Racing Preview - 
31st March
Races :-
4 - Southwell 2:00, 5f Maiden (5) Div I
5 - Southwell 2:30, 5f Maiden (5) Div II

 March 31st  Summary :-
  • Two divisions of the maiden at Southwell and a welcome change from some of the small fields the early races at the course have at times produced. The surface is Fibresand and the only one of it's type in the country. Although classed as 'All Weather' along with Polytrack it has different properties and tends to ride deeper and slower. You cannot quicken on the surface in the way you can on turf and to a large extent on Polytrack. You have to grind good performances out by sticking at it and moving efficiently on the surface. The horses that really handle the track can appear to skip over the surface when it has enough moisture in it to make it hold together.
  • Many horses do not handle the surface and perform to a notably lower level. Backing short priced horses who are unproven on the surface is to be avoided. Good runs on Polytrack make them favourite and sloppy 'Form' based thinking will sucker you in. As well as being able to move properly on the surface you need the horse to have the mental toughness to not mind the kickback and to be able to extend their efforts for the whole straight.
  • This set-up means that early pace and getting a good position is very important. Remember from last year's discussion that 2yos making big moves to win on turf is rare over 5f on firmer going. Most of the juvenile winners over 5f here this season will be within 1.5 lengths of the leader at halfway so will be second rank at worst. If the one you have backed is 3 lengths back in 6th after 2 furlongs you are in trouble and need some external help to win. 
  • To a large extent races will fall into one of two types over 5f. The first is where the leaders go a usable pace and put everything else under pressure. The runners will fade in order and the leading set will stall last and sort it out amongst them. In odd races the leaders hook up and go berserk and will often then be fading just inside 2 furlongs out. The outpaced horses then get the chance to trundle through to win. How fast the track is running will assist either type of race. If older horses are running sub-59s then closing is extremely unlikely. Over 60s and the pace collapsing becomes more likely.
  • The surface, when running well, provides a very good benchmark test for 2yos. A usable pace will spread those that handle the surface out in ability order. Lesser athletes fading first in a visible demonstrations of the differences. The need for consisent application of power by the horse throughout the race and getting into a sustainable rhythm can catch jockeys out. Last year's Preview noted how a jockey like Jamie Spencer who likes to cruise about at the rear of the field in the hope of quickening through late in the race looked out of place at the track on a rare visit. 
  • B2yoR would add Hayley Turner to that set because she has on at least 4 occasions made a horlicks of winning on the best horse in the race. Michael Bell has provided exactly the right kit to win and Turner has come cruising up to the leader inside the last 2 furlongs. But instead of letting that run continue she hooks the horse back so as not to lead too early. But, now we are making trouble we do not need. When the horse is asked to quicken to lead late on it is now scrabbling in place of cruising. Two of the four have managed to win with Juicy Pear the latest after some unseemly later race struggling. 
  • The surface makes a good case for the jockey sitting still if the horse is in a good rhythm late in the race and let it run on. In Britain we are brainwashed at an early age to want our jockeys to be, to put it politely, active in a finish. Bouncing around and unbalancing the horse might be another take. "Look at that", shouts the proto-Thommo in the commentary box, "the jockey has lifted the horse over the line". Tosh, of course, and only one of the species involved in racing is doing the lifting and carrying and they are equine. Being 'Strong' in a finish is not about physical strength despite what we are told relentlessly. It is about encouraging the horse to give more if you think it has it. Bouncing around may not be the answer and will certainly add extra energy to the system that the horse will have to cope with. While not in the habit of quoting adverts (impossible to avoid with ATR..) but the phrase 'Ostentatious adolescent display' comes to mind. Horses recognise 'Presence' in humans and they know when the 'Boss' has arrived. It always seemed to B2yoR that this is a big factor with Fallon and mentally dominating the horse. Very little physical strength required.
  • If you really want to test strength in the jockeys then holding up a horse in early race that wants to pull itself to the front is a much better test. A tug-of-war where we could use a meter to record the forces involved. If you want to question female jockey's 'strength' then it's application in the finish of a race is probably the wrong area to be looking. Try recording how many horses are unable to be held up by the jockey when they are running too freely.
  • Just one more thing before we get to the races and that is the Draw. Now, as with most 2yo maiden races, the draw is a much lesser factor than basic ability because there will be a wide range of abilities on show. If the draw made, say, 6lbs difference then the OR80 horse is still going to beat the OR65 one but by 2 lengths less. It will make a defining difference between more closely matched ones but they will be a small elite in most races. Traditionally the Southwell 5f course confers an advantage on those that race in centre track over those further towards the stands' rail. This equates to low draw numbers.
