A good field for the Ascot conditions event on Wednesday which is larger
than usual and brings together a lot of existing form lines. The short
answer to the most likely to win is Fat
Boy with Mount Pleasure
the most interesting of the others with form. Mark Johnston adds an unusual
twist to this early season race with a Darley bred newcomer in Battlecruiser.
He ought to be pretty good for a lot of circumstantial reasons although
we haven't seen him yet. He's owned by Sheikh Mohammed when last year his
full brother (Kon Tiki)
had already been relegated to the second division 'Jumeirah Racing' outfit
when he made his debut over 6f in later season. His early debut, over 5f,
and at Ascot for the trainer further supports the useful-or-better belief.
The trainer hasn't had a debut runner in a Conditions race in the last
three seasons to further spice up the "What's he doing here?" question.
The longer answer to why Fat Boy is preferred takes us on a ramble through
a number of issues and we'll start with some scene setting about Conditions
Races. There were 119 of these races in 2004 to 2006 and the table
below shows the Starting Price (SP) ranges of the winners :-
Runners (% Rnrs)
|Evens or less
|2/1 or less
|3/1 or less
|5/1 or less
|7/1 or less
(1 in 37)
|10/1 or more
(1 in 125)
The headline message to take is that these races aren't about long priced
winners. The 3 successes in the '10/1 or more' category are made up of
2 at 10/1 and a single win at 20/1 (at Ascot last year by Charlie
Farnsbarns). So, at level stakes that is 40 points of positive return
(plus the 3 points of stake return) to set against the 380 of outlay. At
7/1 or more you have 130.5 return (plus 12 points of stake back) to set
against 444 outlay. The low strike rates by these runners in the final
column tie in with this large loss. For comparison at evens or less if
you had a 1 point bet on all of them the outcome would have been only a
0.75 point loss and all of the 2/1 or under horses an 8 point loss.
These races typically bring together previous winners and other horses
that the trainer thinks is a likely to be a little better than a maiden
winner. The horse qualifies for the race and carries a weight depending
upon how they fit the race 'conditions' as drawn up by the racecourse management
- ranges of penalties for wins in different class events being the most
common. Many trainers will run horses that aren't actually that good in
these races for a variety of reasons. A horse that has already won at this
time of year doesn't have many alternatives, for example. There aren't
any nurseries so it's Novice or Conditions races if they are better than
seller level. Other trainers have an overly rosy view of their 2yos and
run them in these races because of that view when they patently are not
up to this standard.
Whatever the reasons the upshot is that these races have a wide variety
of ability on show. With a field like this the majority have only run once
and either most either have a win to their name or a place in what 'seems'
a strong maiden at a major course. How can we rank a field like this? When
it comes to Listed and Group races the same questions occur. In the Coventry
Stakes at Royal Ascot there might be 20+ horses and the majority with only
a few runs and most with wins to their name. The lack of form tieing runners
together may seem a problem but it isn't if you forget about it and just
think about basic 'Class'.
In a field for the Coventry there may be a lot of previous winners but
the range of abilities they represent is wide and only a small number are
of the better Class to actually be winners and it is these we need to identify.
The people paid to set the odds often pick up on these vibes and the shorter
priced horses are the ones to concentrate on. If you get a long priced
winner in a Conditions race or higher then the three most likely reasons
A moderate race where none of the runners are actually better class and
the level required to win not high. In these events the horses will often
fail to win another race between them in the season because that was their
'olympics'. Although even in these events it is more typical for the best-of-what-there-is
to make the first two.
A runner who is developing well physically and wins as he progresses like
Charlie Farnsbarns last year on his way to placing in the Group 1 Racing
The odds compilers failing to pick up on the quality of the runner. Second
strings for major stables are a classic example. If the stable jockey chooses
one horse the other is assumed to be inferior and can disappear out to
length prices. A good example would be Landseer in the 2001 Coventry at
20/1 because he was second string to Rock Of Gibraltar although he was
a very good horse and a later Classic winner himself.
Which means that rather than getting bogged down in collateral form, going,
draw, style of race etc, the easiest way to size up this kind of race is
to draw up a 'Class Ladder' and stick the horses on it. If you don't go
to the races and look at the horses in the flesh (as most handicappers
don't) then this is an activity missing it's key element. What makes a
horse's ability are it's physical attributes as amended by the mental toughness
it has and the training it receives. If you look at enough horses they
come in certain types which fit into different class levels. As a simple
example if you could stand a Banded Race field (45 level ratings) against
a set of 85 rated handicappers anyone could tell you they were just plain
different physical types. It would take a bit of work to tie down what
specifically was showing up but it would be easy to stick one lot on the
'45' rung of the Class Ladder and the others on the '85' one.
