Champion pacer Majestic Mach paid officially $1 for a win on Tattsbet last Saturday night at Albion Park as per this photo. In doing so, he created Australian racing history, as is explained below, but his victory also highlighted other major problems we have in racing in Australia, if all the dills who talk only positive rot, actually stood back and looked at the bigger picture. Naturally Justracing has no problem raising some of the tough issues currently confronting the industry.
Brisbane’s weather improved markedly on Friday and Saturday of last week which got the track back to a dead 5 rating for the first race and a dead 4 track for the remainder of the eight-race Doomben card last Saturday according to stewards, but I can’t believe that not a soul in the media has even queried the accuracy of that dead 4 rating. Given the dreadfully slow overall times that were recorded in every single race run on the day, Blind Freddie accompanied by a Labrador and holding a white cane, would surely question how that track could possibly have been a dead 4.
There are but four possible scenarios to the riddle and those four scenarios were that 1) there was no pace on in any of the eight races, 2) the horses that contested all eight races cumulatively have no ability, 3) all horses were running into cyclonic winds at some point in the race, or 4) the track rating of a dead 4 wasn’t accurate - as how could every one of the eight winners on the day clock such slow overall times in comparison to the track record.
Let me explain further. In race order this is how far off the track record each winner was on the eight event card. Sir Moments stopped the clock 3.64 seconds or 21.84 lengths off the track record in the first race. In the second race Missy Longstocking was 2.54 seconds or 15.24 lengths off the track record. When Funtantes won the third race she was 2.38 seconds or 14.28 lengths off the track record. Solzhenitsyn won Race four over 1600 metres and he stopped the clock at 3.27 seconds or 19.62 lengths off the extrapolated 1615-metre track record of Arrabeea. Dear Demi won the Doomben Roses in time of 6.26 seconds or 37.56 lengths off the track record. In winning the Fred Best Classic, Platinum Kingdom barely broke 1.20.00 for the 1350-metre race when he recorded 1.19.81 which happens to be 2.72 seconds or 16.32 lengths off the track record. Beaten Up won the alleged Group 1 Doomben Cup over 2000 metres, some 5.24 seconds, or 31.44 lengths off the extrapolated track record of Might And Power which won over 2020 metres. Then in the last race, Belltone again was flat out breaking 1.20.00 in the 1350-metre BRC Sprint clocking 1.19.50, which is again 2.41 seconds or 14.46 lengths off the track record. Not all races were run at pedestrian pace in their first split, although some were. You work out which of the four aforesaid scenarios above is correct. My Brisbane Sectional Times clients will get the correct answer.
On the subject of track ratings, what about Scone last Friday and Saturday? I often shake my head at how amazingly tracks can dry out around Australia to get back to dead to help stimulate betting turnover, but Scone last Friday afternoon got upgraded to a good 3 after Race 3 (run at 1.38pm) but never improved to be a good 2 at any time from that moment right up to and including the last race Saturday exited the barriers at 4.30pm. So in 15 hours with fine weather the Scone track didn’t dry out one increment. Bet you my bottom dollar had it started off as a dead 4 Saturday it would have been upgraded to a good 3 as soon as possible. As I’ve written here numerous times before, this one to ten track rating system is all so stupid - it defies belief. When the idea was first mooted I was a fan but as far as I’m concerned now “it’s all crap”. In fact at Scone, Taxmeifyoucan went around the track via the Cape of Good Hope in Race 7 on Saturday afternoon and ran less than three-quarters of a length off the track record but even following that feat, the track stayed as a good 3. In my four-odd decades of watching horse racing I’ve concluded the track will normally be “fast” when horses either break the track record or get close to it. Taxmeifyoucan came off ordinary recent form to test the track record as did the runner-up Lunar Rise, the point being had a decent 3YO run in the race it would have totally obliterated the track record.
On the subject of Scone, let me exclusively advise publicly that people doing form shouldn’t take any notice whatsoever of the electronic last 600-metre race sectionals that were issued on the two days. They aren’t even remotely close in the five races I reviewed for my Sydney Sectional Times clients. Once again these race clubs want standalone Saturday meetings, yet they can’t even get basic infrastructure right.
In a radio interview that I heard with leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees on Thursday or Friday of last week, he expressed concern that the Scone track hadn’t played fair at their “last couple of standalone meetings”. After on-pace runners dominated the two-day Carnival and backmarkers except in the near track record race of Taxmeifyoucan’s had problems making ground, so his words came ringing back. Watching the television coverage of Scone it certainly seemed hard for backmarkers to get into the race and it was blatantly apparent to anyone with a set of eyes that there seemed to be a lot of fill being kicked about in near the fence before the home turn. Others on racing radio or racing television talked the track up noting, “they hardly marked it”. You see it’s all about keeping things positive at all costs, as all these people technically work for TABs which own the racing radio and racing television stations, so they need to talk everything up to bleed punters of every loose dollar in their pocket.
