Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Are You A Heavy Bettor?


The title of this post may have suggested we are talking about betting a big bundle of cash. 

In truth, it's about whether or not you like to bet on extremes of going. Bath, mid-summer, has been one of few courses to race on firm ground. They don't have a watering system to take the sting out of the ground so you know what you are going to get. 

If your horse loves lightning-quick ground it's right up your alley. In these days of health and safety (animal welfare) you can understand why horse trainers sway on the side of caution unless they are happy their horse has legs of steel. As tough as a coffin nail. So to speak. 

But what about testing going? This last month in the UK it seems to have been raining cats and dogs. I feel compelled to wear wellington boots. The rain has led to a number of meetings being abandoned. While others have been declared after early-morning inspections. 

I don't know about you, but when I see the word HEAVY in a going description, I hear bells ringing in my ears. Alarm bells. Perhaps I am being a little bit sensitive in my old age. Tinnitus gone wrong! I mean, if your fancy loves soft/heavy ground surely it's a bonus. In truth, that could well be the case. 

Following the two-year-old racing, there isn't, generally, too much soft-ground form to assess. Sure, if a horse runs a couple of times later in the season, it is possible they will show a bit of form by splashing around in a puddle or two. I'm no expert on breeding, so assessing whether a horse is likely to run well on testing conditions is a question I usually avoid by taking the no-bet option. However, that can lead to frustration when a fancy wins and you blame the ground for your shortcomings. 

For many punters who follow the National Hunt, testing going must, literally, be par for the course. 

My good friend Eric Winner enjoys his sprint racing and he is very successful at it too. However, he isn't keen on betting on testing going on the turf because it doesn't usually favour fast horses or makes the tactics employed even more problematic. Go a stride too fast and your bet is in trouble. Too slow away or off the pace, and they struggle to claw back the ground. Also, and I'm sure you have all had a moan about this, these going reports (stick readings) are bordering on something you read from a comic. Many punters watch the first two races and assess the times to make their own assessment not keen on those descriptions of the so-called ''professionals''. 

I have seen a number of scandalous going descriptions. The times have no reflection on the going description or the racecourse has one almighty change of description after the first race where the mythical ''good'' going changed to ''soft''. 

There is no easy way of assessing the going on an undulating course or even a straight mile. However, you would think technology has an answer or two beyond pushing a stick into a square inch of turf at random points on the course. 

So how do you feel about betting on heavy going? Is it a plus or a minus? Does it bring you out in a cold sweat? 

Horse trainers should have a better idea than most. I remember some old sage saying to look for a horse with hooves the size of a dinner plate. While others say some nimble-footed horse skips through the mud like Pegasus without wings. 

For me, betting on heavy going always makes me question betting at all. Funnily enough, I often associate big-priced winners with soft/heavy going. 

What's your opinion?