Sunday, 12 October 2014

Slump

All that late Summer flat smash-and grab-seems like a long time ago. Tiggy Wiggy, G Force, Nafaqa. Ah, splendid stuff. Now in the fag end of the season, confidence has leached away like a Tory safe-seat majority. The list horses are dispiritingly uncompetitive and I’ve inevitably hung on to some for too long. Over-a-cliff-itis. My Achilles heel. A twitter compatriot made me laugh the other day when he said his "nag-me’s" were coming through and now all he needed to do was work out why he had put them in there in the first place. I know the feeling.

Outside the mini-projects that keep me interested throughout the flat, I’m finding that I’m off the pace in the big handicaps too; and properly struggling in the graded pool. Arc weekend was a washout in punting terms.

Though it’s hard to feel anything other than warm, moist-eyed, tingly emotions at the performance of Treve in the big one. The style of her swooping victory was sensation enough, without the stellar training achievement provided by the resilient, faithful Criquette Head-Maarek. Treve’s fragile season has been well documented and to peak a horse in this manner is special. You want icing on the cake? Well, in a positively received u-turn for which Mssrs Miliband, Cameron or Clegg would willingly have pawned their black hearts, the Treve team decided to keep the wonder mare in training next season.

So any doubts about the horse’s constitution or concerns around the reported ‘kissing spine’ can, we assume, be managed through a careful training programme. The prospect of Treve returning to Longchamp in October 2015 at five is proper dreamweaver territory. A prospect to entice, though to treat with the requisite caution, of course. Lots of water to pass under the bridge, etc., etc

The only possible loser is stud-stallion Dubawi who will have to wait another year before he girds his loins before Al Shaqab’s pride and joy. I imagine he will have other business to keep him out of mischief in the meantime.

That this decision is the exception rather than the rule for the finest flat performers is a source of constant angst amongst racing fans. It is precisely the stud fees commanded by the likes of Dubawi, as well as the prospect of lucrative broodmare offspring, that curtails many a glittering career. Coolmore fees for their top-rated stallions have barely dropped from pre-recession levels; and the investment required for a pop of Galileo is not even publicly declared.

I suspect this is an overly simplistic, reactionary view. I’m intrigued by the economics and statistics around this and plan to explore a bit further. At least that way I’ll have less time for daft bets. Because I’m making a ham-fisted start to the jumps campaign too.

I’ve dabbled ineffectively in a couple of half-decent races at Chepstow, Newton Abbot and Market Rasen to little effect. Maybe I should take comfort from the fact that Taquin Du Seuil looked as far off the pace as me on Friday in Devon. He’ll be back once he loses some condition. Let’s hope the same can be said for me.

The early days of the jumps season are increasingly phoney war territory. Years ago, I had a very fixed view that Tipperary’s decent card in early October marked the launch point. The Tipperary Hurdle – now the Istabraq Hurdle – was the first meaningful Grade 1 of the Autumn and it traditionally threw up Champion Hurdle contenders. Istabraq, of course, farmed it, and others to go on and figure prominently at Cheltenham were Back In Front, Harchibald and Intersky Falcon.

The race was down-classed to a Grade 2 in 2006, Since then, Go Native has been the only winner to emerge as a genuine Champion Hurdle candidate. That was in 2009. This year’s renewal lacked any strength in depth. Rebel Fitz is a useful horse, but he’s unlikely to be in the Champion Hurdle mix next March. A sign of the changing times, though Ireland still presents the best racing over the obstacles this time of year. There is the odd decent race over this side of the Irish Sea but the quality doesn’t really ramp up until the last couple of weeks in October.

Nevertheless, a couple of my 40 follow chaps and chapesses are out today at Ffos Las. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Fergal O’Brien’s The Govaness in the maiden hurdle. Plenty of interest to be gleaned from low profile Autumn cards, despite the paucity of top class action.

Oh, and a quick explanatory PS. Anyone who read my post about the Champion Hurdle earlier this week might have detected an slight variation from the usual Mug Punting style. Truth is I took the King’s Shilling and succumbed to the offer of an advertising fee in return for an article with links to a well-known bookmaker. (Other bookmakers are available…) Well, one has to earn a crust somewhere along the line. Not sure I’ll be repeating the experiment though. 

No comments: