Things We Learned » Dust has settled

Dust has settled

Now that the dust has settled on another edition of the Galway Races, there is time to take stock. 

Willie Mullins dominated the week, not just the first four days.  Twelve winners from 59 runners, including five of the seven feature races, a strike rate of over 20% and a level stakes profit of €27.19.  They are serious figures for Galway week.

The 12 winners were ridden by nine different riders.  Patrick Mullins rode three of them and Ruby Walsh rode two of them, and every other Mullins winning rider rode one each: Aubrey McMahon, Paul Townend, Danny Mullins, David Mullins, Billy Lee, Colin Keane and Katie O’Farrell. 

Six of the 12 winners were over jumps, five were on the flat, two in qualified riders’ races, and just one was in a bumper.  The last bumper.  Dorrells Pierji in the last race on the last day. 

It was some week for Mark Enright, who wasn’t finished for the week by the time we went to press last Friday.  After his magical Wednesday, when he won the Plate on 33/1 shot Clarcam and won the mares’ handicap hurdle on his only other ride on the day, another 33/1 shot in Rovetta, – Jessica Harrington’s filly won again on Sunday – the Limerick man went back on Sunday and won the handicap chase on Show And Go, the least-well-fancied of Henry de Bromhead’s three in the race.  That was three winners for Enright for the week, and it was enough to see him crowned leading National Hunt rider at Galway 2018. 

And it was another Limerick man, Billy Lee, who was crowned leading flat rider for the week.  Lee rode a double on Thursday, Honor Oak for Tom Hogan and Camlann for Shark Hanlon, and he landed the Guinness Handicap on Friday on Nessun Dorma for Willie Mullins.  He stacked them up a little on the run down the hill and he kicked off the home turn, with enough in hand to get home by a neck.

Like Enright, Lee also had three winners for the week.  Things coming to Limerick men in threes.  That’s two titles in the bag, and you just never know from where a third title could be coming to a Limerick man this month.  Or a whole bunch of Limerick men.

Hurling for cancer research

Davy Russell rode three winners at Galway too, and it was great to hear on Wednesday that the leg injury that the reigning champion jockey sustained from his fall from Crack Of Thunder at Roscommon on Tuesday was not as bad as was first feared.  Indeed, the rider’s intention is to be back riding at Downpatrick tomorrow.

That’s good news all round, not least for the annual Hurling for Cancer Research challenge in St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge on Tuesday evening, when Davy Russell’s Best will take on Jim Bolger’s Stars.  The full-back line will be a stronger line with Davy Russell himself in it. 

It’s a star-studded line-up though, with Brian Cody down as manager of Davy Russell’s Best and Liam Griffin set to direct operations for Jim Bolger’s Stars.  There are still tickets available, it’s a fun evening, and the event has raised over €700,000 for the funding of cancer research since its inauguration in 2012. 

Tin Man worth noting 

James Garfield made a valiant attempt to win the Group 1 Larc Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville on Sunday.

Fast away on the far side from stall 20 of 20, George Scott’s horse led a small group of three over there, and he looked a likely winner when Frankie Dettori kicked him two lengths clear on the run to the furlong pole.  He was just run down close home by last year’s Prix Marcel Boussac runner-up Polydream, but it was a gallant effort by the runner-up.

It was a strange race to watch.  It was obvious from early that the small group of three on the far side held a significant advantage over the other 17 runners through the early stages of the race.  Seven hundred metres out, all three far-side runners were in front of Larchmont Lad, who led the much larger near-side group, and James Garfield was about three lengths clear of him. 

It is not automatically an advantage to be in the group that is leading.  Indeed, it is a disadvantage if that group is going too fast.  But it did appear that there was an advantage to be gained from racing towards the far side.  The horses who raced close to the stands rail appeared to struggle.  Pause the recording 300 metres out, and the horses are in almost perfect diagonal formation, a line across the track, with the far side horses in front and the near-side horses behind.

Consequently, the two horses to take out of the race are Brando and The Tin Man.  Brando travelled well for a long way on the near side from stall two before fading.  The Tin Man raced in rear from stall three and towards the stands rail, before Tom Queally switched him towards the centre of the track, from where he finished off his race well to take third place.  He was the only horse drawn lower than 11 to finish in the first seven.

This was just The Tin Man’s third race of the season, his first since he finished a close-up fourth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.  He will be of interest now in the Haydock Sprint Cup, a race in which he finished second in 2016 and third last year, or in the British Champion Sprint Stakes, a race that he won in 2016.  

Flat ratings and hurdles ratings

Should have backed Lil Rockerfeller in the Matchbook Betting Podcast Handicap at Goodwood, of course.  Easy in hindsight.  He was racing off a flat rating that was 71lb lower than his hurdles rating.  If you take it that a National Hunt rating should be close enough to a flat rating plus 40 or 45, then Neil King’s horse was 25lb or 30lb well-in compared to his hurdles rating. 

Should have backed him at 11/4, or at his morning odds of 7/2.  Fair play to you if you did.

But there was a case to be made against Lil Rockerfeller.  On the previous occasion on which he ran on the flat, in May 2015, he was beaten off a mark of 76.  Back then, he was rated 143 over hurdles.  That’s 67lb higher than the flat mark off which he was beaten. 

He is now rated 153 over hurdles, so in theory he is 10lb better over hurdles now than he was then.  And he was racing off a flat mark of 82 at Goodwood.  So 6lb higher than the flat mark off which he was beaten the last time he ran on the flat.  So, as above, he was 71lb lower than his hurdles mark. 

But he was beaten off a mark that was 67lb lower the last time he tried.  You could have argued that he might not have had that much in hand.  And he was short.

Of more relevance is the fact that there is often no correlation between ability on the flat and ability over hurdles.  That is why there is no set formula for calculating one from the other.  They are different disciplines.  It would be like giving Johnny Sexton a hurley.

And you could have argued that Lil Rockerfeller was the type of horse – a headgear-wearing 32-times raced seven-year-old who usually needs a ride – who might need a flight of hurdles or two to keep him interested. 

There are myriad examples of horses who are significantly better under one code than they are under the other.  Case in point: Max Dynamite.  Willie Mullins’ horse has won a Lonsdale Cup and he has finished placed in two Melbourne Cups, beaten a half a length in one of them.  He is rated 110 on the flat.  So, in theory, using the 40lb or 45lb theorem, he should have between 12lb and 17lb in hand when he races over hurdles.  And yet, he is zero for six in handicap hurdles.  Indeed, he has won just one of his 11 races over obstacles, a maiden hurdle at Thurles in November 2014.

But Lil Rockerferller won.  There is nothing like the result of a race to ruin a good argument.

Thought for the week

Speaking of Rockerfellers, John D Rockefeller (no need for the middle R) was a great man for the odd inspirational quote.  Here are three of his most profound: 

1.     A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.

2.     Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

3.     If a handicap rating on the flat looks too good to be true, there is a fair chance that it is.


© The Irish Field, 11th August 2018