Horses To Follow » Serious Attitude


You often hear it said in racing that if a certain horse were trained by Aidan O’Brien or Michael Stoute, instead of by a lesser-known licence-holder, it would be half the odds that it is for a certain race. And it is usually difficult to refute the claim. However, there is a reason why horses from the top trainers’ yards are available at relatively constricted odds; there is a premium built into the odds of horses from the top yards that reflects the top trainers’ proven ability. The trick from a betting perspective is to determine whether or not the magnitude of that premium is justified. Often it is. For example, to my cost I went through the majority of the last National Hunt season thinking that the Paul Nicholls horses were generally too short.

The converse is also true, however. There is often a certain laid-back attitude among bookmakers when it comes to pricing up a representative from a relatively unfashionable yard for a big race after it has won a race which points inexorably to that big race. This may be down to the public, the weight of money that would inevitably come for an O’Brien or a Stoute horse for a Classic after it has won a trial, versus the comparative public indifference towards a winner from more humble surrounds. Or it may be down to past trainer performance. Certainly, past performance has to play a role in the 2000 Guineas, a race in which 10 of the last 13 winners have come from one of three yards (Stoute, O’Brien or Bin Suroor), but it should play a lesser role in the ante post market for the 1000 Guineas, where the winners of the last 10 renewals have been supplied by 10 different yards.

Step forward Serious Attitude. Her performance in winning the Cheveley Park Stakes last Friday was high class, and was another step forward from a hugely progressive filly. After tracking the leaders on the far side, she picked up nicely when Jimmy Fortune asked her to quicken, and she was always holding the challenge of Aspen Darling and the late surge of Pursuit Of Glory on the near side.

The form of the race is solid. The runner-up may have been a 12/1 shot, but she came into the race on a rating of 107 having run out an impressive winner of a Group 3 race at Ayr last month, albeit on soft ground, and the third filly, Pursuit Of Glory, is a wholly likeable filly from the in-form David Wachman yard who had dotted up on her previous run at Dundalk.

The worry about Serious Attitude going into the race concerned her ability to handle such a test of speed as the Cheveley Park presented on faster ground than she had ever encountered. While both of her wins before last Friday were gained over the Cheveley Park distance of six furlongs, she seemed to appreciate being able to get her toe in at least a little on both occasions. However, both worries were dispelled in one searing surge of pace.

I was amazed that some bookmakers quoted odds of 20/1 about Serious Attitude for next year’s 1000 Guineas after this performance. She was acquired for just 7,500gns, so was hardly likely to have the fillies’ Classic at the top of her agenda from the beginning, but you have to adjust your outlook when you are the recipient of new information, and this performance placed Serious Attitude very firmly in the Classic picture.

On breeding, not only has she every chance of getting a mile, but she will probably improve for the step up in trip. By stamina influence Mtoto, she is out of the Cape Cross mare Zameyla, who won twice over a mile on soft ground. Her dam is related to sprinters, so it is not absolutely certain that Serious Attitude will improve for stepping up in distance, but Zameyla is also a half-sister to Army Of Angels, a listed race winner over a mile, so the balance of probability suggests that she will.

The other reason why bookmakers and punters may have been fairly non-plussed about this performance is the fact that she is trained by Rae Guest. But Guest is more than capable as a racehorse trainer, particularly as a trainer of fillies. He has had 20 winners from just 107 runners this season, representing a strike rate of 19%, which is better than or equal to every UK-based trainer in the top 10 in the trainers’ championship except Michael Jarvis. On top of that, quite remarkably, Guest’s last 17 winners have been fillies. In the past, he has adroitly handled top class fillies like My Emma, winner of the Prix Vermeille and the Yorkshire Oaks, Aldbourne, who finished second in the EP Taylor Stakes, and multiple Group race winner Millyant. In short, when he comes across a high class filly, Guest knows how to handle her.

The Cheveley Park, a good pointer to the following season’s top three-year-old fillies’ races in year’s gone by, is enjoying a resurgence of late with the 2006 winner, Indian Ink, going on to win the Coronation Stakes in 2007, and last year’s winner, Natagora, of course winning this year’s 1000 Guineas. You can still get 16/1 about Serious Attitude following in Natagora’s hoofprints with Totesport and VC Bet, and that looks far too big.

© The Irish Field, 8th October, 2008