Things We Learned » Draw back

Draw back

It is becoming fashionable to say, don’t mind about the draw, just concentrate on finding the fastest horse. That view has validity when you don’t know what effect the draw is going to have, even if you do know that it is probably going to have an effect, if you follow. A known unknown, in Rumsfeld speak.

However, if the draw is a known known, then it is another factor to take into account in your race assessment – same as current form and trainer form and ground and distance and potential for progression and all the other factors, then. Take this afternoon’s Betfred Cambridgeshire at Newmarket. Strangely, it appears that it is an advantage to be drawn in the middle. Last year’s winner, Credit Swap, came from what is now stall three, but the three horses that followed him home emerged from stalls 20, 15 and 22 respectively from a field of 35.

In 2009, three of the first five home came from the middle third of the draw, in 2008 three of the first six, including the winner, came from the middle third, in 2007, three of the first five came from the middle third, in 2006, the winner and the third came from the middle third. In the last 10 years, three winners and 12 placed horses have come from the middle section, as against three winners and 12 placed horses from what are now the lowest 10 stalls and just one winner and 12 placed horses from what are now the highest 10 stalls. It is beginning to look a little like a known known.

Shark attack

It has been some week for John ‘Shark’ Hanlon. Just an hour and a half after Alfa Beat had provided him with the biggest win of his career (he has only been training for four years – who would have thunk?) in the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel last week, he sent out the ‘seriously well-fancied’ Murchu to dance home in the bumper.

Not happy to take a tug and spend his time dreaming about Alfa Beat’s Grand National date next April, the trainer went to Ballinrobe on Monday and won the maiden hurdle with Streets Of Newyork and the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase with Ardglen, who won again at Listowel yesterday, then he went to Perth on Wednesday and won the first two races with Mart Lane and One For Joules.

With Hidden Cyclone and Luska Lad warming up on the sideline, Hanlon could be heading for even deeper waters.

Racing’s loss

You could hardly have met two characters who were more diametrically opposed than those of Ginger McCain and Michael Jarvis but, as racing ambassadors, both men were united in their value. The loss of both in the space of two days has created a vacuum in the world of racing that will probably be impossible to fill.

McCain was the quick-witted irreverent scouse, the taxi driver from Southport who trained the most famous racehorse in the world on a beach and who struck the fear of God in the interviewer, but who was more entertaining than Michael McIntyre when the cameras rolled; Jarvis was the softly-spoken, deeply-thinking statesman, whose ability to train racehorses was only truly realised in the autumn of his career, and about whom and from whom you would never hear a cross word. Ar dheis Dé go raibh siad.

Calendar watch

If you think that the British flat racing calendar is a little all over the place over the next few weeks, that’s because it is. The changes have been rung, a bulldozer has been driven through a racing programme that worked, against the wishes of a significant number of clear-thinking racing professionals, in order to accommodate the new Champions Day at Ascot, with its fanfare and its prize money, that is apparently destined to spawn a whole new generation of racegoers.

It all started yesterday, with the running of the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, not at Ascot, and continues today with the Cheveley Park Stakes and the Royal Lodge Stakes (also at Newmarket) on Cambridgeshire day. And yes, that’s right, the Fillies’ Mile did take place a day before the Cheveley Park Stakes. I suppose, in theory, a filly could run in both.

But this isn’t the much-heralded ‘Future Champions’ Day’. That’s in two weeks’ time, back at Newmarket, when we will have the Middle Park Stakes, the Dewhurst (again, in theory, a hardy colt could run in both) and the Rockfel Stakes, although how the Cesarewitch fits into a Future Champions’ Day, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a Future Champion Hurdlers’ day.

Then on 15th October, we have QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot, complete with the Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Diadem Stakes and the Pride Stakes and the Jockey Club Cup, and the Queen in attendance. Hope the racegoers flood in.

Job lot

Three of the top jobs in the country are going to be vacant in the next few months: Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, Senior Steward of the Turf Club, President of Ireland. In these chastened times, surely it would be prudent to appoint one person to fill all three roles.

© The Irish Field, 24th September 2011