Racing Syndicate

Mister McGoldrick mark is so hard to justify

Mister McGoldrick mark is so hard to justify

Mister McGoldrick mark is so hard to justify

Below is a letter I sent to the Racing Post which was published in the “letters to the Editor” section on Friday 27th Feb 09. It was in response to an article by journalist Colin Russell published in the RP Fri 20th Feb on the subject of the rights and wrongs of racehorse handicapping in the UK.

“Some might say that as the owner of 2008 Cheltenham Festival winner Mister Mcgoldrick, I`m hardly in a position to agree with Colin Russell`s critical but constructive analysis of the handicapping system.(February 20th).

How on earth, after McGoldricks runaway victory in the Racing Post Plate, could I quibble about his being raised 16lb for his Master Minded-style win – 13 lengths clear of the second and a further 11 lengths back to the third?

The answer, my friends, was blowing in the wind.

In stark contrast to the gales that played havoc and caused the Wednesday card to be abandoned, a light breeze drifted into Town about lunchtime. But, significantly, with it came light rain that persisted and, by late afternoon, had become quite heavy.

The ground got wetter and softer, and by 4.05pm, the off time for the Racing Post Plate, everyone could see it was definitely soft, at least.

Trainers who had declared 48 hours earlier, most anticipating good, near perfect ground, ended up sending their horses to post on soft-and getting softer-terrain.

There were very few who ran in the race who appreciated the change of going that day, but Mister McGoldrick did. He ran his usual, genuine race, but on this occasion, thanks to the intervention of the elements, he had his one big day, which he so richly deserved.

But the records and statistics will forever show the distances between the first three and then wider distances back to the rest, not forgetting the five who pulled up.

The point I am trying to get across is that Russell is quite right to say “when assessing the merits of a handicap, the distances between the first two, three or four home appears the overriding factor, seemingly regardless of ground conditions or competitiveness of the race”.

It was not rocket science to understand that my horse was not an improver. All he did was take advantage of the changed underfoot conditions when most others could not.

If one agrees with my reading of the Racing Post Plate and the major influence conditions on the day had on the result, and the fact that, as an 11-year-old, McGoldrick is fully exposed, with his only previous chasing wins coming at Wetherby and Ayr, how on earth can a 16lb hike in the weights be justified?

What else can we believe, other than that handicapping today is based solely on figures, statistics and software? In giving my horse a 16lb rise, the system has probably denied Sue Smith any chance for the next two seasons of making Mister McGoldrick competitive again, by which time he will be 13 and eligible for his bus pass.

Handicappers must, whether it is a selling race at Sedgefield or a top class race at Cheltenham, sit back at times and, using their common sense, say, “hang on a minute, that doesn`t look quite right, so lets have another look”.

We`ll run Mister McGoldrick again at the festival this year, but even if my late mum and dad watching from their grandstand in the sky can organise another timely intervention by the weather, it may not be enough off his current mark.

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