Racing Tales

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A Short Love Affair

When Sir Des Champs won the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011, he was just one of three Gigginstown horse that Willie Mullins sent out that season for the O'Leary's. Over the next five seasons the numbers of Gigginstown horses with Mullins rose incrementally by around eight to ten each season. The O 'Leary's began racing horses in National Hunt racing back in the 2001-2002 season when they had two runners. By the end of last season their team had grown to approximately one hundred and seventy horses who appeared on the Racecourse under Rules. 

This mornings announcement that sixty Gigginstown horses are being removed from the Mullins yard in a row over fees has come as a complete shock. Wiilie Mullins, in an interview on At The Races, said that he had increased his fees for the first time in ten years and Gigginstown would not pay the increase. More tellingly, he told viewers that every owner who comes into the yard is treated equally. The one thing that has always struck me about Willie Mullins as a person is a sense of decency about him. In return he has been shown great loyalty by many of his owners and and good staff don't come easily, therefore it is understandable that after ten years the trainer would want to maintain standards by increasing his fees. On the other hand, running an operation like Gigginstown's doesn't come cheaply. Last season in Ireland, they had one hundred and forty winners from six hundred and fifty three runners giving them a strike rate of 22% and total prize money of £3.6 million (stats from Racing Post). In Great Britain they had seven runners from sixty eight winners and and just under £1.6 million in total prize money. 

Today's episode must have shocked the owners given the quality of the horses they had in the yard and they probably felt they were in a position to negotiate. They have since released a a statement saying that they hope the door can remain open and the relationship can resume sometime in the future. There are probably many people out there who feel Gigginstown got just desserts following their treatment of Sandra Hughes and Tony Martin when they were summarily removed from their trainers roster last year, Martin's horses were sick and Hughes had trained the Irish National winner the previous season. The question now is who will get the horses leaving the Mullins Yard. Maybe we got a hint last week, when following the removal by the Potts family of their horses from Henry De Bromhead, the latter informed us that he was getting an increased number of new horses from Giginstown. Having lost around thirty horses De Bromhead is certainly in a position to take a substantial amount of the Gigginstown draft in. Gordon Elliott who trained just over sixty horse under rules (not counting point to point horses) last season will undoubtedly get a lot of them if he has any empty boxes. Mouse Morris and Noel Meade are others who have had success with Gigginstown horses and continue to train for them.

The down side of all of this is the possibility of job losses at the Mullins yard, although I suspect that Willie's phone will be ringing with offers of new horses  given last years strike rate of 36%. We could speculate all day as to whether there is more to this story than we are being told. Obviously Willie Mullins trains for some of the top owners in Ireland and there have been occasions when he has had to run them against each other, particularly in Graded races. This decision might just make that a bit easier for him this winter.

A lesson in smart betting  D Smyth, Dublin
Many years ago I learnt a valuable lesson about betting and gambling. I travelled to Dundalk races, when it was a dual purpose grass track, singing the praises of a horse that I thought would hack up in race. When we got to the races my travelling companion, who was an older and much wiser man than me, and myself split up. To my horror the horse that I fancied opened up even money in the betting and went back and forth between that price and 4/5. Been a young teenager looking to make a big buck I decided to put my few pound on a 9/2 chance who might beat him if the favourite had an off day. Of course the favourite hacked up. My travelling companion congratulated me on my success only to be horrified when I told him what I had done. He explained to me that I would have made a 100% profit on my selection if I had backed it and yet I was now twice as much worse off because I was chasing big money on a gamble. Lesson learned and I've remembered it to this day. I have also learned something else since from this site. I had always known that about 38% of favourites won races on average. What I never looked at before was a breakdown of these figures. To my amazement I saw that Non Handicap races were won by in excess of 50% of favourites while less than 30% of favourites won Handicap races. Of course the reasons for this can be quite simple. The better horses are rated higher for a reason and that is  they are more consistent than the lower rated ones. It is seldom that highly rated horses run in handicaps as they can be subjected to overly hard races giving lumps of weight away to the rest of the field. Also the lower rated horses are much more inconsistant. As a result of these conclusions I seldom bet in handicaps, believing that they are more of a gamble than the graded races where you are betting on a thread of form that is usually consistent. Note that I use the word gamble and betting and I believe that there is a difference. Of course there are other rules. Never bet more than you can afford to lose. Set a certain amount aside for your day's betting and if you lose it all, don't chase your losses, walk away and take stock and live to fight another day. You don't have to bet in every race either. If you can't make up your mind on a horse don't bet. Sit back and watch and take something out of the race. Every race we watch is adding to the store of information we have about the horses. I personaly don't bet "in running". Unless you know the horses involved inside out you can end up with egg on your face and an empty pocket. Likewise I don't bet anti-post as too many things can go wrong in the months leading up to a race. But I think the most important thing I learnt was that you will never see a bookie go to work on a bike.