horse racing

Three to follow from the Weekend: 10th, 11th & 12th February…

I don’t know about you but the DENMAN CHASE and GAME SPIRIT CHASE just don’t really do it for me these days… 

The Irish stayers must have been looking at Saturday’s Denman Chase with their feet up smoking a fat cigar, safe in the knowledge that they only have BRAVEMANSGAME to ‘worry about’ when it comes to the Gold Cup next month…

No offence to this years winner ZANZA… indeed he’s a horse I actually have a lot of time for… but him winning the Denman Chase by a going away 7L tells you they need to do something different with the race… sure Zanza loves Newbury so it could have been expected that he outran his odds to a certain degree… but he was beaten 87L off OR 144 in a C1 Handicap last time out and prior to Saturday had been 0/14, 1p at Class 1 level. This year’s renewal just looked a mess of a race and I’d treat the form with plenty of suspicion… it’s just not attracting the right horses anymore and a race named after the mighty Denman needs to be a better than it currently is…  

The Game Spirit Chase isn’t much better… it’s only ever had more than six runners lining up THREE times in the last 25 renewals… 13 of the 25 renewals have seen 5 runners or less… 6 of the last 9 renewals have seen 4 or less renewals… and whilst it maybe is attracting the right horses it clearing isn’t attracting enough of them… 

But I’ll be honest… I’m not sure what the answer is… 

Do the conditions of the races like the Denman Chase & Game Spirit need to be changed? 

Do they need to be switched to limited handicaps?

Do they maybe need to become part of a group of races, like the Betfair Million races that Kauto Star nailed backed in the day, but not races where you need to WIN them ALL… I always thought that was pointless as when you failed to win the first race in the series the remaining races lost any incentive for any horse except the winner of the first race… for example the powers that be could bundle up, say, the Charlie Hall – Betfair Chase – King George – Cotswold Chase – Denman Chase – Gold Cup – Bowl Chase (Aintree) and then the horse with most points (maybe 10 for a win, 5 for 2nd & 2 for 3rd) once all races are run gets a hefty money bonus… rules being you need to have WON at least ONE of the races in the series and RUN in at least FOUR of them… (I’m literally making this up as I type… but I like it… I feel it’s got legs!!).

Same could be done for the top 2-mile races on the calendar and whilst we are at it the same could be done for the top 2-mile Hurdle races and the top 3-mile Hurdle races…

Whilst we are at it you could also develop something similar for the Graded Novice races on the calendar… none of us (well maybe Nicky Henderson 🀨) really want to be seeing JONBON taking on just one opponent in a Grade 2 (for all the race did end up giving us all plenty to talk about!)… 

Can’t be too hard to pull that together surely?!?

As much as I love the Cheltenham Festival (and I do, I love it as much as most racing fans/punters) something needs to be done to boost the field sizes and competitiveness of races away from those 4-days in March…

Hell maybe we even need some sort of Pertemps Final style race over fences! As much as I’m not the biggest fan of those they do generally produce healthy fields throughout the season… and the final doesn’t need to be at Cheltenham… I’m sure plenty of other tracks would be happy to throw their name in the ring to host a Pertemps Chase final…

Come on the powers that be! Get the race programme sorted… before it’s too late…

…that went on a bit longer than I planned πŸ™ˆ so I’ll shut up for now and give you what you are actually here for…


Three to follow from the Weekend: 10th, 11th & 12th February…


Horse Profile - Jockey Colours PASS ME BY (R Bandey)

2nd in a C4 Novice Handicap Chase – 200 Kempton (Friday 10th Feb) 

An improvement on his two previous chase starts and I suspect that may have been due to the Good ground on offer at Kempton. His two previous Chase starts came on Soft whilst his sole win to date came on Good over Hurdles (Maiden Hurdle at Huntingdon – 20th Nov 2021) and I suspect he may be at his best on Good to Soft or quicker ground.

I’d be hopeful of Richard Bandey getting a win into him over fences before too long, especially if the ground stays on the decent side, and he was only shuttled up 2lbs for this run to OR 112, a mark I feel should be well within range for him.

Pass Me By is closely related to LITTLE RIVER BAY (trained by Philip Hobbs) and that one is a 3-time winner over fences so far, so positives there that PASS ME BY can make into a better chaser than he was a hurdler.


