Things We Learned » Trading time

Trading time

Now that the dust has settled a little, there are a couple of things worth considering about Trading Leather’s win in last Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Firstly, Jim Bolger said that it was his best day ever.  “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  When you have achieved all that Jim Bolger has achieved thus far, that is a fair statement with significant implications.  Better than New Approach’s Epsom Derby, then, a first Epsom Derby and all that went with it.  Better than Dawn Approach’s pulsating reputation-rejuvenating St James’s Palace Stakes.  Better than Finsceal Beo’s 1000 Guineas double and near-treble.

Better than St Jovite’s record-breaking Irish Derby.  Better than Polonia’s Prix de l’Abbaye and Flame Of Tara’s Coronation Stakes back in the 1980s when overseas success for Irish trainers was a novelty.  Better than Alexander Goldrun’s Hong Kong Cup, when the tricolour was hoisted and the Irish National Anthem was played 6000 miles from home on a Sunday morning before most Irish people had gone to first mass.

You can understand why though.  This was a home-grown victory, a Bolger family affair.  All of the aforementioned horses raced in somebody else’s colours.  Jackie Bolger said at last Saturday evening’s post-race press conference that Jim always said that he would train her an Irish Derby winner, and this was it.  Not only that, but the colt was bred by the Bolgers, and he is by a sire who was also bred and owned and trained by them in Teofilo (who also sired Sunday’s Group 1 Prix Jean Prat winner Havana Gold), who is, incidentally, out of a mare, the listed race winner Speirbhean, who was bred and raced by the Bolgers. And just to put the cap on it, he was ridden by the Bolgers’ son-in-law Kevin Manning.

That’s the second point: the ride that Kevin Manning gave the winner.  We had this last week, it is always easy to glow in warm praise of a winning ride, but even if this had turned out to be a losing one, it was still an excellent one.  On Friday and Saturday on the round track at The Curragh, it was generally an advantage to be handy, as it often is, and Manning therefore adopted the perfect early position on Trading Leather, just behind the two pace-setters.  He angled his horse out at the top of the home straight in order to ensure that he wouldn’t get caught on the rail if the pace-setters came back on him, but he didn’t go for home straight away.

He didn’t take a pull, he was careful not to disappoint his horse and lose momentum – more cruise control than standing on the brakes – but he didn’t put his foot back on the accelerator until he had to, until Galileo Rock came up on his outside.

Of course, the horse had to do it from there, Trading Leather had to pick up and see out the 12-furlong trip, deep into previously unchartered waters for him, which he duly did.  Manning obviously had no worries about his stamina, and the rider was correct again.

Final point.  People have knocked the form of the race already.  Trading Leather is the joint worst Irish Derby winner of the last decade, according to RPRs.  The Epsom Derby 1-2 under-performed, goes the argument, and the pace-setter Cap O’Rushes, who could only finish fourth in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot off a mark of 95, was only beaten four lengths into fourth place.

However, this was the third fastest Irish Derby since we started recording these things, behind St Jovite’s 12-length domination in 1992 and only marginally slower than the ubiquitous Galileo.  Faster than Santa Claus, faster than Nijinsky, faster than Grundy, faster than The Minstrel, faster than Troy, faster than Shergar.  Time may tell that the winner has been under-rated.

Avenue worth following

The run that Clancy Avenue put up in finishing fifth in the big valuable Paddy Power Sprint at The Curragh on Saturday may have gone a little under the radar.

A three-year-old among some of the top sprint handicappers around, Tommy Stack’s horse was slowly away from stall 13, probably intentionally.  Billy Lee dropped in behind, moved towards the favoured near side and made ground from the two-furlong pole among traffic all the way to the line, finishing best of all to take fifth place.

This was a hot race, as it always is.  The winner was well-primed and well-backed for the race, the second, fourth and sixth represented strong British handicap form, and the time was really good.

Six of the first seven home were drawn 21 or higher, so Clancy Avenue did well to get as close as he did from stall 13.  He has won over six furlongs, but he was finishing well here in a race run over six furlongs and 63 yards, so he could improve for a step up to seven furlongs.  This was just his 10th race ever, he has lots of potential for progression still, and a 1lb hike is not harsh.

