British 2yo Racing - 2009 Season
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Racing Previews Results

Racing Preview - April 22nd 
Races :-
  • Catterick 2:20, 5f Seller (6)

  •   April 22nd Summary : 
    •  The selling race at Catterick can vary in quality but even at it's best it has only produced winners at selling level subsequently. Last year's race produced a clear debut winner from a poor group. This edition has only a few horses that you would positive about on profile. Mick Channon runs Vilnius who was one of two home breds he ran in the same Bath fillies' maiden in early season. The pair of them started at 25/1 & 40/1 on the day and a strong hint that they were not very good. Vaduz started at 40/1, finishing 8th, and has run in a seller and a claimer off bottom weight since and not been good enough. Vilnius ran a bit better after a slow start and plugged on to a non-threatening fourth in what is proving a moderate race. She was entered for a maiden at Wolverhampton soon after but was a non-runner and is dropped to a seller here. 
    • Not a horse you would be looking to follow but comes out top on profile because this is such a weak race. She didn't really show 5f pace on the stiff Bath course and changes to a downhill 5f on fast going. You could see her getting outpaced and struggling to win at short odds. Transfixed managed to hang onto a solid pace in third on debut and was able to plug on to win as the leading pair faded. She was only a little way clear of Vaduz, carries a 6lb penalty and has little scope to improve. She should not be good enough to resist Vilnius on that Warwick win although she is well drawn and professional so should compete well.
    • After those pair you quickly get into speculation about horses likely to be very limited. Bill Turner has made a slow start to the season and runs the filly Miss Marani on debut. We are now past the point when he would get debut winners and the ones he normally gets are above seller level. His record over the last five years with juveniles FTO in selling races is 0-20 and his runners of that quality usually need a run, or 2 or more, before they start winning. Geoff Harker won this race last year with a newcomer who was remarkably wound up for debut and won by miles. He runs the very cheap Aryacoddinme who has little to recommend on profile but an echo of last year's success. David Barron does get early season debut winners but these are typically with better class horses and he is not a handler who targets seller 'plots'. This is his first debut in a seller since a couple of unsuccessful tries in 2004-5. More For Less is by an Australian sprint sire but out of a stout dam.
    • The possibilites to beat Vilnius & Transfixed on profile come out to be Gertmegacash & Needwood Dancer. The second of those is trained by Peter Grayson who has a poor record with 2yos which is enough of a negative to downgrade the paddock notes for his filly which suggested she could compete at this sort of level. Gertmegacash runs for Tom Dascombe who has already had two debut wins but with better class 2yos along with an uncompetitive run by China Bay at a lower level. This cost an expensive £15,000 in the context of this race but had presumably proved to be one of those light framed & leggy One Cool Cats who do not bulk up nor grow much. He is still owned by the Dascombes and it will be interesting to see whether he gets supported (say at less than 4/1) to suggest the stable think he is ready.
    • In summary a race to avoid betting in with poor runners, one unproven, at the top of the profile and a low level needed from a newcomer to win without being much good.
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    • The VP question posed in Sunday's Preview showed three chestnuts from the maiden at Nottingham on Saturday. The beaten odds-on favourite - Gillburg - is Horse B. Well prepared and fit enough but not the OR80+ type the paddock review was expected given the preview. Smaller and light framed and not superior to the rest of the runners to suggest the SP was any value. Time to look for an each-way alternative. Horse C is the 25/1 winner for Rod Millman - Roi De Vitesse. He had attracted a little support on debut when he never got involved in a moderate race after being bumped at the start. Also in good condition and fit but lighter frames than the favourite and less neatly made. Like the favourite he got outpaced in the fast conditions but was helped by the leading three fading to plus on to lead on the line. The favourite did not look to let himself go on he firm ground and got outpaced before halfway and, unlike the winner, would not stay on later in the race although he didn't look like he actually faded.
    • Horse A is Ginger Ted and the heaviest build in the group although a touch flabby and needing the run. He only cost £1,600 but as the first runner of the season for Richard Guest you would expect him to be up to willing a seller at least. On paddock view that looked a reasonable expectation given his size and strength. He also appeared to move well enough at the walk to think he can shift his weight well enough. Firm ground in fast conditions would be well designed to make him look bad FTO but the sort who would be interesting at Wolverhampton in a weak race or a seller.
    • The race was almost won by the expensive newcomer Secret Millionaire who broke well FTO and set a stiff pace on the preferred rail and was only caught on the line. He was the first sign of a good 2yo run for owner Rob Loyd who is another of those businessmen who has put a lot of money into building a stable complex and installing trainers. This - Picture - shows Mr Loyd leading his horse in with his new trainer Pat Morris on the near side of the horse. Almost a plan that came together given that Mr Loyd was the subject of the TV programme of the same name as the horse this week.
    • John Fretwell is another of those businessmen whose recreation is string of horses and he built the Averham Park stable complex as his base. No trainer there at present so his horses are spread among other trainers. He was at the course again to see his Military Call - Picture- debut behind Roi De Vitesse. Another moderate looker for the money and just an ok 4th fading late having run in mid-track. Not one to follow in what was a suspect race overall.
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    • What to make of Jamie Spencer? He's been employed by the best and has been champion jockey but how good is he? His ride on Thomas Baines on Monday was his latest effort to attract a lot of negative comment but the "How can you question an ex-Champion.." lobby then crank into gear to produce a discussion which does not resolved. The B2yoR view is that when he is on a horse that suits his style and does not have to change the plan he can be fine. But, for a top jockey, he can look like a fish-out-of-water when he needs to vary the plan and make new decisions. Most jockeys makes little impact on the B2yoR consciousness because they are mostly 'adequate' and the horse makes the real difference. Spencer's visible discomfort when asked to ride in a style that he is temperamentally unsuited to makes his poorer rides much more noticeable.
