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Flemington 29 January 2010

January 31st, 2010

The VRC has been hyping the Lightning Stakes and parading Cannonball before the media, the first American-trained horse to race in Australia. Everyone is more interested in the controversial rider, Patrick Valenzuela, who has an impressive list of 11 suspensions for substance abuse, mainly cocaine. Apparently, he once shaved off all his body hair to avoid detection. Fortunately, Racing Victoria’s integrity department has given him the all clear. So, we’ve got a race. Although Valenzuela hasn’t ridden Cannonball, the trainer doesn’t think it will be a problem: “He’s hyper-strong, we don’t want to get him too excited. Patrick knows these type of American horses.” It’s a pity he’s at 25/1 in early markets as it looks like a terrific lay opportunity. But I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll only oppose horses at $3.00 or less for the win and $2.00 or less for the place.                             
Cannonball is not in his stall, on first look. In fact, he doesn’t turn up all day. Why is the VRC hiding him when he was promoted during the week? Maybe he’s too excited? Hyper-excited? At last he appears in the mounting yard. Two strappers to control him, with a stallion chain through his mouth, a tongue tie and dumping everywhere. Wow! This horse is about to explode! No wonder they hid him. Fit, though. My tip is that anything could happen, but most likely he’ll do a broadside over the running rail. Stand back!
There are some nice relaxed horses in this race: Headway, Nicconi, Wanted, Burdekin Blues and Shellscrape. I back Headway for the place at $2.70. Cannonball doesn’t fire a shot, and Headway runs on for fifth. Nicconi gets up from Wanted and Shellscrape. A pity I don’t take trifectas. I run into Emil, who has just backed the winner. He has had horses with Hayes and follows the stable religiously. He has had a super day, and backed Our Aqaleem as well at 25/1. I get a lecture. “Loyalty, Geoffrey, that’s what it’s all about. Loyalty.”


Caulfield 26 January 2010

January 27th, 2010

I remember this day so well, over 50 years ago. There were a heap of kids playing in our Dandenong backyard. An Albizzia tree had fallen over and had been cut up into a huge mound of branches and leaves. All the kids from the street were there, tunneling and burrowing into the heap. The Keatings, the Pigdons, David Briggs from next door. Auntie Dix appeared with refreshments for the teeming throng. “Do any of you kids know what day it is today?” We all shrugged and looked at each other without a clue, until Darryl, who was only ten cents in the dollar, piped up “It’s my burfdee!”. So, forever after, Australia Day remains Darryl’s birthday.

Kids today seem much more nationalistic. Flinders Street station is packed with young people heading to the Big Day Out, many of them draped in the Australian flag. And even at the races, the patriotism of youth is on show.

Me, myself, personally, I prefer the Eureka flag. Such a shame that it was hijacked by the Builders Labourers Federation. And I see that the Australian of the year is a professor. That’s a welcome change from a cricketer. But it reminds me, as my Mother always reminded me: “Not everyone can be a professor, Geoffrey.”

I kick off with a loser, Ello Ello in the 2YO. So that’s three in a row, coming to the fifth. Denman would have to be the best looking horse I’ve seen in a long, long time. Looks like his Dad, Lonhro. Sporting tapes, which are fine, and he does a big dump right in front of me, which is a minor worry, but it’s a good solid consistency. In fact a few of them are letting rip – True Persuasion, Carlton Forward, and The Handsome One. But it’s a no bet race, with Denman paying $1.04 for the place. My limit used to be $1.50, but since I got greedy it has blown out to $1.75.

Zarita and Danzylum both look great in the next. Danzylum is only showing $1.80 for the place compared with the $4.40 that I got last week. So I go for Zarita at $3.00, and she powers home for third like a horse that has won $1.5 million should. Going Spending looks fabulous in the next but is $1.40 on the tote. Inside the bookies have it at $1.65, so I check it on Betfair and find $1.68. The tote creeps out to $1.60 and with 20 seconds to go hits $1.70. So I go for it and the place was never in doubt.

My heart is thumping, bursting with pride. Redemption at last. And isn’t it good to be an Australian.


Betfair Park 23 January 2010

January 26th, 2010

I’m having a pretty ordinary day really, sitting on two losers. Both straight out place bets. Affluence in the 2YO who I couldn’t fault and briefly ran on before collapsing, and Lock It in Eddie, that didn’t even try to run on. So I’m up for some laying. And at last two chances in Race 6, the appropriately named Betfair Handicap.

Dane The Rave looks to be a hospital case with three bandages on his hindlegs. It’s a very bad look and it would be very hard to muster enthusiasm to back him. So he’s a definite lay if the price is reasonable.

