Sunday, 27 March 2011

Jockey Bookings, Late Non Runners & Switching Rides

They say knowledge is power. And if you're at the top of the tree you hear all the juicy gossip a long time before Joe Bloggs on the street.

Which leads me to yesterday's first two-year-old race of the season - 2:30 Kempton

I wonder if anyone noticed anything interesting about that event? Did the winner - Redair - catch your attention for more that one reason? Yes, it won. But that's only part of the story because if we had been in a privileged position - with our highly polished badge of knowledge - the result would have seemed much clearer.

What interests me about yesterday's race is how being a trainer, owner or even slightly connected to a given horse can garner huge advantage.

Looking at the early declarations for the 2:30 Kempton, Cathy Gannon was booked to ride all of David Evans two-year-olds; he originally had five entered but four were declared to run on the day. Gannon - either by choice or the trainers - decided to ride Seven Year Itch. This filly was quite well supported early in the day, probably because the majority of bettors considered she had the pick of the rides. However, later in the day this filly was uneasy on the exchanges and drift to double its odds, while Evans other entrant with Lee Vickers booked to ride was backed. With about two hours before the race, Seven Year Itch was declared a non runner.

I'm sure those in the know at Evans stable were smiling as they polished their badge of knowledge. It must have been gleaming by the time they realised Gannon had demoted Lee Vickers and was now sitting on the well backed second favourite, Redair.

Clearly, there is a period of time between knowing a horse is unlikely to run and it being withdrawn. It must vary quite considerably from one individual to the next. It must take even longer to reach the bookmakers and betting exchanges. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this because these things happen: one moment a horse is sound and the next it is lame. But this period of information and how it is used can be a tool of advantage to those who are in a privileged position.

One specific incident that happened a couple of years ago stuck in  my mind. I will not mention the trainers name because this was truly an incredible event. This well known trainer had two horse entered to run in a race with Jamie Spencer booked to ride the more fancied of the two with the other weak in the betting as many punters considered he had the pick of the rides. Well, from huge prices the outsider was backed on the exchanges. Late on, Spencer's original ride was withdrawn and he replaced the other jockey, on this now very well backed horse, which by the off was a leading fancy. The horse won with ease. But what was amazing. And I still find it beyond comprehension, the trainer said when interviewed after the race that the non runner had never left the stables - but it was only declared a non runner hours later.

Oh, to be in a privileged position of power. Those people down there must look like ants from high in the clouds.