Catching up with David Probert: 30th January 2019

In the second of jockey David Probert’s geegeez blogs, he highlights some interesting horses to follow, talks us through the intricacies of Lingfield’s all weather track, and offers some views on the whip debate.

Update on the last fortnight

It’s been a really good start to the year for me, with 14 winners on the board in January already. My agent, Neil Allan, is doing a fantastic job and I’m riding for a lot of trainers and owners just now, which is great. The next few weeks might be a bit slower on the entries front, what with the sales being on, so we’ll just have to see how we go. Considering I didn’t start back in the UK until March last year, every winner I can get between now and then is a bonus.

I’ve ridden nine winners since we spoke a fortnight ago, and a few of them might be quite handy types to follow.

Target Zone of David Elsworth’s won nicely at Kempton over a mile and is one to keep on side. He was still very green at Lingfield the time before, but that race has worked out well with the winner, fourth and sixth all winning next time as well as this lad. He carried his head a little bit high but he’s still growing and he was pretty straightforward at Kempton. He looks an interesting one for the season.

Mr Elsworth is going very well at the moment, and another of his I managed to win on was Songkran for the King Power team. He said before the race that Songkran might just need the run, and we were drawn wide as well which didn’t help. I was able to sit around halfway back but didn’t have the best of runs through the field either. In spite of getting stopped two or three times, he still managed to put the race to bed quite nicely. I’m not sure what he beat but he’s got a change of gear and he won decisively. He’ll definitely come forward for that run and he should be another one to look forward to in the spring.

Rectory Road also ran in that hot Lingfield novice, finishing sixth when Target Zone was second. He was too keen there and I don’t think he really came down the hill, things just didn’t seem to go his way. But he had surprised us the first day when he won by six lengths at Kempton, and we were thinking, “jeez, what have we got here?”. So this time the plan was to get him amongst horses and to switch off and relax, which he did, and he jumped into the race at the quarter mile pole and took me to the front near enough on the bridle. He’s progressing quite nicely, he’s athletic – well put together, and he’s taken his racing in his stride too. As a dual winner, he’d have to carry a double penalty in novice company, so it is probably more likely he’ll go either handicapping or they’ll try and find something a bit higher grade for him next. Not sure what the plan is yet.

I also rode a few interesting non-winners, including Ron Hodges’ sprinting debutant, Bequest. Ron said that this horse had been working with some of his better horses and he was hopeful of a big run. The horse was quite forward-going on the way to the start, so I thought we’d hit the gates and sit handy; but that plan was scuppered when he was slow away. He was quite keen at the back of the field, too, but he finished his race really well and I think he’ll win soon, no problem. He wasn’t quite switched on mentally there but he ought to be spot on next time and is definitely one to look out for. I hope to be riding him when he wins!

Probably the most frustrating ride of the last fortnight was Cosmeapolitan. He got caught in some traffic when I wanted to make my move, and I ended up getting fanned very wide and a little unbalanced coming into the short straight at Lingfield. I had to wait for him to straighten up and he’s run to the line like the winner, but half a stride too late. I was kicking myself really because the plan was to be handy – I knew the pace was going to be slack – but we missed the break and I had to bide my time at the back. He’ll probably go to the Classic on All Weather Finals day if he gets in: he might need to win again between now and then first, though. He’s a lovely horse and he loves that all weather, especially at Lingfield.

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Seeusoon is a horse who came on a lot from his debut, and we were thinking he might just need it again but he was a lot more professional at Kempton, eventually finishing a decent fourth. He’s another who will be winning races soon, and a mile and a half is his trip.

At a lower level, Tilsworth Sammy made his handicap debut in a two mile event at Lingfield. He’s been tried over a range of distances and the longer trip there seemed to suit. They went very hard early on and I couldn’t really get in touch until the second half of the race; this two miles was still sharp enough and if we can just find a race over two and a half miles, it’ll be ideal! On a more serious note if he can learn to jump and travel early on, he’ll have a great chance of getting off the mark.

And One Liner also gave it a good go earlier in the week. He’s no superstar but I’m surprised he hasn’t won yet. He finished really well there and can pick up a little race with a bit more luck in the run. He certainly didn’t seem to miss the hood and tongue tie, which were removed this time.


What about the whip?

There’s been a lot of talk about the whip in recent weeks. When they introduced the rules as they are now, they actually had a variant first that wasn’t good. Loads of jockeys were getting days off and the authorities reacted quickly. I think the way they are now is actually pretty good. But if we have situations where jockeys – inexperienced riders maybe – are hitting their horse ten or fifteen times, that’s not ideal and they’re going to have to come up with some stiffer penalties to address things.

The way people are talking now I just can’t see us carrying the whip in ten years time. I think we definitely need to at least have the whip for corrective purposes. I rode over in Oslo where jockeys aren’t even allowed to carry a whip, and it’s actually really quite dangerous because you’ve got no real control over your horse. Sometimes you just need a little flick to help a horse switch from an outside lead to an inside lead.

In terms of the rules, I do think it is unfair when you’ve kept within the rules and someone else hasn’t and you’ve got beaten a short head. I think that’s very unfair because, you know, I could have gone above the permitted level and probably won the race.

I think we definitely need to carry the whip and I think banning it, in terms of encouraging a horse to go forward, will be terrible for racing. I think most jockeys would struggle to adjust to such rules, through second nature as much as anything else. It’s a difficult one, and I’m mixed minded on it. Whatever they decide to do, I imagine there will be ructions as a result!


Riding The Tracks: Lingfield AW

We talked about Kempton last time (see this article), and today it’s the turn of Lingfield. It’s probably the most idiosyncratic of the all weather tracks because of the hill. It’s pretty level from the mile and a quarter start and down the back, but from the four furlong to the two furlong poles you’re running down that hill. Some horses don’t handle the hill which makes it a tricky track to ride; many of the jockeys will start to make their move at about the three – halfway down the hill, on the home bend – trying to get some of their rivals off balance. That’s where you’ll see most of the manoeuvres, jostling for position, trying to either get an inside run or slingshot off the bend if a little wider.

In five and six furlong handicaps, you want to be handy, and perhaps ideally with a middle draw to cut the corner a little. That gives you the most options. They’re both tricky starts, the five in a little chute on the crown of the bend, and the six just before the bend on the main track. Inside draws need to be very quick away and edge right a bit to get a position, because if you don’t you’ll be in a pocket and it’ll be hard. The six furlong trip is a bit more forgiving because you’ve got half a furlong or so before the bend, but you still need to jump and get a position quickly.

But over longer trips, certainly beyond a mile, it’s very hard to make the running and win. I try and sit third or fourth, and one off the rail. If you’re on the rail you can get boxed in as horses vie for positions and then you have to wait for them to pass before making your run. It’s certainly a tricky track and one where you need to be in the right place at the right time.

Lane wise, it’s pretty fair in the straight: I’ve seen horses coming up the rail to win, and horses fanning wide and winning, so there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to one or other path in the last quarter. And the kickback is mild, probably the least of all the all weather circuits.

That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed reading, and catch up in a couple of weeks!


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