  • The subtlety is that the stalls are pushed in from the outside of the course and British stalls are numbered from 1 on the far right. Which means that for different sized fields 'Stall 1' is one a different starting point. During the worst of the 2009-10 winter this low draw bias disappeared and you presume it was the fact that the course was being worked 24 hours a day to stop it freezing and perhaps some other track management factors. The hints have been that the bias is back in February and March. The March 5f races at the course have produced wins as Draw 2 of 8, 3 of 8, 2 of 7, 1 of 9, 4 of 13, 12 of 12, 8 of 11 & 4 of 13. The one that won from stall 12 veered left from the stalls and wiped out half the field without losing any ground and ran up the centre of the course. The winner from stall 8 beat horses from draws 2-1-3-4-5 and also raced up the centre of the track.
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  • With which let us consider Division I. Having spent a fair bit on Monday's Preview explaining why to avoid the Fahey runners we find Jamesway clear in the Profile. This is partly due to his own background and also to the thin-ness of the others in prospect. Jamesway is Star Rover's full brother and he won on the first day of the season and their dam won the Brocklesby. The trainer has shown this year that a 'natural' can win FTO off his normal preparation and Jamesway clearly represents a plausible 'special case' natural. Worth recalling the difficulties the surface represents and that means looking for a longer price for value (say 5/2+).
  • Difficult to find a realistic alternative and if we went back 5 years this preview would probably be putting up Bobby Smith as a possible. Mick Quinlan used to get regular FTO winners in the first half of the season and it was profitable to follow him. He also used to have an average record with 2yos overall, at least. The last few seasons have seen that change and 2009 was his worst for 10 years. Perhaps an illness problem with the horses. His FTO record in the last 4 years is 1 win from 61 goes and that was with a filly up to winning the Queen Mary beating garbage at Folkestone. Enough in his pedigree to think he could compete to place but the trainer's record is now poor so probably have to pass until he shows he is back in form.
  • Which means you are then expecting a bigger stable like Tim Easterby or Clive Brittain to produce a good natural to overcome their lack of FTO firepower or a surprise from a smaller set-up. If Jamesway is no good or fails on the surface and Bobby Smith is a little one this thing is up for grabs. Tim Easterby used to be a 'Top' 2yo trainer but his last solid year was 2002 and he has a below average record since. He never was a 'FTO Trainer' and if you remove the wins in that Ripon maiden in April he hardly ever has one. He often runs a good 2yo in the small batch of early runners but they often blow out. Hamish McGonagall flapping around at the Brocklesby field being a typical moment.
  • He runs three across the two divisions which means an earlier start for a larger batch than usual. Mappin Time looks the first string and has a reasonable US pedigree and of the three he runs looks the most likely to be the OR74+ possibility. But, unlikely to be ready to win a normal race FTO. This event may not be normal depending upon Jamesway and on profile Mappin Time has a good chance of placing and who knows if the race collapses. Trading is his second runner and looks a cheap and moderate one who would probably be an OR50s type if usable.
  • Clive Brittain clearly has a lot of his 2yos ready for early season but the ones to run so far would not give any encouragement to expect a FTO win. Two of the three have comically blundered about off the back of their fields looking startled and the other at least went along in midfield and faded with the others. Merjaan ought to be a good one as a very expensive rep for new sire Iceman and has an all 'Cheveley Park' pedigree. In a field this thin he should be able to place just on bumbling along at a solid pace. Can he be trusted to do that? Let's hope the Paddock Guy isn't feeling too cold.
  • Phil McEntee also runs three across the two Divisions and two of them have run already. Now, Mr McEntee has been getting early winners with garbage wired tight by the end of March for a long time. He won a similar race to this at the course in 2007 with Baytown Blaze 3 days after running in the first race of the season. Which means that the two second time out runners may well include a solid competitor for the day. Huckle Duckle ran in the owner's second colours on debut with the senior jockey on rather than the apprentice the yard uses. He was wearing blinkers and either he would not go forward in these or he was just too inexperienced to get going. Either way he was adrift early and finished last. He has the same jockey here and the apprentice is on Callipygos. Difficult to see Huckle Duckle improving enough on a more difficult surface. Callipygos is on debut so would need to be better than the pedigree reads, and the failure to find a bidder at the sales suggests. 
  • Wotitis represents Bill Turner so might compete on preparation but has a poor pedigree and was another to fail to find a bidder at the sales. One for the review to check for size but not one to expect a debut winners for the yard. Moving Picture is a cheap one and the first 2yo runner for Ben Haslam having taken over from his father. Not a stable to expect a strong FTO run from so another to pass on.
  • The other two runners are for newer trainers that we are all still learning about. Paul Midgley has managed improved performances in the last two years with increased numbers of 2yos and nearly all cheap buys. In the last two years he has a record of 10 individual winners from 28 juveniles that had cost less than 5,000gns at the sales. Which is a good effort. Debut wins do not seem likely unless he has an OR80+ type and he gets a lot of horses going in April and the usable ones will be mixed in with the absolute rubbish. Be A Good Lady is new sire Goodricke's first runner out of a moderate mare. One to check for ability.
