Things We Learned » Age impact

Age impact

It makes sense that the hunt for today’s William Hill Lincoln winner should start with the four-year-olds. They are last year’s three-year-olds (you think?), they are the horses who have had, in theory, the greatest potential for progression during the winter, and the ones who consequently have the greatest potential to have something in hand of the rating that the handicapper was able to give them when they stopped racing last season.

Sure enough, five of the last 10 and six of the last 11 winners of the race were four.

A four-year-old hasn’t won the race in the last three years, but a total of just 10 four-year-olds competed in those three years, and one of them, Fury, was beaten just a length into third place in 2012. The four-year-olds have collectively achieved those five wins from 63 runners (almost an 8% strike rate) in the last 10 years. More five-year-olds have taken part, yet there have been just two five-year-old winners (2.9%), while six-year-olds have fared better, but not as well as four-year-olds in terms of strike rate, with three winners from 49 runners (6.1%).

The four-year-olds in today’s race are One More Word, Gabrial’s Kaka, Unsinkable, Consign and Off Art.

Weld wocking

The last two and a half weeks have been good if you are Dermot Weld. First, you send out Silver Concorde to win the Cheltenham Bumper, with your other horse Vigil running a cracker to finish fifth in the race on ground that was almost certainly faster than ideal.

Then you win the two feature races on the first day of the flat season at The Curragh. You win the Group 3 Park Express Stakes with the three-year-old filly Vote Often, who battles on really well to see off an older rival in Odeliz, and you win the Irish Lincoln with the teak-tough Stuccodor.

The Rosewell House trainer is known for many things, but he is not usually known to be fast out of the traps at the start of the season. His record in March for the last four seasons reads one winner (from 16 runners), one winner (from 13 runners), two winners (from 22 runners) and no winners (from 11 runners). He is two for eight in March already this season, and he appears to have a strong team lined up for Leopardstown tomorrow, headed up by the exciting Aga Khan filly Balansiya in the 1000 Guineas Trial. There may be value in following the Rosewell House horses for at least a little while now. (And it’s not even Galway.)

Poor draw

It is not surprising that Ruler Of The World was eased in the market for this evening’s Dubai World Cup after he was drawn in stall 12 of 16.

You can point to the fact that Animal Kingdom won the race from that very stall last year, but history tells us that it is going to be difficult for the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt from out there. In the four renewals of the race since the opening of Meydan, only Animal Kingdom and one other horse – Capponi, second in 2012 – managed to finish in the first four from a double-figure draw. Admittedly, stall numbers have never gone beyond 14 in the race at Meydan, but two first-four finishers (12.5% of the total number of top-four finishers) from 32.3% of the runners is a poor return for the outside-drawn horses.

A cursory glance tells us that the inside may not be the best berth either, with no winner of the race in the last four years emerging from any of the four inside stalls. However, stalls 1-4 have supplied six top-four finishers (37.5%) from 30% of the runners, so an inside draw should not be a major disadvantage.

That said, it is a small sample size, but a middle draw is probably ideal, with stalls 5-9 supplying three of the four winners at Meydan and five of the eight horses who finished first or second. Those stalls have also provided eight top-four finishers (50%) from just 37.7% of the runners.

QIPCO just champion

The new QIPCO sponsorship of the Irish Champion Stakes is a win-win all round. For Irish racing, the Irish Champion Stakes and Irish Champions’ Weekend, the benefits are obvious, but you can see the benefits to QIPCO as well.

The cash injection is obviously a major benefit. The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes will be worth €1 million this year, a 33% increase on last year’s prize fund of €750,000, and that is significant. Just as importantly, however, in this, the inaugural year of Irish Champions’ Weekend, the flagship event has acquired a top class brand as banner sponsor.

For QIPCO, it creates an association with Irish flat racing’s flagship all-aged race, a race that boasts a roll of honour which includes Sadler’s Wells, Pilsudski, Swain, Daylami, Dylan Thomas, New Approach and Sea The Stars, and which gave us Galileo v Fantastic Light. It is the perfect association in Ireland for QIPCO, sponsors of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and of British Champions’ Day at Ascot, and it merely serves to enhance the QIPCO brand even further.

Oaksey Chase

It was nice to read on Wednesday that the new two-mile-six-furlong chase at the British National Hunt season’s finale at Sandown will be named the Oaksey Chase in memory of the late John Oaksey. However, it is a real shame that the racecourse and sponsors Bet365 did not go the whole way and name the three-mile-five-and-a-half furlong handicap chase – the old Whitbread Gold Cup – after the late noble lord instead.

Lady Oaksey welcomed the news on Wednesday, stating that Sandown was John’s favourite racecourse, but the Whitbread was surely his favourite race. Not only did he win the second ever renewal of the race in 1958 on Taxidermist, but some of his post-race analyses of the race – most notably the Queen Mother’s horse Special Cargo’s win from Lettoch and Diamond Edge and Plundering in 1984 – as part of the ITV7 are now etched in racing folklore.

As well as honouring the memory of a racing legend, such a move would have given the Bet365 Gold Cup a strong identity, which has been sadly lacking since Whitbread ended their sponsorship in 2001. Surely that would have been a positive for the racecourse and for the sponsor, as well as for National Hunt racing as a whole.

© The Irish Field, 29th March 2014