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.
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
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.
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
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