Dr. Geoffrey Hutson's breakthrough book Watching Racehorses is out now! Learn about behavioural handicapping: how head tossing, pawing, salivating and other behaviours provide telltale clues about a horse's readiness to run.
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Caufield Raceday

May 12th, 2018 7 comments

This is the way the season ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. Slow 6, no show. Hopefully I’ll be back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.

 

7 Responses to “ Caufield Raceday ”

  1. Bruce W says:

    NSW racing was at Scone, way out in the country, and most fields were absurdly large. So too Brisbane and Adelaide. The only manageable fields were at Caulfield. At least I could sit at home and bet with a real racing.com screen without having to use my iPhone. In R2, Hear The Chant and Selenia were the only relaxed horses I could see, but in my experience two good ones often mean a third lurking elsewhere that I’ve missed, so I chickened out. Wouldn’t you know it? They ran the quinella. In R3 My Paisann looked good, but could only hang on for fourth. “A degree of internal exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage” according to the stewards’ report. In R4 Platinum Angel looked very relaxed and won easily but was too short to back. In R9, Hursley ($2.20) looked relaxed and serious and made it into third from too far back. A small profit for the day. Hope Geoffrey enjoys the break. We’ll miss the free tuition.

  2. Trevor Murrells says:

    From the Northern hemisphere and still a novice trying to hone my skills at distinguishing the fractious horse from the one ready to go (prancing)!

    In the UK the birdcage stalls are usually integrated with the parade ring and called the ‘pre-parade’. The horses then move to the mounting yard (‘parade ring’ in the UK) where they circle for a while before the jockeys mount. On one course I attend horses, when they enter the parade ring, are often already saddled up straight from the racecourse stables and therefore the birdcage stalls don’t get used. Sometimes horses go straight to the mounting yard particularly in winter wearing a winter rug so assessing fitness is difficult. Richard Hoiles, UK horse race commentator, has raised this issue recently in the racing press i.e. racegoers need to see the horses. UK Racing is becoming more geared towards the occasional visitor experience (e.g. family days, after evening racing pop music, people dressing up for the day and then drinking themselves silly!) than the horse or regular racegoer. I’m guessing in winter it’s mostly about providing punters with backing opportunities in the off-course betting shops.

    Q. Bruce mentioned the problem of large fields. Is there a threshold above which assessment becomes increasingly difficult?
    I assume it’s still worth looking at the favourite just in case it’s playing up.

    Q. Some horses come in wearing a cross-noseband with a white pad under the cross (Geoffrey has commented on this before). Is this less of an issue than one without a pad?

    Q. At some courses the parade ring and mounting yard are not always side-by-side which can cause a dilemma. So is the advice to only opt for those courses where they are close together?

    Q. In older aged handicaps (four years and older) many of the horses wear headgear which can often leave you with a small pool of horses to choose from even in the bigger fields. Based on findings presented in Geoffrey’s first book older aged handicaps are not the best races to ‘horse watch’. Is that still the case? I assume by the time horses reach a certain age their behaviour is factored into their handicap rating.

    Q. Geoffrey may not want to answer this without bringing out a new edition of Watching Racehorses! – have there been any noticeable shifts in strike rates by certain behaviours?

    I’m hoping to reach the point where I’m less bound by the individual behavioural handicap scores and am able to make a more holistic assessment, so which horses are looking like candidates for backing or laying. At present it can feel like a mad rush!

    Thanks Geoffrey for all your research. It has provided me with an enjoyable pursuit which I don’t take too seriously!