And at last a favourite that I can oppose, Esprit De Bullet, with my pet aversion, the nose roll. As everyone keeps reminding me, Vintage Crop won the Melbourne Cup with a nose roll. I know, I know, I know. A nose roll on its own is only a minor negative (14% in the book) and horses can obviously get used to racing with it. But if I see a horse that shows sign of resentment then I give it the flick, and Esprit De Bullet showed the classic signs. Head up, the strapper using two hands to control it and circling it around in the yard, and then the icing on the cake, resisting the jockey on the track. I’m itching to take it on.

Into the bar, two minutes to go, whip out the iPhone. Did I tell you I had an iPhone? Login in a flash, it’s easy remembering your Mother’s maiden name once you get the hang of it, and the Betfair place market pops up. Suddenly the phone starts ringing. Why is my phone ringing when I have a secret number? And why does the market disappear and a big red box with “William calling” appear. Answer the green box, or Decline, the red box? A no brainer. How I hate that expression. Red! Red! Red! Decline! Decline! I’m betting! The market reappears and I see Esprit De Bullet is available to lay at $1.89, which is not fair really when he’s $1.60 on the tote. The phone rings again “William calling”. Accept or Decline? Bloody hell! I’m betting! But it’s the brother-in-law and The Missus could rescind all privileges if I deny her brother. Answer! Sweetness and light. “Yes, William?” He wants me to put a bet on his horse at Morphettville, Red First. He’s cleaning out his farm shed and can’t get to the TAB. OK, I’ll do that. He promises to give the money to The Missus, his shed-cleaning assistant. The market reappears, but it has gone all white with a big CLOSED sign on it. Bloody, bugger, bum. A lock out. I’m starting to get the hang of this laying business. It is not easy. And I didn’t even get to see the odds about the hospital case, Dane The Rave.

And wait a minute, I thought my iPhone was a secret number. I’ve got two phones – my sophisticated betting instrument and my regular mobile, for calls from relatives. Why wasn’t he on the relatives’ mobile? I have a sneaking suspicion it’s something to do with his shed-cleaning assistant. And look, Dane The Rave finishes sixth, just ahead of Esprit De Bullet.

Red First is crucified in Adelaide, so it’s three losers for the day. But I’m not counting it, because I didn’t see it in the flesh. None out of two, if  The Missus gives me the money.

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Flemington 16 January 2010

January 18th, 2010

Isn’t it disgusting, the number of  young people you see these days Araldited to their iPhones? Texting, Twittering, Facebooking, emailing, flicking paper balls into waste baskets, even making phone calls. And how incredible is the technology? That you can have mobile internet in the palm of your hand? You’d think they could do it in the privacy of their homes rather than flaunting it so. But I digress.

I’m home again, at headquarters. And thank goodness, some relief from the heat – a mere 33.1 compared with 40.4 last week in Adelaide. A significant saving of some 7.3 degrees. And there are heaps more horses sweating because it’s so humid – 81% at 9 am, compared with 7% at Morphettville, when the stinking hot air just sucked all moisture out of horses and humans.

Oh, and by the way, have you seen my iPhone? Strictly for betting purposes of course. If you look very carefully you will see the Betfair icon, just where my right thumb can reach it. How cool is that. And how sexy is the iPhone? I’m still learning how to use it, being mostly a left thumb sort of person.

My first chance is Morfontaine in the second. He was kicking in the stall, a serious disadvantage in my book (minus 26%). He turns up in the mounting yard flipping his bottom lip, which is actually quite positive, but he’s going so fast that the strapper needs two hands to control him, another serious negative. And he’s gaping with the tongue tie, so I’m pretty convinced he’s not happy with the bit, either. So it’s a lay. I duck into the Island Bar and pull out the iPhone, and right thumb the icon. Two minutes to the jump. The phone has a spasm and says I’ve entered the wrong name and password. How can that be? I know my own name and I know my Mother’s maiden name? Second try. Still something wrong with my Mother, can’t be me. Third try…….and they’ve jumped. I’m slowly learning. It’s not so easy laying horses. And of course Morfontaine finished second last.

My next chance is Diamondsontheinside in the fourth. He’s weaving in his stall. Well not proper weaving, but rhythmically tossing his head up and down. He should know better as a seven year old gelding. And in the parade ring the strapper is smoking and talking on her iPhone!  

I mean, I mean, there’s a horse here that needs some attention. In the mounting yard the horse is all flared nostrils, teeth, and grinding on the bit. And he strikes himself several times. I always get spooked when I hear that. So another lay. Into the Island Bar and thank goodness, I remember my name and my Mother’s maiden name. I decide to lay him for the place. He’s showing 2.00 on the tote and 2.20 with the books, but the best I can do is 2.42. I’m set, bet matched, 30 seconds to go. Diamondson theinside never looks likely, although running on reasonably for fourth. A win! But play money only until I can sort out this name business.