Doing this for this race gives us :-
These are on the B2yoR Estimate scale and the spaces above 84 have been
put in to show that Fat Boy isn't in a 'top category' overall. Last season
the top rater was Teofilo on 104 for example. Kersaint & Thunder Bay
have a question mark against them because they have not been paddock reviewed
and are placed on the basis of form and overall profile. Battlecruiser
has a lot of question marks because he's done nowt yet but as alluded to
above the circumstantials suggest he ought to be above maiden winner class
At it's simplest weighing the race up doesn't need to be much more complicated
than that. In these events the better class runners, if they are there,
tend to end up at shorter odds and form an SP mini-market where the majority
of runners can be ignored. The last 6 winners of this race at Ascot (the
last 2 years have been at Lingfield) have included 4 penalised runners
and 5 that fit in the 5/4 to 11/4 range and the other at 4/1. You can apply
the weights to the Class ratings which tells us that Major Eazy & Mount
Pleasure come out at a similar level for example. If you knew that Kevin
Ryan thinks that Kersaint is the equivalent ability to Sadeek (Listed winner
in 2006 & B2yoR rated 80) then you could factor that in.
But, the conclusion is that with normal development Fat Boy is just a bit
better than the others with form. Because Paddock Review is mainly about
sifting the ordinary and a lot of dross it would be quite nice if Battlecruiser
was a real stunner (big, mature, etc.) that you could set alongside Fat
Boy to confirm that one is the useful 80s types and not the 90+ definite
Group star. We'll see.
To sum-up the runners (the links go to pictures of the runners where available)
Fat Boy - Early
runner at a course where the trainer often debuts his best early colt and
often Group class ones of different abilities (i.e. the phrase 'Group Class'
without some form qualifier or rating isn't that meaningful). Debut winner
in comfortable style and this a good sign for the trainer. The race was
run in a slow time and despite two wins in the North (one in a claimer)
by those behind the form is moderate (the 3rd was pre-entered in a seller
and 4th-6th & 10th have struggled since). The rating of 80 given to
that performance by the Racing Post is just plain wrong and is ok for Fat
Boy because he has the scope to develop past that rating but drags the
beaten horses in that race too high (but, hey, so a lot of 2yos are over-rated,
nothing new there...). In paddock review a likeable type with enough size,
length and atleticism to go with his heavier build to warrant an 80+ Class
rating and check how he develops.
- 12/1 in an ordinary maiden and ridden with odd confidence by Martin Dwyer
given that he got well behind the experienced runners that made the pace.
Finished strongly to catch the leaders as they slightly stalled. Just a
medium size and build but very netaly put together and an athletic mover.
The movement should help him to the upper end of the better maiden winner
- Smaller, slightly narrow, ready type of sire Fasliyev. Ok, average speed
type without long term credentials. Similar type of career to Alpaga Le
Jomage for the same trainer in 2004. Uneasy favourite in what looked just
an ok 5f conditions race at Newmarket on debut and easily left behind by
Spirit Of Sharjah and Dark Angel after attending a usable pace set by Nikindi.
- small and nothing remarkable among a field of similar types for the fillies
maiden at the Craven meeting. Just an average maiden winner on looks. That
race run in a slowish time and a sprint for the final 2f. Travelled in
4th and finished 4th in a race which stayed fairly static apart from the
fading leaders who included two limited long-shots. Affirmatively, in 7th
and close behind her, won a poor Windsor auction this week but in a slow
time and not really 'boosting' that form. Alexander Nepotism (5th and closed
a little on her in the sprint) finished second at Bath yesterday in a weakish
race and beaten by a newcomer who was notably bigger and broader than she
was. A win and a place sound like a positive for the Newmarket race but
in general terms the quality shown by those two suggest they were moderate
to average types and similar to Littlemisssunshine.
Kersaint - trainer has not really had his 2yos ready to win on debut yet
(recently the better types have been from May onwards) but this one the
sole better debut win (one from a moderate filly in a worse race). Looked
a natural 2yo and resposded gamely when challenged. On profile this type
of race the likely upper limit for him but needs to be paddock reviewed.
Thunder Bay - his whole background - pedigree, sales price, early AW debut
for trainer suggest a usable 2yo at up to average maiden level and he has
shown that already. Both wins have been against weak groups of fillies
and beaten by the only decent 2yo he has run against (Mister Hardy). Here
because his trainer is going to run him often and with two wins already
his options are limited until the nurseries begin.
- owned by the trainer's wife and by his favourite sire but a small, limited
type who has slightly over-achieved by winning above claiming level. Ought
to get found out in this grade at a longer SP.
For general interest here is a summary of each trainer's records at Ascot
in 2002-6 and in this race :-
||Ascot Record 2002-6
||17 wins from 100 runners (17% strike rate) and 38 of the 100 placed.
Won this race in 2002 with Rockets N'Rollers, 4th (of 4) in 2003 with Mac
The Knife & 2nd with Cornus in 2004.
||3 from 53 (5.3%) and 19 of the 53 placed. Basserello 6th in this race
||3 from 43 (7%) and 11 placed. Rare early runners and better record
after Royal Ascot.
||5 from 42 (11.9%) and no winner since 2003 and 4 of 5 wins by high
class 2yos in Listed+ events. Debut record is no win from 7 with 3 placed
in small fields.
||0 from 16 and none placed. Only one better than 6th place and
possibly a reflection that the course has been closed for some of the period
since his overall stable quality improved.
||2 from 16 (13.3%) both on the same day in 2003 and 5 placed overall.
