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!

The Zipping Classic

November 14th, 2015

In the original Watching Racehorses I described a landmark study over 20 years ago by Claudia Feh and Jeanne de Mazières of wild Camargue horses. The horses developed strong bonds with others of a similar age and sex and maintained these bonds through mutual grooming. Two horses would stand head to tail and nibble each other with their incisors, generally in the region of the base of the neck. The grooming seemed to have a remarkable calming effect. Claudia and Jeanne observed that the preferred grooming site was the base of the partner’s neck, in front of the shoulder blade, and including part of the withers. When horses were scratched by humans in this region they had lower heart rates than horses groomed at a non-preferred site low on the shoulder. They suggested the calming effect was the result of a major ganglion of the autonomic nervous system lying close to the preferred site. Hence, strappers who are aware of this effect get very high marks in my race book.

So, here’s Tall Ship, trained by the man of the moment, DK Weir. The strapper was vigorously scratching him with both hands at the preferred site, first on the near side, then on the off side. The horse was calm, motionless, head and neck slightly extended and tilted away, shrunken nostrils. If you look carefully at the off side photo the horse seems to be in a state of exquisite pleasure! The strapper can go straight to the top of the class! The horse ran second to the runaway winner Who Shot The Barman, but no one is complaining about $2.40 for the place.

Reference: Feh, C. and de Mazières, J. (1993). Grooming at a preferred site reduces heart rate in horses. Animal Behaviour 46, 1191-1194.



Stakes Day

November 7th, 2015

Not looking good! Heavy 8 on arrival, then an upgrade to Soft 7. By the end of the day they were coming down the outside rail! I’m no good in the wet. I didn’t have a bet all day. Discipline!

By the way, I noticed a couple of interesting bits of gear this week. Max Dynamite, the cult horse, displayed the rarely seen earplugs on Cup Day. And Arod, like many of the international horses, had a fluffy woollen pad under the cross-over noseband. You would have to think that’s a positive as it would reduce pressure on the bridge of the nose.



The Oaks

November 5th, 2015

No show! I had the foresight to look at the Melbourne radar. It seems my absence was noted!




The Melbourne Cup

November 3rd, 2015

I spent some three hours checking out all the Cup horses in their stalls. Trip To Paris looked a standout! I would describe the horse as “interested”.

How could you back anything else?