He will be of interest wherever he runs next, but a big seven-furlong handicap, perhaps one of the valuable Ascot seven-furlong handicaps, could be the thing for him.  He has won at Dundalk, so it is in his favour in that context that form on Polytrack often translates to Ascot’s sand-based straight track.

British reserves

The reserve system in Britain came under scrutiny last weekend when the high-profile and well-backed Lieutenant Miller was first reserve for Saturday’s Northumberland Plate, but didn’t get into the race even though there were two non-runners.

The issue is with the timing.  Because of the 48-hour declaration system for flat races in Britain, final runners for Saturday’s racing are available on Thursday morning.  In order for reserves to get into a Saturday race, however, a place has to come available by 9.00am on Friday morning.  If you have declared on Thursday, it is highly unlikely that you will be scratching on Friday, so the incidences of reserves getting to race are understandably rare.

As things turned out, it may not have been a bad thing that Lieutenant Miller didn’t get into Saturday’s race.  He is a fast ground horse and, while the ground at Newcastle did dry out a little on Saturday, the Northumberland Plate was not run on fast ground.  But that is not the point.

The reserve system as it stands in Britain at present seems a bit pointless.  The system in Ireland is more owner- and trainer-friendly, in that, if there is a non-runner on the day of the race, a reserve can take its place.  However, it does have major implications for betting.

Some bookmakers offer morning prices on Irish racing without including reserves and, if a reserve does get into the race, they treat their morning odds as ‘betting without the reserves’.  Others price up every horse in the race, including reserves, and implement a Rule 4 deduction if and when reserves come out.  It isn’t ideal to have two different sets of rules, and not all punters are aware of the differences.  The standardisation of policy on betting with or without reserves in Ireland is long overdue.

Alas Smith

You have to feel for Dave Smith.  It’s not as though he is (or was) a judge in the real sense of the word.  It’s not as though he got an important decision wrong.  It’s not as though he sent an innocent man to the gallows, or allowed a guilty man go free.  He got a pixel wrong, and for that he lost his job.

Smith erred in declaring a dead-heat between Extra Noble and Fire Fighting after the 7.20 at Kempton on 26th June.  Alarm bells rang because he took less than a minute to do so.  That’s not long enough when a dead-heat is the verdict.  It means you didn’t spend long enough trying to split the two horses.

On Monday the result was over-ruled, with the even money favourite Extra Noble declared the winner by a nose.  On Wednesday, Smith was sacked.

Of course, it was important for connections of Extra Noble and Fire Fighting, and for the punters who bet on the race.  But, unsurprisingly, there weren’t that many of them.  You know that because, since the result has been amended, most bookmakers have announced that they will pay out in full on Extra Noble.  You didn’t hear of any bookmaker paying out on Moscow Flyer after the 2005 Kerrygold Champion Chase at Punchestown after he was ‘beaten’ by Rathgar Beau by a nose(band).

Smith had a name as a judge who took very little time to call the result, often doing so without the need to resort to a print when you would be sure that a photo finish would be called.  Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out.  In October 2011 at Windsor he called an incorrect result before seeing the print and amending his verdict.

Unfortunately, like a referee, a racecourse judge has a good game when you don’t notice him.  It’s a thankless job but, if you want recognition, it is the wrong job for you.  Even so, Smith’s dismissal after 13 years of service is harsh.

Googling Mars

Google is useful for many things (you think?), not least for finding out potential running plans for horses.  You never know on what website you might unearth a quote from a trainer telling you in what race or races a horse may or may not be an intended runner.

When you do intend to Google a horse, however, best if the horse’s name does not have many other non-racing meanings.  In that context, some trainers and owners score highly, some trainers and owners not so highly.  Hamdan Al Maktoum’s horses are generally Google-friendly (there aren’t many other things called Mukhadram, for example); Aidan O’Brien’s horses, not so (try Googling ‘Was’).

This week, you had to drill down a fair way to find any reference to racing under Mars Eclipse.

© The Irish Field, 6th July 2013