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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Moonee Valley

November 20th, 2010 1 comment

The carnival is over and at last, a beautiful spring day in Melbourne, sunny skies, and a dry track. A day to be savoured. Warm bones, spring in my step, beautiful horses to look at, things back to normal. I get there an hour early to allow plenty of time to wander around the stalls. Immediately my attention is drawn to a three-year-old colt braying in his stall. Restless, pawing, neighing, clearly full of testosterone. Typeface, the favourite in the first. I cross him out and he’s not even saddled up yet! His manner doesn’t improve much in the mounting yard, mouth wide open, head twisted, gaping and lolling his tongue in resentment at the tongue tie, two strappers to control him. I decide to lay him on Betfair although they are jumping out of trees to back him with the books. To my mind, he’s too much of a risk. And sure enough that’s how he runs. Misses the kick, gets caught up in traffic, can’t win at the 400 mark, and then suddenly just bursts through to blitz them on the line. I suppose I’ve relearnt a life lesson. A lesson I’ve learnt many times before – three-year-old males are the class of horse I have most trouble with. If Typeface had been a mare he would have been history. 3YO colts! Danger! Their testosterone-fuelled behaviour, as well as being their downfall, can often be their saviour!

My day didn’t improve much after that. I liked Straveen in the mares race with a nice positive strapper, but she was blocked on the inside and didn’t get a run at them. I got some back with Tio Rossa in the seventh, but then gave it back on Netra, who ran out of puff after leading them up in the last. So one out of four for a pretty ordinary day.

But I did have a nice conversation with Peter Strafford, the race day farrier, who has spent forty years working in the danger zone. He’s not allowed to bet on the horses unlike others in the industry. Trainers can bet and apparently some jockeys like Blake Shinn can have a go too. But not farriers working at the pointy end. I got to tell him my favourite horse anecdote. It’s a definition of the horse by Ian Fleming, the author of the James bond books: “Dangerous at both ends, and uncomfortable in the middle”. I’m preparing a list of questions for him. Do I need to look at a horse’s feet and record all that stuff: shock-shod shoes, glue-on shoes, bar plates and tips? We’ll see.

Barry at the horse gate noticed my slumped posture and enquired after my well-being. I told him I was down and he said “You can’t expect to win every day, Doc”. The trouble is – I do.

One Response to “ Moonee Valley ”

  1. HB says:

    I enjoyed your book and had a go at Canterbury midweek using your principles.
    Will be useful as laying horses suits my mindset.
    Below is a link to an article re shoeing by a chap who sees it as a vital part of form study.He doesn’t provide the same statistical validation that you do but it is interesting nonetheless.



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