My heart goes out to the family of Vassell “Jollyman” Najair after his untimely demise while trying his best to protect a thoroughbred race horse and the public from injury. If ever any single act can exemplify a life this one WAS “Jolly” Najair. He loved horses; loved horse racing; and saw it as his personal responsibility to provide what his loves needed even where someone else ought to have been provider. So he tried to corral a loose horse and paid the ultimate price. That he was made to lie on the ground while horses completed their post-race journey to the unsaddling area was callous and inexcusable. What was the promoter thinking? Or was it? Furthermore, some pundits, in writing “obituaries”, seemed anxious to include reference to his suspensions which are a routine part of any jockey’s career. In particular, they insisted on recalling his helmet-throwing incident without bothering to find out what was behind it. Anyone who knew “Jolly” (which I did) knew that incident (an unusual reaction by a normally even-tempered individual to extreme provocation grounded in perceived injustice) WASN’T “Jolly”. So why include it in a final review to which he can’t respond? Sheesh! Let’s move on. Congratulations are in order for my friend Cliff Bradford on his deserved national honour. He has been more than a stalwart for thoroughbred horses and trainers for decades. He has been a lifeline. Live long and prosper, Cliff. You’ve completed your duty and beyond. Still moving on, I see 19 new apprentices graduated from Jockeys Training School on September 20. The usual pomp and ceremony attended their induction into the ranks of professional jockeys. Yet it was notable that, as they graduated, apprentices from the previous batch were still riding with “bugs” (weight allowances) or recently removed “bugs”. Remarkable, Anthony Thomas had only recently lost his “bug” after riding more than 130 winners and seemingly cruising to victory in the 2018 jockeys’ championship. But, don’t we know nothing in this world is as it appears? I’ve repeatedly seen this false sense of success ruin many a promising apprentice’s career. Rule changes to increase “bugs” have accomplished nothing more than to encourage a bogus feeling of superiority in young apprentices.
Horse racing fans are the worst offenders because they persistently hail these youngsters as heroes only to abandon them as soon as they lose their “bugs” and rides become hard to find. If I heard that Anthony Thomas was a “soup” for this year’s championship once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. On each occasion I warn enthusiastic turfites that fortunes can change rapidly. One of the most promising apprentices to ride at Caymanas Park was a youth named Dave Jackson who was supposed to be the next George HoSang. He lost his “bug”; struggled for live rides; and disappeared from the scene with weight troubles. The only apprentice I’ve known to quickly overcome loss-of-bug sickness was Omar Walker but, to be fair to Dave Jackson and others, Omar had the all-conquering barn of the iconic Wayne DaCosta backing him exclusively. Anthony Thomas may look good now but, by the end of the year, with the all-encompassing presence of new apprentices with 4kg “bugs”, I won’t be surprised if the title should slip from what seems his firm grip. Part of the problem is the advantage enjoyed from apprentice weight allowances is too significant for too long. No apprentice should be allowed to claim 4kg. It’s just too much. It makes winning too easy. No apprentice should be allowed a “bug” after winning 50 races much less 100. No apprentice should be riding for over two years with a “bug” no matter how many winners he/she has posted. 3kg for the first 15 winners; 2kg for the next 25; and 1kg up to 50 wins or 2 years riding (whichever is first) is more than enough.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times. Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard. Space is at a premium this time so let’s get right into October’s clockwise performances of note:
October 6, 2018 [TV-0.5 per 200m (Rd)] Buckaluck (-6) came alive (Race 1; 5yonw3; 1400m; TV-3½) and ran them ragged clocking 1:28.1 and winning by nine. Her CT (1:28.4’) is competitive among $350,000 claimers but superior to $250,000 (Standard 1:29.2)
October 13, 2018 [TV-0.4 per 200m (Rd); –2 (str) Deal Marker (-11) got the run of the race from in front (Race 3; $550,000 claimers/4yonw3/OT; 1600M; TV-3) so may’ve been flattered by her victory margin (5l). Her time (1:40.0; CT 1:40.3) is only 3/5ths second faster than $550,000 claimers’ standard so she may prove difficult to place for now unless connections accept the inevitable. The one to take from the race is the second, Market Force (-6), whose CT (1:41.3) is 3/5ths second faster than 4yonw3/0T so can win one of those. Will In Charge (-8) won a high-class renewal of the Gold Cup defeating Another Bullet (2nd); She’s A Maneater (3rd) by 4l and stopping the clock at an incredible 1:23.1! This was no fluke as his CT (1:23.4) is a full second faster than Grade 1 standard. The big favourite (3rd) equaled the standard but failed to quicken so may be best suited by further these days.
October 15, 2018 (Heroes’ Day) [TV+0 (Rd); -1 (str)] Storm Valley (-10) out-pointed Uncle Vinnie (-10) but has exhausted his “conditions” (Race 3; 4yonw3/0T; 1600m; TV+0) and his time of 1:40.1, although good enough to win any claimer, is too slow for Overnight Allowance. So the one to take from the race is the second whose time is two full seconds faster than the grade average so should be a cinch next time.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
High quality English racing can’t be found with a microscope as everybody waits for November’s Breeders Cup so let’s look at sports wagering options. My NFL picks are now 5-1 on the season as Week 5’s picks did well despite the Packers’ stunning loss in Detroit. Chargers beat the Raiders 26-10 and my upset special Arizona surprised at San Francisco 28-18. Early week 7 picks are: Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5), whose season usually gets rolling in month two, to lap a dispirited Titans team (0-9-1 against the spread playing the Chargers) traveling to Los Angeles with a pathetic road record; Baltimore Ravens (-2.5), genuine Super Bowl contenders with a traditionally miserly defense coming off a terrific shutout in Tennessee, meet (and should beat) the offensively one-dimensional Saints; and, my upset special, Dallas Cowboys (+1.5) whose season is finally on the up and who travel to D.C. where the Redskins have been their “beating-stick”. This week’s EPL features Bournemouth hosting Southampton. Although the visitors have the better of recent head-to-head matchups, these are teams heading in different directions this season. Bournemouth (Best Bet) has scored two or more goals in their last four home games and can be backed at odds-against with confidence. For an away win, expect Watford, boasting an emphatic 3-1 win at Burnley, to edge Wolves who, at home, could only beat Burnley 1-0. Finally, Newcastle United (winless this season but their four home losses have involved Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester) can salvage a Draw with visiting Brighton whose 2018 road record is 3 losses (Watford; Liverpool; Manchester City) and a draw (Southampton). Readers didn’t have to wait long for returns from our last notebook horse as Alaadel, written up as “very much one to look out for on heavy ground this autumn” won on soft at Goodwood (October 14) at 7/2. Yum, yum! So, we close with another notebook horse: Nasee [3yo b.c. Intello – Mischief Making (Lemon Drop Kid)]: Has potential for vast improvement on his two career runs (one in 2017). He reappeared as favourite in a Wolverhampton maiden (September 1; Tapeta; 9.5 furlongs) but dwelt and ran green; weakening when not clear run over 2 furlongs out (20 lengths 7th of 12). The vet reported he lost his near hind shoe in running and coughed post race. In the best hands at Sir Michael Stoute’s barn, he’s one to keep a close eye on this year and next. Good Luck!