Serial Losers

Serial Losers There are no winners without losers, so it stands to reason that for anyone involved in the sport of horse racing losing is a fact of life. Even so, every now and then a horse comes along that, for whatever reason, makes losing not so much a fact of life as a way of life.

In Britain, the granddaddy of them all in that respect was Quixall Crossett, trained by Ted Caine, who made 103 starts under the Rules of Racing between February, 1990 and November, 2001 without once visiting the winners’ enclosure; he troubled the judged just eight times, finishing second twice and third six times, and his career earnings amounted to just £8,502. Towards the end of his career, Ted Caine said of Quixall Crossett, ‘He is one-paced and hasn’t got a lot of gears’, while the Racing Post was less forgiving, describing the horse as ‘a seriously slow maiden’.

In fairness, Quixall Crossett cannot be blamed for his innate lack of ability and a similar comment applies to the likes of Elsich, a.k.a. ‘The Arkle of Awfulness’, in the Forties and Polly’s Pet in the Sixties, who racked up 50 and 94 consecutive losses, respectively, under Rules. However, in the Eighties and early Nineties, Amrullah turned losing into an art form, not through lack of ability, but through lack of resolution. Described as a ‘crafty character’ by his trainer John Bridger, Amrullah failed to win all 74 starts and, for much of his career, bore a badge of shame, in the form of the infamous ‘§§’, or ‘double squiggle’ alongside his Timeform rating. Even so, his career earnings amounted to over £26,000, so what he might have done if consenting to put his best foot forward is anyone’s guess.

Folkestone: The Slow, Agonising Death of a Racecourse

Folkestone: The Slow, Agonising Death of a Racecourse Folkestone Racecourse, in the village of Westenhanger, about eight miles west of Folkestone town centre, closed on Tuesday, December 18, 2012, just three days after Hereford Racecourse – also operated by Arena Racing Company (ARC) – suffered the same fate. Notwithstanding the debacle of Great Leighs Racecourse, which had its licence revoked less than a year after opening, in 2009, they were the first racecourses to close since Stockton Racecourse, a.k.a. Teesside Park, in 1981.

At the time, the closure of Hereford was billed as ‘permanent’ and that of Folkestone ‘temporary’, subject to negotiations with Folkestone and Hythe District Council, formerly Shepway District Council, regarding planning permission for houses which would, a spokesman for ARC said, fund the redevelopment of the track and facilities. However, four years after closing its doors, supposedly for the last time, Hereford fully reopened, much to the delight of local trainers and permit holders.

Folkestone, though, remains closed; a dilapidated, unkempt shadow of its former self. A draft plan for 820 houses, submitted to the planning inspectorate in 2013, was withdrawn after initial public hearings, leading Shepway District Council to abandon any provisions for the racecourse. That was, of course, until the Council purchased nearby Otterpool Manor Farm in nearby Sellinge, for a reported £5.2 million, and subsequently announced plans for ‘Otterpool Park’, a ‘garden town’ covering 700 hectares, including the land occupied by Folkestone Racecourse, with up to 12,000 new houses.

That’s life, you might say, with some justification. After all, Teesside Park is now a shopping centre. What is harder to swallow, though, is the fact that Otterpool Manor Farm was bought as designated agricultural land and Shepway District Council said, in as many words, that it would ‘not be developed’. Nevertheless, the Council has already compulsory purchased hundreds of acres of arable land to make way for a secondary school, so what was the only racecourse in Kent looks gone forever.

Too Much, Too Young: How to Profit from Two-year-old Races

Too Much, Too Young: How to Profit from Two-year-old Races Two-year-old or juvenile races, especially those staged early in the season, tend to feature unraced or lightly-raced horses, about which the betting public knows very little. Typically, the only useful information available is the pedigree of the horse in question, its purchase price, the weight it is due to carry, its trainer, its jockey, its current or likely odds and, if the horse has raced, limited form.

However, the pedigree of a young horse can be informative with regard to distance and going preferences and precocity, or otherwise, while its purchase price, although hardly definitive, is usually a fairly reliable guide to its potential. Some sires are well-known as sources of precocious, speedy youngsters and it’s also worth remembering that, logically, a two-year-old foaled in the early months of the year will be more mature, physically, than one born later.

Similarly, some trainers, including Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston, are renowned for their strong record with juveniles, early-season or otherwise, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their runners, especially if the subject of market support. Indeed, if you’re considering an unraced two-year-old, unless you’re privy to ‘inside’ information, which isn’t in the public domain, the betting market may be your only guide to its chances.

If a two-year-old has already raced, speed ratings, such as Topspeed ratings in the Racing Post, can help you to identify a potentially smart youngster before the level of its ability becomes public knowledge. If an inexpensive juvenile with unfashionable connections records a persuasive speed rating, don’t be afraid to back it against newcomers from major yards, who’ll need to be above-average ability, and forward enough, to beat it. Likewise, an expensive juvenile, with powerful connections, may win by a wide margin on its racecourse debut, in a slow time, but still be ‘hyped’ out of all proportion on its next start.