Friday 28 February 2020

Horse Trainers with the knack for winning

Being a horse trainer can be a tough old slog. It's not simply a matter of turning up on the day. The very best trainers know exactly how to select and get the best out of their horses, through an almost forensic approach to racing. Dietary factors (much like their fellow humans – lots of fibre!), exercise plans and old fashioned TLC to avoid injury are all required to get the very best performance out of a horse. Then of course there are differences in approach based on the flat, or jumps, the going, and keeping track of the financial side of things is no mean feat either. It's all geared towards that one specific task of being a winner of Gordon Elliot proportions rather than an 'also ran' over the course of a season.

And make no mistake, winning any race of far from a formality and with that in mind, when as a punter, you manage to latch onto a horse trainer that knows his or her stuff, it can very much lead your betting bank in the right direction. While many punters limit their examination of a potential bet to the horses and jockeys involved, others pay keen attention to the trainer, an such factors as 'how well their horses perform first time out', 'at what betting odds they tend to excel at' (short prices vs outsider bets win rate etc) and so on. There is often a fine line between winning and losing and as such it pays (quite literally) to take into consideration as many relevant factors as possible before placing your bet. Some trainers are especially hard to bet against and oppose on the big occasion, such as Cheltenham or the Grand National.

Willie Mullins for example is a win machine at the Cheltenham Festival with a staggering 61 successes (and seven winners last year). Punters betting on his selections will have certainly made a pretty penny or two over the years. The Mullin's trained winner of the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Al Boum Photo is going for the double this year, and is currently 7/2 joint favourite along with Nicky Henderson's Santini. Even at relatively short odds, it's important to find good value bets, so is worth checking various bookmakers in order to choose where to bet on Cheltenham. Henderson and Mullins both have an exemplary record at the Festival and so it's no surprise that the betting public favour their horses to stand out from the rest of the field. The same applies to all big races and events, such as the Grand National and Royal Ascot. Don't overlook past form of not only the horses, but trainers too, when placing your bets.

If you ever take the time to delve into the data, it's actually quite surprising how few truly 'successful' trainers like Willie Mullins there actually are. That's in part due to the expenses and infrastructure needed to reach that point. The life of a small trainer on the other hand is not often an easy one, or one with many magic moments where everything just falls into place. On the other hand, when you're at the top of your game, like Michael Appleby on the flat, and in national hunt racing Dan Skelton (who has an impressive 40% place rate from over 3000 runs this season), you have the ingredients, know-how and track record for how to stay top of the pile. Even when all is equal between two horses, that trainer influence can very often be the deciding factor in winning or losing.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Jenny Pitman

Nowadays, Jennifer Susan “Jenny” Pitman OBE is best known as a novelist and, more recently, as a member of the disciplinary panel and licensing committee at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). However, “Mrs P”, as she was affectionately – and, sometimes, less affectionately – known, has the distinction of being the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National.

Reflecting on the history victory of Corbiere in 1983, Jenny wrote in her autobiography, “I could hardly bear to watch, but I couldn’t turn away either.” Ridden by Ben de Haan, Corbiere jumped brilliantly throughout the 4 mile 3½ furlong-contest and, despite the desperate, last gasp challenge of Greasepaint, crossed the line three-quarters of a length in front.

Jenny saddled another Grand National “winner”, Esha Ness, in 1993, but he was called home by the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan as the winner of “the National that surely isn’t”. The Jockey Club was forced to declare the race void after the majority of the jockeys, including John White on Esha Ness, failed to realise a false start had been called. Jenny did, however, win a second Grand National with Royal Athlete, ridden by Jason Titley, in 1995.