Things We Learned » Mr Champions’ Day

Mr Champions’ Day

We know that Dermot Weld is Mr Galway Festival, the man to follow during those seven days that take you from July to August every year, even if the market has caught up with that trend by now.  But he is fast becoming Mr British Champions’ Day too.

Before last Saturday, Weld had trained more winners in the short history of British Champions’ Day than any other trainer.  It is not easy to get even one winner on the day.  John Gosden, Charlie Hills and Ralph Beckett, three of the top trainers in Britain, each recorded just his first British Champions’ Day winner on Saturday.

In 2012, Weld sent out Rite Of Passage to win the Long Distance Cup and Sapphire to win the Fillies & Mares Stakes, then last year he sent out Forgotten Rules to win the same Long Distance Cup.

The Moyglare Stud’s gelding came up short in the curtain-raiser on Saturday, not least because of the interference that he suffered in the home straight, but Weld’s only other runner on the day, Fascinating Rock, was an impressive winner of the Champion Stakes itself.

That took Weld’s tally in the five-year history of British Champions’ Day to four wins, twice as many as any other trainer.  Hopefully the market won’t catch up for another year or two.

Different times

For some reason, the decision was made not to have sectional times on British Champions’ Day at Ascot.  As decisions go, on the day that is supposed to be one of the world’s windows into British racing, it was up there with the decision to cut the blue wire.  A cost-cutting measure, they said.

Even without the sectionals, you could see that the overall time that Muhaarar clocked in winning the Sprint was impressive (just 0.12 secs/furlong slower than standard), the fastest comparative time of the day, as was the time that Fascinating Rock clocked in winning the Champion Stakes (0.13secs/furlong slower than standard).

However, the most interesting facet of the overall times was that Musaddas went over a second faster in winning the Balmoral Handicap than Solow did in winning the QE2 over the same course and distance.

It wasn’t easy to take splits from the recordings, given that they raced up the centre of the track over a straight mile in both races.  (You could have used the guy in the high-viz jacket on the far side as a marker, but he moved before the last race.)  That said, it looks like the leader in the QE2 (Elm Park) got to the five-furlong pole in around 40.3secs, that he reached the single grey rail on the near side just after the intersection of the courses, about two and a half furlongs out, in 72.7secs, and that the winner got to the winning line in 101.5secs.

Musaddas led just about all the way in the Balmoral Handicap.  He reached the five-furlong pole in 39.6secs, he got to the grey rail in 71.8secs, and the got to the winning line in 100.4secs.

Initial reaction after the QE2 was that they went too fast up front too early, given that Belardo and Gabrial, 33/1 and 66/1 shots respectively, raced in rear from early and ran on to finish second and third behind Solow.  Initial conclusion was that it was the fact that they went too fast too early that hurt the final time.

However, on the evidence of this rough timepiece, it looks like Musaddas gained about a second on the QE2 field between the start and the two-furlong pole, and that he at least maintained that advantage all the way to the line.  It may simply be that Musaddas is very good when things drop his way.

Triple Crown betting

Interesting the disparity between bookmakers on whether or not the £1 million bonus for landing chasing’s new Triple Crown will be won.  Bet365 go as low as 8/1, Paddy Power go as high as 16/1.

Initial impression may have been that the 16/1 was closer to the correct odds than the 8/1, and that, actually, 16/1 wasn’t big enough.  It is a big ask, for one horse to win the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  16/1 the treble looks like poor value.

But it actually isn’t a treble at all.  It’s just a double, a King George/Gold Cup double on whatever horse wins the Betfair Chase.  It will just be helpful if one of the correct horses wins the Betfair Chase.

Say Don Cossack wins the Betfair Chase.  You think then, given that he has won the Betfair Chase, that 16/1 about him winning the King George (which would surely be his target in that instance) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup would be value?

Say Vautour is ready on time – and Willie Mullins has pulled bigger rabbits out of smaller hats before – and wins the Betfair Chase.  You think then that 16/1 about him winning the next two is value?  Given that, as things stand, he is no better than 11/4 for the King George and no better than 5/1 for the Gold Cup?

The bet is still live regardless of what happens in the first leg.  You just have to hope that Snoopy Loopy doesn’t win the Betfair Chase again.

De Sousa champion

The British jockeys’ championship may have lost a little of its lustre with Ryan Moore’s mid-season injury and Richard Hughes’ defection to the training ranks, but that wasn’t Silvestre de Sousa’s fault.

There are many reasons why de Sousa is a worthy champion.  For starters, there was the manner in which he picked himself up by his bootlaces at the start of the season when things did not appear to be that promising for him in the post-Godolphin era.  (Ring a bell?)

There was also the fact that he had the title in the bag from a long way out, and that he rode 36 more winners than anyone else.  That’s 37.5% more winners than his closest pursuer rode.

On top of that, however, is the fact that his rides showed a level-stakes profit of £43.76 for the season.  That is the magnitude by which he out-performed market expectations based on SP, and that is massive.  The vast majority of riders show a significant level-stakes loss.  Only one other rider in the top 20 in the championship this season, George Baker, showed a level-stakes profit.

Interestingly, if you work out each rider’s expected total number of winners for the season based on a function of the number of rides they had and the SPs of their winners – assuming that SP is an accurate indicator of the probability of each horse winning – then Luke Morris would have topped the list and Graham Lee would have finished second.  De Sousa would have finished third, and the trio would have been clear.  Perhaps, with Morris priced up at 40/1 for next year’s championship and Lee available at 33/1, that is worth bearing in mind.

There are arguments for and against the shortened jockeys’ championship, but, given that it has been shortened, the rationale behind having the trainers’ championship end later in the season at Doncaster is very difficult to find.

Champions’ Day changes

The one thing you want to change about British Champions’ Day is the one thing you really can’t change: its place on the calendar.  You couldn’t have had a drier preamble to the day, and still it was good to soft, soft in places on the round course.  Any wetter and it could have been very soft.  Those covers from Poland can’t arrive quickly enough.

The other thing that it is missing is a top two-year-olds’ race.  Of course, that was part of the transfer-from-Newmarket deal, the Champion Stakes in exchange for the two-year-old races.  However, now that Future Champions’ Weekend is bedding down, and seeing as it includes the Cesarewitch (Future Champion Hurdlers’ Weekend?), perhaps the Royal Lodge Stakes could return to its spiritual home.

© The Irish Field, 24th October 2015