Things We Learned » Tanaza gains deserved win

Tanaza gains deserved win

It was good to see Tanaza gain a deserved win as a three-year-old at Tipperary on Thursday evening.  It was good to see the Dermot Weld-trained filly land the Group 3 Coolmore Stud Fairy Bridge Stakes.

Her task was rendered less arduous that it might have been when Now Or Never defected because of the ground, but she still had to beat a tough and talented rival in Creggs Pipes, winner of her previous four races, including a listed race at Killarney and the big Colm Quinn BMW handicap at Galway.

The Aga Khan’s filly won well though.  She matched strides with Creggs Pipes for the first 150 yards or so, but was happy to drop into second place behind Andy Slattery’s filly after they had gone a furlong.  She moved up nicely under Pat Smullen on the outside of the leader on the run to the two-furlong pole, she moved easily into the lead on the run to the furlong pole, and she found lots for pressure, picking up well and coming clear of the favourite, who was in turn well clear of their two rivals.

And the time was good, the fastest comparative time by far on the round course on the evening, and more than two seconds faster than the fastest of the other three races run over the extended seven furlongs.

Tanaza was a top juvenile last season.  She won her first two races, her maiden, in which she beat Minding, and the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes, in which she beat Alice Springs.  On her third and final run last season, she finished fourth in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, behind Minding, Ballydoyle and Alice Springs, this year’s 1000 Guineas 1-2-3, and all three subsequent Group 1 winners. 

She had been disappointing on the face of it on each of her first three runs this term, but she ran better in the Coronation Stakes than the bare form of her run suggests, and Thursday’s run confirmed that she remains a highly talented filly.  The soft ground would not have been ideal for her either, but she got through it well.  She should be able to step forward from this now, and she could do even better when she can get back on better ground.

Jockeys’ championship hotting up

It looked like the British flat jockeys’ championship was over as a contest – barring something unforeseen – when Ryan Moore took his break after Goodwood and Silvestre de Sousa soared clear.

But now, with just under two months to run, it has got interesting.

De Sousa’s upward trajectory has flattened while Jim Crowley has emerged as a genuine contender, with the wind of agent Tony Hind in his sails.  Also, Ryan Moore returned at Newmarket yesterday.

At the time of writing, de Sousa has ridden just four more winners than Jim Crowley has ridden this season, and Crowley has ridden eight more than Luke Morris, with James Doyle, Oisin Murphy and Adam Kirby close up behind Morris., and Ryan Moore 18 winners behind de Sousa after his break.

The bookmakers still have de Sousa as a long odds-on shot, no better than 2/5, while they have Crowley in as their 5/2 second favourite, with the money for Ryan Moore since reports of his imminent return forcing him into as short as 10/1 in places, but still as big as 25/1 in places.  Also, Luke Morris is still a 25/1 shot.  Both prices may be too big.

Morris has had more rides than any other rider this season, and that level of industriousness is likely to continue.  Furthermore, his P&L figures tell you that the average odds of the winners that he has ridden is 5.65, just slightly higher than the average odds for de Sousa’s winners of 5.11, and similar to Jim Crowley’s 5.57.

Extrapolate to the end of the season, assume that the numbers of rides that all riders have between now and the end of the season are in proportion to the number of rides that they have had since the start.  Assume also that the numbers of winners that they ride are a function of the number of horses they ride and the odds of their winners.  These are admittedly significant assumptions, and there is an inherent bias in winners’ odds, but they do give us broad parameters and relativity.  On this basis, de Sousa has an expected value of 113 winners. Crowley has an expected value of 103 winners, and Morris has an expected value of 101. 

Also, interestingly, if Ryan Moore maintained the average SP of 3.31 about his winners, he would have to have 186 rides between now and the end of the season to give him an expected value of 113.  He may not ride 186 horses in Britain, we know that global quality is more important to him than quantity at home, but he might not be too far away from that total. 

So de Sousa is still the most likely winner, but perhaps not as likely as odds of 2/5 suggest.  Also, the odds at which you can back both Ryan Moore and Luke Morris respectively are probably bigger than they should be.

In Ireland, Pat Smullen has ridden 89 winners, 36 more than second-placed Colin Keane, and 39 more than third-placed Kevin Manning.  No betting there then. 

No three-year-olds is not necessarily a bad thing

Once again, last Saturday’s Ebor was run without a three-year-old and, once again, the calls came for positions in these big handicaps to be allocated based on handicap ratings, not on weight carried.

Of course, you can see the point.  The 12lb weight allowance that three-year-olds get from their elders over a mile and six furlongs in August means that only a really highly-rated three-year-old will get into the Ebor.  On Saturday, for example, the lowest-rated horse was the 98-rated Havana Beat, who only got in as a reserve when Ivan Grozny was ruled out.  So you would have needed a three-year-old who was rated 110.

But there is something right about an older-horses’ handicap, devoid of three-year-olds.  The Aidan O’Brien-trained Mediterranean is the last three-year-old to win the Ebor and, when he won it in 2001, not only was he leading home a three-year-olds’ 1-2 in the race (from just three runners), but he was also taking the Classic generation’s record in the race to 11 wins in 20 years.

Three-year-olds have their own programme of handicaps.  They even have their own ‘Ebor’ during Ebor week in the Melrose Handicap.  So shouldn’t the older horses have their own race?  You would have a different problem if the Ebor was being dominated by unexposed three-year-old who were well ahead of the handicapper.  With the system as it is, it encourages owners to keep these older horses in training, and that is as it should be.

Irish on top again

A couple of other things about Saturday’s Ebor.  When ante post favourite Ivan Grozny pulled out lame on Thursday morning and had to be scratched, it looked like the Irish challenge for the race had been significantly weakened.  It was left to Tony Martin to go it alone, which he duly did, not only winning the race with Heartbreak City, but also sending out Quick Jack to finish third.  Flat or jumps, it remains the case that there are not many trainers who can have a horse as well primed for these big handicaps as Tony Martin can.

It was a fourth Irish win in the race in last eight years, Martin following Willie Mullins (Sesenta, 2009), Gordon Elliott (Dirar, 2010) and Johnny Murtagh (Mutual Regard, 2014), which is a serious return, given that the afore-mentioned Mediterranean was the only Irish winner for decades before.

It is also interesting that the first three horses home were all ridden by claiming apprentices: Adam McNamara, Clifford Lee and Oisin Orr, all talented apprentices on the way up, all value for their respective claims.

This may be related to the tightness of the handicap and the dearth of three-year-olds, to the fact that the Ebor is such a tight handicap these days – just 11lb separated the top weight and the bottom weight – made up of largely exposed older horses, that the 5lb or 7lb that a good apprentice can claim can make a significant difference.

Or it could be down to the fact that the trainers who have their horses primed for the race, who have had the Ebor as their target for a while, have gone out of their way to book a good claiming apprentice.  It could be a self-fulfilling notion.

Tom O’Ryan

I worked with Tom O’Ryan just once, but I felt that I knew him well.  Such was his warmth, his attentiveness, his easy familiar way.  Reading the pages of the Racing Post this week, the number of lives that he touched and the depth of feeling that he engendered was evident.  He will be missed lots and lots.


© The Irish Field, 27th August 2016