First runner prior to Royal Ascot at the course.
||0 from 9 with 2 placed although another 3 have finished 4th in various
field sizes. 2nd in this race in 2003 with favourite Cop Hill Lad.
||1 from 8 (12.5%) with 3 runs by one horse (the winner Satulagi) in
2006 and five overall as an indicator of his stable strength increasing.
3 previous runs were 'days out' between 2002-4.
This Pontefract maiden has a good record of producing useful later winners
and in the last 6 years has produced 3 horses that placed in the Norfolk
Stakes at Royal Ascot including 2003 winner Russian Valor and Strike Up
The Band who later won the Group 3 Molecomb; a Windsor Castle victor for
Michael Bell with Revenue (2nd in 2002); a dual Listed race winner for
Paul Cole (Atmospheric in 2000) & a Group 3 winner for Mick Channon
over 7f (Naahy 3rd in 2002). It's timing seems to fit in with a range of
important southern & northern stables either starting off their better
2yos or as a natural STO target for slightly readier types. This year's
field seems a pretty typical, and solid, one given that background.
Of those that have run Cee Bargara
looked small and disappointing on debut and faded after helping with justa
sound pace. He was then slower away at Ripon and easily dealt with by a
bigger filly who was just too good for him. His experience will no doubt
get him involved but he should find two or three too much for him here.
Barraland made just a middling
debut by the trainer's standards and the 10/1 SP less than a positive.
He looked more of a development project over 6f and not obviously better
class. A plce here would be more likely than a win with normal development.
The most likely to step forward from debut to set the strongest standard
for the newcomers is Irving Place
who ended up favourite FTO but was given a hanging-around-at-the-back ride
by Jamie Spencer and Mark Johnston's typically more forward placed Grand
Fleet had gone clear before he went past the limited runners for second.
Given that northern trainers have given us the last 6 winners, 4 on debut,
the three southern representatives with form are likely to find at least
on strong challenger from that source. In the 2002 event Michael Bell came
here with a runner that had finished second at Nottingham on debut (later
Listed winner Revenue) and Mick Channon with a 3rd placer from Newmarket
(later Group 3 winner Naahy) and both got beaten by Linda Ramsden's Sanbenito
(one of the biggest 2yos you'll ever see in late April).
Both Mark Johnston and Kevin Ryan start to run more of their 2yos in May
and more of their better quality ones. Mr Johnston has had 29 debut wins
in the last three years though and only 3 have been in May (one in this
race last year in an average renewal). In general he buys more 6f+ development
2yos and his main FTO winner months in that period have been in June to
August. Consider that his 19 debuts in May in 2005-6 have produced around
50% winners to non-winners whereas the June figure is 76%. Which means
that despite last year's win Atabaas
Pride is going to have to be well above his normal May debut to win
this solid affair which is stronger than 2006. This runner was entered
in the Ascot conditions event but has taken up this option. Given the low
average SP of a Johnston debut the price on the day is going to be little
indication of what to expect unless it is at the 'extremes'. THis would
mean 2/1 or less and backed and an indication of a very good type or 8/1+
and an average one at best.
Mr Ryan runs Smileforawhile
and it is difficult to track the trainer's methods because they have developed
so mush over the last two years as stable numbers and quality have taken
off. Between 2001-4 he used to get 1 debut winner a year and usually very
early on (often March) with his best natural 2yo and a below average FTO
strike rate of up to 5%. In 2005 he had 5 debut wins at a 14.3% strike
rate and last year it was up to 10 at an 18.5% rate. 8 of those 15 debut
wins have been in May and last year saw as many as 13 winners make their
starts in the month, a notably high number for any trainer. The better
types in the last two years have started to appear slightly later in May
and this one's profile doens't suggest a better debut.
John Wainwright had his first debut winner for ages at the last meeting
here and his Fyrodorvich has a similar American background. But this loks
a a much stronger race than the motley bunch of rabbits his Loch Jipp beat.
Anne Duffield hasn't had a strong start and finally got a long priced placer
this year when The Real Guru finished 3rd at 66/1 last Saturday. But he
needed withdrawals at the post, a failed favourite and picking up the pieces
in a pace battle to get to third. Her Natural
Rhythm looks short of what's required. The outsider that most appeals
as likely to surprise on debut is David Barker's Zaplamation.
He doesn't have great FTO stats but John Wainwright had worse ones and
won at 50/1. Mr Barker has had a recent debut winner with Choysia in 2005
at 14/1. That might sound like a longer SP but it was an indicative one
by his standards, his average debut start around 33/1 and anything at 14/1
or less is a good sign. The sire has already had two debut winners at a
low level but seems to be turning out nippy early ones at least.
In summary Irving Place the best of the southern raiders and the most likely
winner. Atabaas Pride & Smileforawhile look like ordinary debuts for
their trainers and that wouldn't reach the required level (i.e. 50s compared
to something 60+). And since longer priced debuts winners are a good part
of the season so far at least look at Zaplamation's price and what he looks
like on the TV (or in the paddock if you are there, if he's the biggest
don't worry about the price, have something on).