  • Pat Morris took over Rob Lloyd's Cheshire Stables after the previous incumbent got the heave-ho. A solid start in 2009 with a 10% strike rate and the two individual winners finished first (16/1) and second (25/1) on their debuts. A trainer to keep in mind for a surprise FTO win in 2010. Roodee Queen is out of a mare who ran in early season and has sibling that ran ok early for trainer Stan Moore. A believable pedigree to make a minor winner early and for a trainer where ability seems to show up FTO.
  • In summary, Jamesway seems a strong prospect but unlikely to be value. Merjaan ought to be a good one but not easy to believe Brittain will have him ready to win. Will need to be Group class to win FTO but not entirely dismissable that is the case but a pass. Bobby Smith & Wotitis for trainers who do (or used to) get FTO wins do not really appeal. The Easterby pair do not seem likely winners either although Mappin Time may well be OR70+. McEntee should have a strong STO run on the Day but Bold Deceiver in Div II appeals most as that. Be A Good Lady unlikely strong debut and Moving Picture not good enough. Which leaves Roodee Queen as an each-way possible if she look big enough. Plus, see whether Jamesway ever gets to value price.
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  • Division II has a different shape but it lacks the possible Trump Cards of the Jamesway & Merjaan types who just prove too big even if unready. The profile is a surprise because Bold Deceiver comes out at the top if at a low rating level. The notes above explain the McEntee STO approach and the apprentice ridden Bold Deceiver showed enough on debut to believe an improvement would be competitive in a weak race. Got going ok and fourth through halfway and dropping back from 5th to 9th in the final furlong. A just believable set-up attempt to compete here. Part of the point of Profiling is to put the thoughts into a number framework and also to escape from the simplistic thinking of Fahey & Ryan = 'Good' and McEntee & Kelleway = 'No Good' straitjacket. Which just brings you to the same, underpriced, horses as everyone else.
  • Second up is Style And Panache for David Evans and you should be able to see the background there. We haven't seen a strong debut from his runners yet but the three who have started on the all-weather to date have all got involved and been in the first three at some point in the final furlong. This one has a solid pedigree and the sire does get early 5f wins.
  • We are then into the middling looking debuts for the larger stables who have a mixed FTO record. Arctic Feeling looks more like the ordinary Fahey debut at this times of the year and without the possible higher quality of Jamesway. Another sign that Fahey has more early runners than normal but still to decide whether he has them up to normal 'May Prep Level' which brings the FTO wins. Another poor value one and especially if Jamesway goes well.
  • Kevin Ryan has similarities to Fahey in that the debut wins come along in very early season with the higher class ones. The batches of FTO wins come along later on when the better 6f+ types emerge. His two, attempted, runners this year have not looked ready to compete and seemed more like STO set-ups. Daas Rite was a Brocklesby entry which may indicate a solid type but a cheap profile and not compelling for this.
  • Clive Brittain has yet another one with Mishtaaq by a sprinter but out of a stout dam. Nothing to suggest anything better FTO that what we have already seen. Tom Dascombe's two runners to date have both faded in later race and have not looked as ready, nor as good, as his rash of debut wins in 2009. He will come into form at some point but the feeling is that he is still playing his way in at the new base. Rowan Spirit is by Captain Rio which is going to get the Sires-for-Going gurus nodding but does the sire really get early 5f wins? The dam doesn't add any sprinting zip. Another pass.
  • Ought to be easy to dismiss Peppercorn Rent as a weak Easterby type and Soviet Bolt as a cheap one for Midgley who will be a seller, development, project on profile. Cruise Tothelimit is another Pat Morris runner with enough in the pedigree to be dangerous in a weak event. One to check after seeing how his runner in the first Division goes. Trainer Des Donovan was another to make an acceptable start in 2009 to his career and his two winners were his first two runners. His two better types both made the frame on debut at 16/1 and 33/1 so another who might wangle a FTO win with the right set-up. Sailor Boy is a solid price given the pedigree so another for serious review on the day.
  • Alan McCabe has talked up his 2yo string for 2010 and has his first runner with Barista. He moved stable in 2009 and had a bad season with his 2yos with just one winner from 18 runners. The horse was little Fratellino who was his second runner of the year in mid-April and he won on debut. Since he finished the season on an OR95 the FTO win was ability driven rather than preparation you feel. As an early runner for the stable Barista is likely to be a competitive one for the season but need to be higher class to win here. Another one who cost around the £7,000 range with an ok pedigree at this level for the reviewer to rank.
  • In summary, a low top rating on the profile which allows a range of horses to have to prove only a bit better than profile to win so not a strong view. The type of set-up where a well prepared little one would win if one of the ordinary pedigree middle rankers is not superior. Bold Deceiver a reasonable prospect and Style and Panache the other 'Ready Now' one who might win without being the best in the long run. Nothing stands out on profile from the midfield raters and get the reviewer to take extra care on Sailor Boy & Cruise Tothelimit (no making your own jokes up with that pair and let us hope Thommo is not there. He will be laughing at his own 'Act' now.)

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