Horse Profile - Jockey Colours MAJOR DUNDEE (A King)

3rd in C3 Handicap Chase – 300 Kempton (Friday 10th Feb) 

I’m pretty sure this one needs a Left-Handed track to show his best, with his LH/RH splits now reading…

LH form = 32110122F01 (4/11, 4p – all 4 career wins)

RH form = 6803 (0/4, 0p – well-beaten each time)

Both his runs this year have come on RH tracks (here and Ascot in October) so I wonder if connections are possibly trying to get his mark down a little before unleashing him back left-handed with a specific target in mind… he was dropped 2lbs for this run to OR 128 which means he has gone down 4lbs for his 2 starts this season.


Horse Profile - Jockey Colours TRITONIC (A King)

8th in C1 Betfair Hurdle – 335 Newbury (Saturday 11th Feb) 

Seems a better horse going right-handed over obstacles, with his LH/RH splits now reading…

RH form = 4111 (3/4)

LH form = 8900525 (0/7, 0p)

He was dropped a very pleasing 4lbs for this run and that puts him on an even more attractive mark of OR 137, a mark that is 4lbs below his last and highest winning Hurdle mark, and it will be interesting to see where they go with him after this.

He’s still only a 6yo and he should have more to offer under the correct circumstances, with those right-handed tracks looking the key for him.

Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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12 responses to “Three to follow from the Weekend: 10th, 11th & 12th February…”

  1. Hi Ben. Love your off the cuff thinking on the points system – As a good a idea as ive heard any road!

    Back to the racing – How the heck has the handicapper saw fit to clobber Zanza up to a mark of 158 on back of his win! Graded company only with that and surely he can not win again….Newbury aside!

    • I know Simon, I noticed that massive hike for poor Zanza this morning!! Crazy stuff… that could be the poor boys last win as it will take an age to get him back down to any sort of workable mark… 😐

      Glad you like the points style system… needs to be some incentive (money incentive!) for horse to run in all/plenty of the races in any sort of series…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • The handicapper has been on the wacky-baccy. OR158 for Zanza suggests that the handicapper hasn’t a clue what they’re doing. Hitman hits a wall at 2m5f, he was btn before 2-out and plodded on, and I’d have put my mortgage on Fanion D’Estruval not staying 2m7f. With Does He know running a stinker (had my money on his back – that’s why!), the race was there for the taking by course-specialist Zanza. A 15lb hike makes our sport look unprofessional (to be polite). The handicapper should be made to explain his reasoning.

  2. Points over lots of races can just reward mediocrity. Still better than a million quid for winning the first 3 3m grade 1s :- a) only horse last X years who could win all 3 would have done anyway b) it did not encourage many horses as almost everyone knows beforehand they can win all 3 or even 1 of them. Indeed best thing for field size might be keeping a Kauto away from such a race.

    Competitive racing:-

    Reduction in Grade 2s unless they have a record of attracting Grade 1b horses – or are clear preps -> is there really such a thing as a prep now? Rhetorical.

    Reduction in NHF, Novice Hurdles and Novice Chases. Qualification 1 year only 2/3/4 races respectively outside Grade 1 (no grade 2s & really G1 novices should be given lesser status G1N?) Fez G1s fine but 1 less NC & NH at AINTREE & CHEL. Age restrictions for graded novices 6 for hurdle 7 for chase [negotiated to 7/8! with me dissenting]. It does not stop a 9yo novice chaser getting a mark but encourages them to move on say.

    No listed/graded bumpers, None. They’re no longer serving much purpose.

    We should not run the sport to extract maximum fees from owners for trainers and minimum competition in short IMO. If competitive racing and betting on it matters? Hence it’s what I would like to see.

    BTW If best mares are racing is that going to affect breeding – in terms of less hardy stock/actual jumpers being bred? It seems another thing done for the short term interests of trainers and another way to less competitive racing.

    Not against Vets as the full fields for these animals show and look at Chelters winners 10yo is retirement age at the top! Good betting heats.

  3. Well as we all know Ben it’s all down to the lack of British prize money in this game, as well as keep of a race horse, that is killing this game that we all love.
    I’m the same as yourself I do not know the answer to bigger fields as if the money isn’t available/ Not a lot we can do ??
    Adding to you thoughts of a Pertemps chase Final sort of race isn’t a bad idea apart from the qualifiers running down the field as in the Hdle division, but yet qualifying down the field in 5/6th, which in my eyes isn’t competitive racing, especially for a punter but yet, turning up in the Final with that competitive mark πŸ˜πŸ™„
    With the thoughts of the BHA coming up with a change to whip rules, 4 weeks before the Cheltenham Festival, I don’t come up with much hope for more competitive racing midweek if left in the hands of people involved at this moment In time πŸ€”
    Maybe the whip rule is to prevent the Irish Jockeys (not accompanied as much as the English) to make the Prestbury Cup more competitive?? lol
    Keep up the excellent work Ben πŸ‘

    • Maybe horseracing needs a fundamental shift in how it is financed, and instead of “levy” funds being pumped into prizemoney, why not subsidise the owners directly by paying a fee to every runner in a race and/or remove race entry fees for all but graded/group races on jumps and flat? Just 3 years ago I had shares in 5 horses (2 jumps & 3 flat), but now I’m down to just the one 3yo filly. Probably cost me close to Β£15,000 over a 7 year period, and I have some good memories, but I’m sure my partner would rather have a new kitchen! I do like the points idea, unfortunately the only likely sponsor would be booze company.