  3. Geoffrey says:

    Some answers.
    Q. Bruce mentioned the problem of large fields. Is there a threshold above which assessment becomes increasingly difficult?
    A. The fewer the better. I like five or six and two place dividends! The threshold is probably around 12 or 13, depending on how quickly they move through the yard. I make a note of gear now from the published information which saves some time, although it is not always accurate. The field of 24 in the Cup is a nightmare but you still have time to take in arousal, the strapper, and acceptance of the bit. You can safely assume they are all fit!
    Q. I assume it’s still worth looking at the favourite just in case it’s playing up.
    A. Always!
    Q. Some horses come in wearing a cross-noseband with a white pad under the cross (Geoffrey has commented on this before). Is this less of an issue than one without a pad?
    A. Yes. It seems less severe.
    Q. At some courses the parade ring and mounting yard are not always side-by-side which can cause a dilemma. So is the advice to only opt for those courses where they are close together?
    A. No idea. Walking is good for you!
    Q. In older aged handicaps (four years and older) many of the horses wear headgear which can often leave you with a small pool of horses to choose from even in the bigger fields. Based on findings presented in Geoffrey’s first book older aged handicaps are not the best races to ‘horse watch’. Is that still the case? I assume by the time horses reach a certain age their behaviour is factored into their handicap rating.
    A. I think this is still the case. I am still concentrating on two-year-olds, three-year-old fillies and mares.
    Q. Geoffrey may not want to answer this without bringing out a new edition of Watching Racehorses! – have there been any noticeable shifts in strike rates by certain behaviours?
    They are changing all the time. The best example is two strappers which moved from being a serious negative to resoundingly positive! There will be no third book!
    Q. I’m hoping to reach the point where I’m less bound by the individual behavioural handicap scores and am able to make a more holistic assessment, so which horses are looking like candidates for backing or laying. At present it can feel like a mad rush!
    I think this is the way to go. I simply look and make an instant, ‘holistic’ if you like, assessment of the horse. The more you look the easier it gets!

  4. Trevor Murrells says:

    Dear Geoffrey

    Thanks for replying to my numerous questions.

    I particularly liked your response to the one about the parade and mounting yard being far apart at some courses. If you saw me you would realise I have no problem walking or running as I’m built like a whippet! The problem for me is the dilemma of horses arriving into the parade ring (“laggards”) whilst others are departing into the mounting yard. I’m guessing that if you can’t see enough of each horse then perhaps its best to move onto the next race (a missing data problem that can’t be resolved by imputation!).

    Thanks for the ‘rule of thumb’ thresholds for race size. Yes I can see how 2 places in a field of 5-6 might appeal, and even 3 places in a field of 8, unless the favourite is mucking about, in which case the bigger the field the better! A fine example of this was Harry Angel in the Diamond Jubilee (Group 1) over 6 furlongs at Royal Ascot on Saturday. He’s always been a bit highly strung, there were signs in the mounting yard (on TV), then again in the starting stalls, both blanket and hood required to get him loaded, then he put a hind leg over the back of the stalls (hidden under the stalls blanket), whilst trying to escape out the front! So he emerged out the stalls on three legs and never recovered. Good to see two Australian horses in the race. Merchant Navy who won (now with Aidan O’Brien in Ireland) and Redkirk Warrior who was down the field.

    One final question, do betting opportunities arise more often in classier races and at the better race courses or doesn’t it really matter?

    Are you more likely to see aberrant behaviour in horses of lower ability running at lower grade tracks?

    In the UK on Saturdays fields at the main meetings and “better” courses are typically bigger, there are more competitive older aged (four years and over) handicaps whereas during the week there are more opportunities for two-year old novices, three-year old maidens, three year old beginner handicaps and later on in the season there are nursery handicap’s for two year olds. I can’t imagine these beginner handicaps are easy for the official handicapper to rate and sometimes have the feel of a maiden race (the variation in weights can often be no more than 14 pounds).

    Best of luck to the Socceroos, I have them in a local sweepstake!

    Trevor

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t think it matters much about the class of the race, but at least you know that in the classier races they are all trying! And yes poorly behaved horses tend to be running at long odds in lesser races. Fortunately in Melbourne all four metropolitan tracks are of a high standard and I don’t need to venture out to the provincials!

  6. Trevor Murrells says:

    A couple of quick questions for you Geoffrey:

    Q1. Should we treat behaviours as location specific or doesn’t it really matter if we see them in the birdcage stalls, parade ring or mounting yard?

    Q2. Is any headgear a redline for you i.e. you would never consider a horse that has winkers (called cheekpieces in the UK) or a cross-over nose band with protective padding even if you saw lots of positive behaviours

    p.s. We have sustained hot weather here at present so sometimes horses are completely bypassing the birdcage stalls and the parade ring

    Regards Trevor

  7. Geoffrey says:

    Hi Trevor,
    Q1: Some are, some aren’t, which I know doesn’t help much. For example, acceptance of the bit is important wherever you see it. But something like dumping – horses can get away with it in the parade ring and yard, but on the track or behind the barrier not such a good thing.
    Q2: I rarely, if ever, back horses with winkers or cross-over nose bands. An example of an exception is So You Think. So if a horse is showing strong positive behaviour I can overlook it.

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