At last, the long-awaited sequel to Dr. Geoffrey Hutson's breakthrough book Watching Racehorses is now available! In Watching More Racehorses, learn more about behavioural handicapping, betting on horses to lose, and the taxation of gambling winnings! Order Now!

Flemington Christmas Raceday

December 18th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write a review of iBetMate for some time now. This is the new app for the iPhone for betting on Betfair. It’s totally awesome! Readers who have persevered with this blog may recall some of the trials and tribulations I had with using mobile Betfair earlier this year. The main problem was that you were logged out after a few minutes and then had to re-enter your account name and password. And that’s not always easy trying to remember your Mother’s maiden name when you are under pressure in that last hectic minute, and you seem to have four thumbs and one finger. With iBetMate you stay connected all day, even when you turn your phone off. If you accidently close the app you only need to enter a four digit password to restore the session. And you can see more than just one lay and back column when you turn the phone sideways, as well as the market percentages and your own position. Terrific stuff. I think I’m in love.

So to the first at Flemington. Lucky Eighty Eight looked a clear standout, but I was paying attention to Command Prince. He had that interesting triple gear combination of winkers, nose roll and tongue tie, which rankles someone like me who prefers cleanskins. What’s more he was kicking out when the jockey climbed aboard. A possible laying opportunity. So I fired up the iPhone and …oh, no….the dreaded error message: “product requires a funded account”. Punters in my near vicinity thought that this was a huge joke – that my Betfair account was bankrupt. But surely this could not be possible, because I’d had a collect on The Wingman in the last at Caulfield on Wednesday. Maybe someone has hacked my account and cleaned me out? After all, Julian Assange is out on bail.

Lucky Eighty Eight was a mile too good and Command Prince laboured into second last, four lengths from the winner. Not a good start. Isn’t it amazing how quickly you can fall out of love. But things improved. In the third I liked Pins On Ice. Lady Gaga was too aroused, Casual Friday was dumping all over the yard and sweating up voluminously, and Sassy Bay arrived in the yard led by Mr Patterson, the Clerk of the Course. I always view non-arrival of a strapper as a bad sign! Pins On Ice was only showing $1.45 the place, so I broke my cardinal rule and backed it to win! Wow. Never in doubt! And in the fifth I couldn’t understand why Toorak Toff was the favourite when Rick Hore-Lacy said he wasn’t suited at the distance and he wouldn’t be backing him. Éclair Mystic looked a standout and won like a good thing. But I gave some back on a disappointing Easy Cash in the seventh.

Home and a quick check of my Betfair account. It hadn’t leaked! I got onto Mike at Betware but he said it’s a Betfair problem. I hope they can fix it. I’m itching to fall back in love.


Western Health Community Race Day

December 11th, 2010

You’d imagine that a seven-year-old entire stallion that has had 84 starts and has won over $700,000 would handle race day in a breeze. And you would also imagine that this is a horse that I would have seen being saddled before. And of course you would be wrong, on both counts. For the first time in seven years I watched Jungle Ruler being saddled. I suppose one reason that I haven’t seen this before is that Jungle Ruler is a dead set wet tracker and I avoid wet tracks like the plague. So our paths probably seldom cross. Today I noted that he was restless in his stall, was kicking and had a stallion chain. So I had already crossed him out for unruly behaviour. But to restrain him while he was being saddled the strapper used a twitch. This causes immobility of not just the head but the whole body.

I looked up that marvellous reference work Watching Racehorses to see what it said about twitches. Apparently, the principle is to apply pressure to the sensory nerves of the upper lip, near the incisor teeth. The usual explanation for its effectiveness is that the pain and discomfort it causes diverts the horse’s attention while it is being saddled. It is a similar technique to pinching and twisting a handful of skin on the neck or behind the shoulder, or the ear twisting method used by barrier attendants on recalcitrant horses.

There is no doubt that a horse can cope with and quickly recover from a short burst of pain, but I still regard it as a bad sign. Obviously, the horse has an underlying behavioural problem. There has been an interesting Dutch study of the twitch which found that it reduced heart rate and the behavioural reaction of horses to a painful stimulus – a needle prick. So it is possible that the twitch may activate some of the mechanisms involved in pain relief, since it appears to induce both analgesia and sedation, and it may be more akin to acupuncture. If you look carefully at Photo 1 you will see that Jungle Ruler has his eyes nearly closed.

Jungle Ruler finished tenth, but obviously wasn’t suited by the Dead 4 track. I wandered past his stall again after the race and overheard a strapper describing him as “the meanest horse in Melbourne”.


Caulfield Cystic Fibrosis Victoria Summer Race Day

December 4th, 2010

11.15 am. I’m still at home and in two minds about going. There is a Members Christmas Cocktail Party on from 11 till 12, but the MRC has sent me a letter to say that the party is fully booked and that I am not welcome, even though I had sent in my RSVP promptly! So that makes me feel unwanted and very sluggish. Not that it matters since I’m off the grog, and have been for six months or more. And the track is a Slow 7. I’m hopeless in the Slow. The phone rings and Jumpout Joey reminds me that the first race is a two-year-old fillies with five horses – my favourite bread and butter race. The place dividend for the second horse is often outrageously good value. And what’s more, he’s going – probably for the first time in over a year – I guess because petrol is a bit cheaper at the moment. So, I’m off.

I grab my straw hat at the last minute! Thank goodness I did because it’s hot, humid, sunny and sunburny, with a strong northerly. Maybe the track will dry out a bit? My train spends 10 minutes parked in the Flinders Street rail yards and I finally arrive at 12.40. They’re in the mounting yard. And the track is a drying and bettable Dead 5! The first horse crossed out is the much touted favourite Tatum. The horse is unsettled, gaping, tossing its head up, changing stride. And to my eye, not fit. The fittest looking horse is the 3, Joyeux. And relaxed, lobbing around the yard with her head down, but occasionally distracted. The Hayes horse is secreting bodily fluids at both ends, saliva and lathery sweat. That’s generally fine and positive, especially on a hot day, but I like my two-year-olds to be clean and dry. So with 30 seconds to go I back Joyeux for a place. The tote attendant queries my bet. He can’t believe I’m betting the place on a five horse field. So I have to reassure him that there are two place dividends. Joyeux hits the front on the turn and is run down on the line, but hangs on well for second. $2.40 the place. Incredible.

I meet up with Jumpout Joe and Sam Hyland doing the rounds out the back. Sam is doing the mounting yard reports for TVN. He studies the form as well as the appearance of the horse and is doing a very good job. He has a good eye for a horse. He pays a lot of attention to coat condition, which is something I probably neglect a bit.

Not much action till the last. I liked Lucky Angel in the three-year-old fillies race, but the $1.30 for a place put me off. She ended up paying $1.50 on the tote for third, but that’s still way below my new threshold of $1.80. And anyway I was saving myself for the mares race. Tom Hughes’ horse Miss Octopussy looked a clear standout and Tom looked pretty perky himself. Miss Octopussy streeted them. Her front running style was ideally suited to the pattern of racing on the day, not that I know anything about track bias. The books were offering a miserable $1.45 for the place but the tote paid me a very respectable $1.90.

On leaving the track Jumpout Joey corrupted me into entering the Tabaret. I was hot, dry and thirsty and broke my drought with two delicious, ice cold, light beers. Oh – alcohol – how sweet it is! I staggered home at 7.30. The Missus thought I was drunk – but no – I’d just had a very good day.

1 comment