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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Flemington Chester Manifold Stakes Day

January 12th, 2019 8 comments

And a Happy New Year to all horsewatchers!

I got there early for the two-year-olds and it was a hotbed of testosterone. Five colts, and it seemed like all of them were calling out, rearing up, and flopping huge erections around. Amid all the chaos there was one filly calmly ignoring the carry-on, Pretty Brazen, with a nice positive strapper. I went for it at $1.90 on the tote, only to see it tumble into $1.70 the place. Obviously I wasn’t the only one to be impressed. The filly had it won, only to be nailed in the shadows of the post. I didn’t have another bet until Manolo Blahniq in the last race, a typical horsewatcher’s head-down horse, and a nice $2.20.

So between the first and last I tried to work out a new strategy for watching horses at Flemington. My refuge, the Island Bar, is no more. Its replacement, the Members Bar, has been kicked upstairs to the first floor of the Club Stand. Too hard for me to wander in from the yard. I don’t want to climb stairs. But there is a walkway to the horse stalls on the first floor, so maybe that’s an option, but I discover there is no way to get down to the stalls once you get there, you can just look down from above. What is the point in that!? There is the Paddock Bar near the yard, but it is open and exposed to the south-westerly wind, and there are no tote operators, just a few machines. I do like a cash bet now and then and handling the folding money. So much better than a change in the balance on your phone. The bookies ring is deserted and I don’t bet with them. But there are a handful of tote windows out there. So I guess it’s the Paddock Bar and then out to the tote near the bookies. The entrance to the Club Stand is like the foyer of a five star hotel with comfortable lounge chairs and a screen for the races flanked by racing memorabilia, but no screens with odds. I suppose this is where I will end up watching the races. I could even fall asleep here!

Do you think horse racing is dying? All the horse bookshops that used to sell my book have closed down – the Horseman’s Bookshop in Melbourne and Sydney, Mitty’s in Melbourne, the High Stakes Bookshop in London, the Gamblers Bookshop in Las Vegas. My book distributor, Dennis Jones, has gone into liquidation owing me about $1000. My IT advisor says this is all “the sad state of dead tree publishing”. He also says long form blogs are going the same way and that I should move to Twitter or Instagram. Twitter? Whoever would want to share a platform with Donald Trump?

So, I’m thinking, I should probably stop flogging a dead horse. Maybe this blog should become shorter and less frequent. And maybe just fire up for the spring!

8 Responses to “ Flemington Chester Manifold Stakes Day ”

  1. Michael McMahon says:

    Keep it up each week please Geoffrey. I have missed your insights since November 2018 so resorted to reading all your previous blogs, which remain just as entertaining and insightful. Kind Regards, Michael

  2. Stuart Lindsay says:

    Hi Geoffrey,
    You can block or mute people on Twitter therefore making it a Trump free zone for you.

    Enjoy your posts here and never have found them too long.

    Keep going!

  3. Paul says:

    Hi Geoff. Keep up the blog. Especially the pictures. It’s the masterclass after reading the book. Some observations are more subjective than others so your ongoing teaching of this ancient skill of observing horseflesh is appreciated

  4. Trevor Murrells says:

    Most important things first, Geoffrey I hope you manage to get some of you money back. The situation doesn’t sound particularly good. My sympathy goes out to all those affected by the liquidation.

    I agree with Michael & Stuart, keep the blog going. Perhaps you could use twitter/Instagram to direct people to your web pages. Also it’s up to those of us who read your blog to leave some comments to get some discussion going. I was getting a bit worried that we hadn’t heard from you for over two months (kept checking every week or so).

    Many UK independent bookshops have been struggling although I recently read in the news that the decline had halted although I’m not sure whether this applied to specialist bookshops. I have to admit I purchased your books online, and certainly most of the others I have bought recently were bought that way. The last time I walked into a bookshop to buy a (American) horse racing book (Andrew Beyer) was over 20 years ago. I’m old school and personally get more from a book rather than superficial “grazing” online, although the latter does help to identify the reading material (don’t want to be too much of a Luddite!).

    Is “horse racing dying”? That’s a big subject. We’d have to define what we mean by that. It’s certainly different from when I first became interested; John Rickman presenting British TV racing wearing his trilby hat, the voice of BBC racing was Peter O’Sullivan and I remember walking through strings of beads to enter a high street bookmakers!

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on the new configuration at Flemington. It’s taken me a while to grapple with the optimal location at local courses. Some lessons have been learnt along the way, for example I was struggling to get a bet matched on Betfair (probably because it was longish odds ~ 5.5 to 1 for a place on a Friday when the market was weaker) and didn’t realise there was a totalizer booth right behind me! The bet didn’t match and the horse (a jumper over fences) won … I gave up for the day!

    I’m trying to see whether your approach works with jumpers and hurdlers during the winter here. Fewer opportunities (I avoid wet weather like you Geoffrey) and there is Christmas to navigate. Many horses have cross-over nosebands or headgear. Chasers (over the bigger fences) typically have a more substantial build compared to a horse who races on the flat so the jockey probably needs more help (i.e. a cross-over noseband) with the steering. They are older than flat racers and the pool to select from in each race is smaller because of the prevalence of headgear. You still see some wayward behaviour amongst jumpers and hurdlers despite them being older. Recently I laid a novice chaser, he was clearly not enjoying himself in the parade ring and mounting yard and for most of the race was not in contention but clawed his way back to finish 2nd coming from nowhere (a loss but the right bet) whilst the other horses came to a halt (ground tends to be on the soft side in winter not that we’ve had much of a winter this year).

  5. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you all for the positive comments. I will try to keep it going for a while – maybe every second or third week. But definitely not over winter! And definitely not on jumps races!

  6. Mark Morrris says:

    Don’t you dare. Your blog went very quiet a few years ago for some reason and I thought you had died, not an unreasonable assumption given how much is wrong with you! Imagine my delight when on a whim I clicked my link to your blog. You really are a hypochondriac. Who in the world goes on holiday to Queensland and has a colonoscopy or is tormented for 50 days by some cantaloupes. Two out of three winning place bets at an average of $2 is a damn fine return. Why can’t I get past the thrill of the straight out win bet? I’ve been telling myself for years that I should bet for a place on my “appearance” bets. Retirement looms which might make me pull my head in a bit. Place bets for food on the table, win bets for excitement perhaps. Gosh 50% on turnover does sound good. How do you sit on your hands for so long at the races? One thing I have learned, there are many more of the lovely relaxed and interested horses on which to bet than the prancing, arched neck type. I still tend to look for positives rather than negatives. Salivating is a personal favourite of mine. Actually, reading your recent blogs you seem to be coming across to the positive/light side yourself. May the horse be with you!

  7. Mark Morrris says:

    Geoffrey, Please adjust my maths on earlier comment from 50% to 100%. Can’t believe I made that sort of mistake. Perhaps I thought an ROI of 1 was just not possible. Mark Morris

  8. Mark Morrris says:

    My god, my maths has gone from bad to worse. Based on my assumptions ROI is 33%. I see from your book it is actually better than that.

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