Another fortnight has passed and the headlines have recently been dominated by the equine influenza drama. I’ve actually had the flu myself so I suppose you could say I’m one of the few who wasn’t impacted too much by the break from racing. I’m back in the saddle this evening with five rides at Kempton, and I’ve a few chances to hopefully get another winner on the board.
5.45 Miss Crick – I’ve never ridden her before, but she looks an interesting ride. She’s got decent form over hurdles – rated 126 – and was second last time to a progressive horse that I rode. The race looks winnable and if she can repeat her hurdle form, get handy and make it a real test she should have a good chance. If she can’t quite go the early pace then they’ll probably be going fast enough and we know she’ll stay, so I’m hopeful.
6.15 Chloellie – She’s a little superstar. I’ve won four on her now, including her last three races here at Kempton, and the track and trip look ideal. She’s got plenty of weight and isn’t the biggest, but she’s very brave and has a real turn of foot – ideal for the track. She never wins by much so I guess it’s quite hard for the handicapper to fully assess her level and she’s another good chance on the night.
7.45 Moon Of Baroda – He’s not had many runs and won quite well last time. I was quite impressed with him there: it was a stop/start sort of race and Charlie [Hills, trainer] wanted to drop him in because we weren’t sure he’d stay two miles around Wolverhampton. He moved into the race easily down the back and as we turned in he was able to quicken away up the inside and put the race to bed quite nicely. He was entitled to need his first run for five months the time before and I think he’s a horse that is definitely improving. The fact that he’s in a grade lower this time won’t hurt his chance either.
I don’t know much about my other two rides yet, but will obviously be studying the videos later!
As usual, I’ve been lucky enough to sit on a few nice horses since last we spoke, including these…
Highland Acclaim – I’ve known this lad a long time, since he was at Andrew Balding’s back in 2013. He’s been rated as highly as 103 and is a different horse around Epsom, where he just seems to be so balanced and really enjoy the test there. But he’s showing some great form on the all weather at the age of eight as well, winning the last twice and bidding for a hat-trick on Friday. He’ll have a chance again if he can stay close to the pace. Not bad considering he was 0 from 23 on the all weather before those two wins!
Cirque Royal – Ended up in a bit of a match with his stable mate, who had the benefit of a prior run. Charlie [Appleby, trainer] said to me he thought this horse wanted a mile and a half – we raced at 9 1/2 furlongs here – and that he’d probably be very green. He was quite coltish on the way to post, which wouldn’t have helped. Charlie said to take a lead and that he doesn’t do anything quickly, so I wanted to get him rolling before the turn in. The winner had too much class for me that day, but we were miles clear of the rest and he’ll progress nicely as the season goes on. It shouldn’t be too long before he gets his head in front.
Wings Of Time – Another horse I rode for Charlie Appleby, I wanted to try to keep everything straightforward with him but it ended up being a messy race. He missed the break and then we had to sit and wait on the inside as another horse hemmed me in down the back. I had to use a fair bit of him there so I didn’t want to get after him in the straight. I wouldn’t say he was idling close home but he was always doing enough, and I’d say he won a shade cosily under hands and heels. Given that they went pretty slowly – I think the time was seven seconds slower than standard – it was quite a nice performance to get it done in the circumstances.
Minoria – Rae Guest’s filly was second at the end of January over seven furlongs. That was only her third start, and she was slow away so I had to drop her in and try to make my ground up. It never really opened up for me, but she ran on well to be second and I think she’ll improve again for a further step up in trip: she’ll probably run over a mile next time. I was surprised she won over six furlongs, because this day she never really travelled for me until the tail end of the race. I’d imagine there’s more to come from her.
Riding The Tracks: Chelmsford
A flat one mile oval with even proportions: quarter mile straights and bends. The track has just been riding a little inconsistently in recent times, and I think they’re still using pretty much the same surface as they were ten years ago. Maybe they’ve added a bit of wax but not much and it might just be in need of re-laying. That would likely sort things out.
It’s been proving fairly difficult to win from off the pace and the kickback is quite severe. They put great prize money on and try to do things right, but the inconsistency of the track is a little bit frustrating. I’m not saying you can’t win from off the pace, because you can: if they go very quick you can weave your way through.
And they normally go a good gallop at Chelmsford – you rarely get a slowly run race round there. If I had a horse that needed a quick six furlongs or seven furlongs I’d take them to Chelmsford.
At five furlongs, it’s pretty much point and shoot: try to get close to or on the lead in the furlong before the turn, hold a position through the turn and then kick into the straight. Very few horses come from the second half of the field over five here.
The same is true up to a point over six and seven, though they can sometimes go too hard and set it up for a midfield stalker or occasionally a deeper closer. The problem over seven is that you normally have about 14 runners, so you’re likely to get people drawn fourteen down to ten trying to go forward so you get a right good gallop into that first bend.
Also down the back, just before the four furlong pole, there’s like a little path which is kind of raised up and you can sometimes see a horse when it encounters that it will switch leads a couple of times which makes it quite tricky for a horse sometimes to get balanced around that top bend.
Draw wise, you can get away with being drawn out wide as long as you have tactical, or early, speed. The only disadvantage is over five because you’re almost straight into that turn.
The mile races start in a dogleg chute on the turn after the winning post, and those drawn lowest can sometimes get squeezed up as the field cuts a tangent onto the arc of the bend on the main track. It’s similar to the seven furlong chute at Wolverhampton: you’ve got about half a furlong before things open up as you hit the turn.
At longer distances it’s pretty fair, though it can get a bit scrimmage-y going into the first turn at a mile and a quarter, but other than that it’s pretty fair. That said, being in the first half of the field is a positive at any trip around Chelmsford.
There isn’t really any part across the track more favoured than the rest. You will often see jockeys swinging wide into the home turn but that’s more tactical race riding than looking for a quick strip. You can certainly win up the rail anyway.
Riding The Tracks: Southwell AW
Southwell is a unique track, mainly because of the deep fibresand surface they have there. Generally it pays to be aggressive and go forward from the outset. It’s a real horses for courses track, not many horses act around there, and the ones that do seem to do very well.
I tend to think you need a horse with a lot of speed and one capable of winning over a furlong further than it’s racing over. If you want to take your time around Southwell, you’re probably better off conceding a few lengths on the bends and down the back straight to stay out of the kickback, which is fierce. The wide trip is compensated by the inside generally riding quite slow, so you’re not losing as much ground as logically it might seem like.
The kickback is pretty tough. When I’m riding there I carry a pair of stockings and wear one as a mask. And three pairs of goggles!
The five furlong straight track doesn’t seem to have a positional bias left to right. Instead I think if anything it’s a pace bias, but usually it’s simply the fittest, quickest horse wins on the day.
I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a horse there which has travelled from the start to the finish. You’re either flat out to get and keep the lead, or you’re flat out playing catch up.
I prefer being drawn outside, especially if I have one that needs to take a lead off something. I’d rather be three or four horses wide than on the rail, and just stay out of the kickback as much as possible. It’s so thick sometimes it’s almost like being behind a gritter. Trying to get your horse to breathe is the main thing. Plenty of them can’t handle the kickback and it interferes with the pattern of their breathing.
At longer trips there’s more of an even gallop. Obviously it’s hard to maintain a frenetic tempo for a longer period of time, so races tend to be run a bit more sensibly and with more consistent results. I’ve had a bit of luck at Southwell actually, especially at longer trips.
That’s all for this blog. Speak to you again soon, good luck.
– David Probert