Today’s Racing News: A Lot of Good Horses Run Poorly In Big Race

Straight after what is probably the most extraordinary performance I’ve seen on a racecourse in fifty years, my twitter timeline glittered with Wows! Bristol De Mai had just won the Betfair Chase by a margin usually associated with something like a Foinavon Grand National where a disaster occurs at a fence and every other horse is disadvantaged.

Well, it took just minutes to learn that all of Bristol De Mai’s rivals had indeed been disadvantaged, ITV pundits, including AP McCoy appeared to agree, to a man, that nothing behind Bristol De Mai had ‘run its race’. The grey horse only won like that because today the rest were crap. Quite a few on twitter soon confirmed that this indeed was the case. I checked on The Racing Forum and, yep, sure enough, Bristol De Mai wasn’t actually much good after all.

Really? Is this what racing wants to be?

If you watched, have you ever seen anything like that in a Grade One? Ever? Does it matter that Bristol De Mai was better suited to the conditions than his rivals were? Why does this fact mean everything else was 35lbs below ‘normal’ form in the ground? Why wasn’t Bristol De Mai 35lbs above ‘normal form’?

I get it from a historical handicapping viewpoint, but when a sport cannot glorify a performance never seen from even Arkle or Kauto Star or Denman or Sprinter Sacre, what stage have we reached?

When we cannot celebrate a victory like that because every horse in the race must be given a pass, no wonder we struggle to gain fans.

It’s not as if Bristol De Mai was quickly fitted with a hovercraft skirt or something before he jumped off. He was equipped exactly the same as his rivals. The reason they all looked second raters was Bristol De Mai. Had he not been there, everything would suddenly, in the eyes of the experts have run its race. The other horses were not amiss. They did not all have a bad day at the office. They were exhausted because of the pace set by Bristol De Mai.

This beautiful big six-year-old grey horse just waltzed home by fifty-seven lengths in a Grade One Steeplechase and much of what I hear from veteran racing fans is carping. Seriously?

We are in a sport where a horse would have been more highly credited for winning by ten lengths in a slower time. Think about that.  It’s utterly ridiculous . . . shamefully so. A historic day in the sport, a memory of ten lifetimes for his connections sullied by excuses for the losers.

Oh, by the way, there were six other winners at Haydock today. Arguably, all were better suited to the conditions than their rivals and none contested a Grade One. Add the winning distances of all six and their total still falls short of Bristol De Mai’s by seven lengths.


7 thoughts on “Today’s Racing News: A Lot of Good Horses Run Poorly In Big Race

  1. Spot on Joe… ‘Twisty’ is a seriously underrated trainer – deserves some credit for a change, as does his wonderfully talented inmate. One thing you are forgetting though boss, the majority of us are English – warts and all!

  2. Only time will tell us how good a performance Bristol De Mai put in here but I suspect this was the ‘performance’ of the season. This horse could be the best staying Chaser in training now? Would have been interesting to see how Sizing John would have done against him??

  3. This kind of airy fairy analysis is what leads the majority of punters to the poor house. I am not jumping on either side of the argument just yet. Mai may be average or indeed a much improved super star, but to suggest that because he beat these horses a distance suggests he is a super star is the kind of analysis I hopefully left behind years ago. The first flaw in this argument is that you are trusting your eyes, not only that from a betting point of view (yes I know not relevant to the essential argument) the conclusions are drawn from a perspective that just about everyone can take and see. A more sensible approach would be to try and get a handle on this from some kind of objective analysis instead of a ‘Oh my god he has just thrashed an 11 nearly 12 year old Cue Card’. A sectional analysis might yield some clues. I think, correct me if I am wrong, but Rowley did some work and I think he suggested that the handicapper on the card would have been a beaten, albeit a distant second in the race. I have not done the Maths on this or even scrutinised the analysis but this would be a more acceptable approach.

    It seems like we all get conned by the idea that the saviour of NH racing is simply the next Kauto or Dessie when in actual fact a whole stable full of them currently running would not save NH Racing. NH’s problems are far more fundamental than that.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

      Airy-fairyness is as often in the eye of the reader as the writer. I didn’t say he was a superstar. I didn’t say he was the greatest. I didn’t say the performance was the greatest I’ve ever seen. The word I used was ‘extraordinary’. If you misinterpreted that then it’s not my fault. If you don’t think a history-making victory in a Grade One by 57 lengths is extraordinary then that’s not my fault either.

      I didn’t read Simon’s piece that suggested Chase The Spud would have been second, but I’d be surprised if he drew as brief and unembellished a conclusion, because the reality is that using a finishing position in one race to try to rate a performance in another, right down to what would have finished second, is, as an analytical process, seriously flawed.

      Bristol De Mai got to 3 out a shade over 13 seconds ahead of CTS. Faced with trying to win The Betfair rather than the handicap he ran in, what tactics would CTS’s jockey have pursued, knowing of Bristol De Mai’s past performances there? I doubt he’d have been lying well off the pace. To have any chance of catching Bristol De Mai – as the riders on his Betfair rivals demonstrated – you had to try to keep him in your sights. So the question you meed to ask is how would CTS have fared if he’d tried to reach three out 10 seconds (or more) faster than he ultimately did? Is it likely he’d have fared better than Cue Card and the rest of Bristol De Mai’s rivals? I doubt it.

      Anyway, you are not alone in misinterpreting what I wrote. Quite a few ‘experts’ couldn’t wait to ridicule the post, so my key point bears repeating: I’m not saying Bristol De Mai is a world beater or that he’s better than Arkle or any other such claim. I am saying only that Saturday’s performance was astonishing and extraordinary and that however it came about, Bristol De Mai deserves credit not carping.


      1. I agree it was extraordinary but I would not give it the credit suggested until something more objective can be assigned to the performance and by that token I would not carp it either. My suspicion is that it was a weak race but I would not pin my colours to that mask just yet. If I am right then it was extraordinary by virtue of the rarity of such a weak in depth race. Apologies if I opened a bit strong

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