him mostly ready here and probably not a lot of improvement.
    • So, three seen and we can rule out any of them for the win including one of the 'expensive three'. Next up we see the first bit of fiery attitude with the Paul Blockley runner Non Sucre - starting to jig-jog and prance, lathered mouth and some white of the eye showing. None of these are negatives individually but since he's like this on entry to the pre-parade ring (and it's the first time he's been in one on raceday) a sign to watch how his behaviour develops. He has two handlers at times but had settled down a little by the time he was jocked-up - Picture. On the physical side he's much taller than the previous three and well muscled. He ought to be capable of better than they are over the season but will he compete today. The early debut by the trainer's standards and the 16/1 price with no sign of any support tip the balance in favour of not one for today but one to track for development.
    • A strong point to note is that his trainer often gets his 2yos on-course showing this 'fire' from the start of their careers including the best. Red Power who won the Brocklesby for him in 2004 was similar and boiled over completely in the Coventry and Baby Strange owned a similarly lively attitude last year. Many trainer's 2yos show similar attitudes when on course for the first time and it is a direct result of the preparation they have at home. To take two other examples the Richard Hannon 2yos are usually remarkably relaxed on debut, walk around like happy little sheep, licking away and playing with the bit. The Hannon's are a big stable but the runners clearly have a calm and consistent preparation. 
    • This straightforward, easygoing approach shows up in the way Mr Hannon and his sons approach dealing with saddling up and talking to owners. Many trainers make saddling-up a stressful, taut examination where everything has to be just right and things can get too fussy. This leaves little time to talk to owners (who can be seen as an unwanted bother) and the horse can pick up on the tension. The Hannon's chat to the owner, nip over and fit the saddle quickly and without fuss and their runners are often the first in the parade ring. A Hannon 2yo will therefore often feel that a racecourse trip is a fun day out with a chance to have a bit of a run with some new friends.
    • Try comparing this to the average Godolphin newcomer. They will obviously be fitter and leaner on the day but will tend to be more wound up and on-edge, not many are relaxed, happy 'sheep'. The people around them will tend to be on-edge too because they are under pressure to get everything 'just right'. First sign of anything and it's two handlers either side of you adding to the tension. The saddle-up will be fussy and it won't be a surprise to see the horse jig-jogging and a little sweaty in the parade ring. The average Godolphin horse debut probably feels like an examination to many of them and no doubt contributes to the record they have of a number 2yos not progressing STO.
    • Next into the pre-parade is Silver Guest and he's a pleasant surprise and has developed well from yearling to 2yo. He's the tallest in the group although, typically for a Channon 2yo, he's just an average build. His sales notes said he had the scope to develop and his sire gets better, bigger types than can develop with racing. He goes down as one to follow and will be capable of 80+ rating. However, look at his head and expression in the picture. Although a good physical type he is mentally young and gormless. He goes down as one to oppose today because he isn't mentally ready enough to see off a more mentally mature runner but the best type overall. 
    • No surprise to see him as favourite but one to oppose 6/4 price although getting more interesting as he drifts to 2/1 late. He runs as expected by missing the start and losing ground and getting behind horses on the rail. He needs driving along at times early to keep at it in line with his immaturity. After the 2f out pole he has to switch around horses to make his run but makes good progress to second and keeps on well. Without the mental immaturity he could have won and if more knowing STO should improve his rating greatly.
    • Five seen and five to oppose today, what's left? The next is the cheap filly Portway Lane from Bill Turner. A reasonable size but narrow and very lightly built behind. If you look at the picture her back half doesn't match the front in size and build terms and the purple bandages aren't helping the effect. We know that only the best Bill Turner 2yos win FTO and she isn't that and she's not even on the 'seller winner' list now. She might improve for 7f later but we'll need to see some signs of life first.
    • Finally, they've taken the large white rug off Sirjoshua Reynolds and we can see him. At the sales he got a set of 'Unremarkable', 'Okish' notes and a middling rating despite his 60,000 tag. Here he is 6 months later and it's the same story, nice enough but so what. Middling sort of size, enough build, slightly mentally immature and a lethargic attitude developed later in the preliminaries. The trainer's debut winners in the last 5 seasons have been all Group quality performers and this isn't that class. 
    • A solid sort of winner who might end up at Brighton as the trainer looks for the win. Not today, thanks. After a quick break in the centre of the course his jockey settles him and takes him behind others into midfield. At this stage he either loses concentration or is useless because he drops back to be more than 10 lengths off the pace at halfway and the jockey is niggling and looking down just like Fallon did on Stealthelimelight in 2003. Minor progress towards the faders late on but never beyond 8th and Shepherd's Warning who was behind him at halfway finishes to more effect into 6th. That 2003 runner won 3TO dropped to Brighton and won a Nursery of OR79 and premier claimer later. A rating in the mid-70s, at least, ought to be ok for this one too.
    • Of the remainder it is easy to quickly cross off Korcula and Shepherd's Warning, both chestnuts of medium frame for an early 2yo but narrow and lacking build. Underpowered for 5f and lower quality winners at best. If you look at the picture of Korcula in Classical paddock review terms he'd score highly - summer coat, good sheen, etc. But that doesn't help if there are faster horses in the race. He's the fourth foal from the mare for the owner breeder by the sire Tomba and the previous three have been limited maidens. He had some excuses for his final finishing position having missed the break and recoverd quickly against a solid pace and got hampered 2f out and stumbled as he was being outpaced.
    • Nine of the runners seen and none that said 'Today' which means you are either not betting or perhaps taking a couple of chances against the rest if the prices are right. A story-of-the-race might materialise out of paddock review and you can see how things are going to work out and the choice of bet is easy. That didn't occur here so you are spared the celebratory ending.
    • In an ideal result for paddock review Nikindi would have stood out as ready for the day and an obvious bet. They kept the full cover sheet on him until after he was saddled and this is how he looked in the parade ring. Mr Moore doesn't go in for shiny coats etc that score well on Classical review and he looks workmanlike. On the positive side his height and frame was nearly up to Silver Guest's and he is a heavily built, barrel of a horse. This is typical of his sire - Mull Of Kintyre - who gets them all heights but usually with very muscular builds. Look at the picture and he appears to have a bit of a 'belly' and in general the muscle definition on his flanks and buttocks did not suggest he was that fit. As a positive he had a mature, calm attititude and well devloped front half to his body. After paddock review he was on a list as a 70+ rater but would need the run to develop from.
    • If you look at this Picture of him going to the track it doesn't suggest he was hard fit on the day (although heavily built types often show the muscle definition lines less). It does show the good width of his body - try comparing it to Korcula and Mr Egan looks confident enough. Anyway, he was backed from 7/1 to 7/2 late on and got the best trip in the race. Settled behind the leaders as they went a little too fast and using his mental maturity and ability to move to the lead when asked before the final furlong and keeping on well. A good start and he should be able to improve on the level of performance he showed - he wasn't wound up for this debut. A lesson to learn in that after improving the debut performances of his 2yos in the 2-3 years, Mr Moore is now getting debut winners in early season and the 'model' needs an update.
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