There have always been intangibles in the Sport of Kings. Today there are more than ever before.
There has been a lot of social media chatter lately about rides and rider intentions. This is certainly an intangible. We all get frustrated when we see one horse on a lonely lead in a race that looked to have a fair amount of speed signed on. It seems to happen on the turf more than the dirt, but the frustration is pretty much equal regardless of the surface.
The class or significance of the race does not seem to matter either. Just look at this year’s Group 1 Investec Epsom Derby. Serpentine was allowed to open up a big lonely lead at generous odds and help on for the win. What were all the other riders thinking? I mean, they all want to win this prestigious race.
As a handicapper, we can decipher which of the horses have the speed and ability to make or press the pace. The problem lies in our not knowing what the riders will do, or what trainer instructions might be. We can factor in rider styles as we generally know the ones who like the lead and those who don’t.
In an age where many call for more transparency in horse racing, there is a relatively simple fix for this handicapping dilemma. It is already employed in some other jurisdictions, so the “that won’t work argument” is null and void. Is it perfect? No, but it is a step in the right direction.
Believe it or not in Hong Kong, where the fields are large and the pools are even larger, you can’t take a speed horse back without clearing it with the stewards first and letting them know in advance about any change in tactics. If you don’t let them know, and then do it, you can be fined or suspended. The stewards will also revue any excuse like the horse didn’t break today. Many times you can tell whether it was the break, the jockey, intentional, or just one of those things.
I am not really a fan of empowering stewards more than they already are. That said, we need to correct and improve some of the low hanging fruit driving our existing players away and preventing us from bringing in new ones.
If the fines and suspensions are legit, we have taken steps to eradicate an issue for the customer.