    • We will come back to Thomas Baines but let us look at some of the evidence. Mr Spencer's preferred method is to drop horses towards the rear, last normally, and then try to make ground later in a race. James Willoughby of the 'Racing Post' champions this style on the basis that making ground is 'cheaper' to do later in the race. This is because the last furlong is usually the slowest one in thoroughbred races and most of the runners are stalled or fading. If you have saved your horse's energy at the back you are then making ground just by plugging on. Since changing speed uses up energy inefficiently the ideal would be to run even times per furlong which will make it look like you have stormed through the last one past the faders when you haven't actually changed speed at all. If the horse can produce a bit of kick as well then who knows what can happen? (Well, we could look at examples like Flipando's second to Abbondanza at Lingfield with Spencer aboard and ask how any jockey could have got beaten on a horse capable of that finish).
    • Mark Johnston would say that the penalties for dropping to the back outweigh the positives. The theory that you can sit at the back and choose your own perfect pace and then make ground to beat up on dead horses is all very well but there are problems. Firstly, what if the horses at the front crawl along and do not wear themselves out enough to fade much? Sitting at the back has given them a headstart in a short sprint that only a superior horse will have any chance of getting back. You will struggle to get back to midfield in a tight handicap. You can also get caught out at the back if the leaders make a pace that earns them an easy lead while the hold-up merchants are arguing amongst themselves over last place. Step forward Jamie & co. again for the Bonus & Aeroplane debacle behind Contest & Turn On The Style at Lingfield over the winter. That is before you factor in that you will now have to circle the field or hope for gaps yo make progress and you will often give away advantageous draw positions in dropping back.
    • Spencer & George Baker both get away with censure for poor rides in slower races on the all-weather because this type of mistake is not easy to spot. Anyone can berate a jockey who tears off in front and his horse fades because he has gone too fast. Guilty, next case. Sit at the back in a trundle and manage to get from 13th to 10th before sitting up and people often wont moan. But it is as bad a ride as the tearaway. The jockey has to be able to vary the plan and Spencer seems to find this a problem. He should not sit at the back whatever the pace which means in many races he is already in a hopeless position by halfway but it isn't as obvious without understanding the subtleties.
    • The best example of this with Spencer came Southwell over the winter when he turned up there with a full book of rides and people talking about him going through the card. But, he clearly did not know how to ride the course, or had forgotten since his last visit, and that was a big problem because it doesn't suit his style at all. There is no way to overstate the fact that Southwell favours prominent racers. Skulking around at the back is the best way to get any horse beaten. To take an example, 65% of winners over 7f at the course since December have been in the first three at halfway & 91% in the first 6. The horses in 4-6th through halfway are typically in bigger fields and from a small range of draws which will be higher than the prominent racers. Treating the draw like it doesn't matter and desperate to get a place near the back on his early rides it was embarrassing to watch Spencer trying to make ground at the wrong point of the race. Like watching David Beckham getting taken apart by a group of kids on some rough ground using a coke can as a ball because he doesn't understand how to play in the conditions. He finally got a winner on his last ride and you kind of think that Kevin Ryan told him to kick Esprit De Midas into the lead and get-on-with-it. The result being a classic Southwell frontrunners success but after a lot of earlier floundering. Give B2yoR the more anonymous, a good thing meaning not making obvious mistakes, and tactic varying Chris Catlin any day.
    • A favourite moment from the sitting too far back file would be the look of anguish on his face as Hawk Wing's power packed finish in the Guineas couldn't get him to the second string Rock Of Gibraltar. More fish-out-of-water poor decisions under pressure when he blasted Powerscourt around the field in the Breeder's Cup Turf while still with Aiden O'Brien. The Americans must have wondered why Aiden had put the stable apprentice up.
    • In summary, you could suggest that Mr Spencer tend to use the same style too much and doesn't vary it enough without it's own application. You do not have to hold a horse up in last you can sit midfield or 3rd or whatever the stats tell you is best for the course. When put under pressure to change his tactics he can lose his composure and make errors unbefitting of his status. 
    • After the kerfuffle over his ride on Thomas Baines he said in interview that he had intended to get a good start and lead on the rail because that can be 4-5 lengths advantage at Windsor. He also said he was on the best horse in the race. The horse had been slow away and he had to settle behind and then later in the race he had not been able to find a gap. He then eased the horse late on and received a caution from the steward's for not taking all permissible actions to ensure the best possible placing. 
    • The apologist view would be that the slow start cost the horse the race and he was just unlucky. But, another reading would be that Mr Spencer is not best suited to bullying horses into quick starts. His method is usually to allow flops out of the stalls to assist the hold up style. How many times do you see slow starts and jockeys bustle the horse along to get the ground back and force a prominent position. Did this occur to Spencer on Monday? No, he accepted the slow starts and dropped further back than he needed to. He then waited too long to try to rectify the problem. To say the gap did not come late on when he needed misses the point that a whole range of jockeys would not have been in that position in the first place (more active in starts) and others would have taken earlier action to improve track position before it became an issue. Richard Hughes also likes hold up rides where possible but shows much more variation overall. Also, when required he can get a horse to position anywhere in a race. In this race he got Captain Cool out and across close to the rail. The horse proved not to be good enough but there is less chance he would have allowed the Thomas Baines final furlong problem to have ever arisen. A range of other jockeys would definitely not have been in that position in the first place and, if Thomas Baines were the best horse, he would have won.

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