Not much other action. A quiet day with plenty of longshots getting up. I did notice Brad Star was hobbled in his stall, which is an extremely rare sight. I guess if he’s hobbled and tied up the strapper can be pretty sure he’s not going anywhere. And he sported a red nose roll in the mounting yard – a definite lay, but his odds are a bit too long to risk. I have two conventional place bets. Miss O’Brien in the first. How I love 3YO fillies races with six or seven runners. If you can pick the second horse the dividend is often exceptional. $2.70 on the tote. And my other bet? Danzylum. Beautiful and relaxed, head down, lobbing around the mounting yard, sweating slightly. $4.40 the place. So two out of two for the day. Three out of three if you count Diamondsontheinside. I’m going to count it.

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Morphettville Parks 9 January 2010

January 11th, 2010

I’m in Adelaide. I think I have heat stroke. I’ve survived three days over 35, and the forecast for today is 41, and if I survive that, 43 on Sunday, and then 43 again on Monday. Global warming. How do the horses cope, let alone the humans? I love Adelaide, but I’m considering revising my opinion.

I’m off to Morphettville Parks to check out horses in the heat. I’m wearing appropriate clothing for the weather – slacks, short-sleeved shirt, sandals and straw hat. I get a Members’ Reserve pass, but I’m immediately turned back at the gate. I don’t need a tie, but the sandals cause apoplexy. It doesn’t really matter because you don’t need to be a member at Morphettville to have ideal conditions for horse watching. The stalls are handy to the parade ring which has nice shady trees to sit under. You can follow the horses up under the stand to the mounting yard and then watch them out onto the track. Then there is a lovely cool and comfortable bar, the Diva Bar, which you can duck into for rehydration, with one bookie and three tote ladies. All you need, really. I’m a bit nervous because the Diva Bar has a large sign describing appropriate attire – decrepit footwear, track shoes, rubber thongs and slippers are NOT allowed. I hope my decrepit sandals can pass muster, so I creep around with a very low profile for the first few races. Thank goodness I didn’t wear my moccassins.

The set up for the horses is most excellent.

There are industrial fans mounted on the rail opposite the stalls every few metres – 32 in all. And they work well. The horses can arrive late, can be hosed down and then cooled. There are other concessions to the heat too. The strappers don’t wear numbered jackets, the clerks wear white shirts, the horses are held back in stalls adjacent to the parade ring until the last minute, there is no pre-parade and maybe one lap of the mounting yard and none with jockey up. Straight out onto the track. So good for horses, hard for horse watchers.

I watch six races and 53 horses. I see only one horse that I would classify as Sweating 3 – the highest level. At Flemington last week when the temperature was 23 and the humidity was 75% I saw about 12.

Tips for the heat? Don’t burn your hands leaning on the mounting yard rail, and take three biros, because two of mine dried up. And maybe consider wearing shoes.

Only two bets. A loser, Lapel, in a four horse race! And a nice relaxed winner in the last, Easy Cash. And Unitab give you a receipt for winning. The Missus will like to see that!


New in 2010: The Watching Racehorses Blog!

January 7th, 2010

In 2010 Watching Racehorses will exclusively host Dr Geoffrey Hutson’s blog! Visit us for week-to-week insights into how Geoffrey applies behavioural handicapping techniques at the track.


Book Now Available

January 5th, 2010

STOP PRESS  *****Now available*****STOP PRESS

Clifton Press is pleased to announce the long-awaited and much-anticipated release of Dr Geoffrey Hutson’s breakthrough book – Watching Racehorses. This is a book for all punters and horseplayers. It describes Geoffrey’s original discovery, first reported in New Scientist magazine, that bad horse behaviour is a significant predictor of poor racing performance. It reveals the methods that he now uses for successful gambling at the racetrack.

Watching Racehorses explains:

  • how to assess fatness and fitness – the body condition of horses
  • what to look for in the birdcage stalls, including pawing, weaving and restless behaviour
  • the importance of horse tack and equipment, including the bridle and bit, tongue tie, nose roll, pacifiers, boots and bandages
  • the impact of sexual behaviour
  • what to watch out for in the parade ring and mounting yard, including strapper control, horse posture and gait
  • behaviour on the track, including sweating and control by the clerk of the course

Watching Racehorses introduces the new and unique concept of behavioural handicapping – scoring horses according to the total amount of bad behaviour they display before a race.  By simply betting on favourites with perfect behavioural handicaps it is possible for a casual racegoer to turn a normal 5% loss into a 10% profit.

More than 60 behaviour patterns are described in comprehensive detail.  An analysis of the effect of these behaviours on a horse’s winning chance, based on observation of over 10,000 horses, is unprecedented in the history of horse racing.

Most racegoers say that they would like to look at the horses, but don’t know where to look.  This book shows you where and how. There are 250 pages, with over 50 photographs, 30 figures and tables, and a comprehensive index and further reading list.

At last you can throw away the form guide. Bet on behaviour!

Order Watching Racehorses here!