  4. Hi Ben, I seem to recall in the UK there was some kind of National Hunt points system to encourage more regular runs shall we say but I think it was shelved 5 or 6 years ago.
    To me, we have too many Graded races in this country with not the horse population to support it. For example with the Denman Chase horses not there were Bravemansgame (aimed at Cheltenham), L’Homme Presse (injured), Ahoy Senor, Protektorat, Frodon (ran in Cotswold Chase 2 weeks ago), then I’m struggling to name any others.

    Solutions? Handicap chase could work, I mean Denman won 2 x Hennessys didn’t he? and package that up with a really good 2m handicap Game Spirit Chase and you have 3 x competitive handicaps on the day (like Leopardstown last week).

    In Graded races, I wouldn’t thump a horse up in the ratings irrespective of performance. For example Zanza you’ve touched upon, Calico may well get hiked up, and then whats the point in running a horse who’ll never win a Grade 1 / class1 if it gets murdered in the handicap after.

    Ultimately, heads need to come together to map out a directive, but we’ve said this countless times haven’t we? However at Cheltenham this year you may well get 5 or 6 in the Champion Hurdle, I doubt more than 8 or 9 in the Queen Mother, no more than 10 I’d think in the Gold Cup and the biggest numbers will be I reckon in the Ryanair and the Stayers. Why? no outstanding candidate and they are open races. We don’t have the horse population to support so many Graded races.

  5. As it stands, almost any idea is better than the radio silence of the Panjandrums – but it isn’t just about NH racing.
    If the biggest issue is about money, maybe we should remember that we’re forgetting the old adage that racehorse ownership – other than for a stud or farm – is not a business, it’s a hobby.If you’re in ownership to make money… or worse think you’re entitled to break even, then it is entirely possible that you’re part of the problem.
    It might also be possible that we have too many racehorses, of average quality going to too many trainers, who are trying to earn a crust from too many racecourses. We have allowed in some cases, the yards to become too large, and it is not good enough to fall back on the laws of supply and demand to justify a situation where Irish and UK NH yards effectively produce controlled by The figures themselves

  6. Sorry got cut off… What I was trying to say was that since 2000, we have a situation where 33% of all Irish NH races are won by just 10 yards. That doesn’t mean all the other races are won by 40 yards – it means the bulk of prize monies goes to less than 5% of the training establishment. In the UK, since 2000, 24% of all races have been won by the top ten yards and 35% by the top 20. In both cases in terms of the number of trainers who had entries, my database stop at 1000. Is that healthy? No – and the case is made very eloquently in today’s RP when compared for example to the NFL’s management of its sport.

  7. I don’t know why they don’t have a British Champion Series for the jumps with Cheltenham the hosting the finals of each category. 2m, 2m4f, 3m and 3m6f Chase and Hurdles spread over the 4 days

  8. Shift those at the NHA and replace with people who will listen to people in the industry i:e trainers, jockey’s and the general racing public.

  9. Zanza may be one who needs a race to be run properly. The Rowland Meyrick was run very slowly and the other two races at 3 miles (one hurdle and one chase) were also way slower than average. I’m sure I heard Hobbs say post race that he wasn’t going to run him but the owner wanted a runner. It could be that they don’t really know the horse because that’s a pretty decent performance there. TS 141 and RPR 165, but the problem being he’s going to be hoisted from 143 into high 150’s. I’m not sure where that puts him with regards chelters. That sort of performance would get him maybe into 6th or 7th in an average / good Gold Cup. a mark of say 157 would put him in an Ultima off around 11-6, which is not good. The only other suitable race is the Kim Muir but that’s 0-145 so he’ll not get in. He’s probably a horse without a chase to go to. On the bright side his hurdles mark is miniscule. Right now he’s 128 – whether the assessor will see that as a blip and adjust, I am not sure. But there is a horse who has proven to run to RPR 165 off a good pace in a chase and officially rated more than 30lb less over hurdles. If I was Hobbs I’d be pretty happy with that, as it open up lots of hurdle races and a betting option.

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