I regularly write not to take any notice of a thoroughbred’s performance until that horse has shown twice that it can put in a phenomenal effort. If it can produce a “phenomenal effort” twice, it’s obviously a good horse, but in 90% of cases they can’t. A good case in point surfaced again last Saturday when Al Aneed raced at Doomben last Saturday. His Gold Coast run 14 days earlier was what any fair person would call “phenomenal” as the overall time was fast, he’d never started the clockwise way of going before that run and so on, yet he looked like a donkey when trying to replicate that Gold Coast run last Saturday at Doomben, so always make sure a horse looks good twice as any horse born can fluke one pearler of a run.
On Friday night I exclusively wrote of the shocker that was Flemington Race 7 – The Straight Six – the following day on Saturday. Going into the race Mister Milton had won just one race from 23 starts meaning he possessed a 4.3% (in words that’s four point three) win strike rate as he headed off to the barrier. Conversely he had a proven failure rate over a long period of time (he turns 5YO in 10 weeks) of 95.7%. He won my “shocker” of a race as naturally something has to win every bad race ever run, but I admit to being taken aback by racecaller Terry Bailey getting so excited by the victory. After Terry Bailey’s call of the win, I think I now know why total non-achiever thoroughbreds like Mister Milton still walk around with their head held high. It’s obviously from over excited racecallers who give what I’d call “chaffbandits of monumental proportions” a big free plug at the end of a race.
Here’s what a highly excited Terry Bailey said as Mister Milton shot clear of the scrubbers he was opposed to late: “Mister Milton can he do it? Go boy. Mister Milton a length in front of By The Way and he wins again”. Whoa – settle down Terry – apart from anything else getting excited to that degree is no good for the ticker, but those words “wins again” surely infers he’s performing just like Black Caviar - and putting a long series of wins together.
Let me say if I were calling the race I’d have said (please note I’ve left all the expletives out): “Well Justracing wrote last night that this was a shocker of a race and he’s been proven right yet again as this horse with a 4.3% win strike rate Mister Milton dashes to the front and it’s all over. You cannot be serious. Goodness gracious me” – and by doing that the horse would have got correctly bagged instead of this “go boy” and “wins again” stuff. Additionally John McEnroe and the late Bill Collins would have got a mention, so memories could have come flooding back. I mean there are homeless people all around Australia today sitting in the local Mall and busking - trying to get a coin donation to buy a feed for themselves – simply because of horses like Mister Milton. Oh God no - and I just noticed in the Form Guide he’s still a stallion. They wouldn’t try to improve the thoroughbred gene pool with him later on in life - would they?
For the record, prior to last Saturday’s win, Mister Milton has had 15 starts at Listed or Group level (2 starts at Group 1, four at Group 2, four at Group 3 and five at Listed) for just the one solitary placing and amazingly that one placing was at Group 1 level when he clocked in third of 16 to Mosheen and Strike The Stars in the Australian Guineas at Flemington on 3/3/12. In his previous 11 starts to last Saturday “go boy” had run just one placing. Gee he’s some horse. I wonder if the male suicide rate in Australia was suddenly impacted by the victory of Mister Milton last Saturday. I sincerely hope not. Maybe all our racecallers should be made learn a second language, say Swahili, and when a real non-achiever dashes to the front and is clearly home the racecaller can quickly switch from English to Swahili to soften the blow for punters? When the horses hit the line, Sky Channel and TVN could then cross straight back to the studio where a counsellor could come on and explain the terrible event that has just happened so that punters who invested in the race didn’t feel so aggrieved.
The next thing that we have a major problem with in this country is race day crowds. At Adelaide on Group 1 Goodwood day a couple of Saturdays ago, the crowd figure was officially 2311. That’s pathetic. Fair dinkum I’ve seen more people than that in a bygone era at the local pub if they had topless sheilas selling tickets in chook raffles to aid the junior rugby league club on a Friday arvo. Interestingly, on the same day in Brisbane they feared they wouldn’t be able to handle “50,000” at Doomben if Black Caviar lobbed in town to race in the BTC Cup, so they switched the race to Eagle Farm. Unfortunately Black Caviar was pushing out zeds in a paddock somewhere on the day as she’d been retired and only 5000-odd people made it to Doomben.
Last Saturday the crowd at Doomben was okay but one emailer said he was filthy that he had to pay to get in as “a heap of people were walking around with free tickets to get in”. Wonder what the right number of paying people was last Saturday? It got worse at Albion Park harness racing last Saturday night. As at today, champion 2YO and 3YO Majestic Mach has won all his 19 career starts except for just one. He was defeated at Menangle when he ran second in the Group 1 NSW Pacers Derby on 3/3/13. His appearance in Saturday night’s final at Albion Park was even advertised multiple times in The Courier Mail late last week in paid advertisements. Winning 18 from 19 isn’t as good as Black Caviar, but it’s only missing by one win to remain unbeaten and it’s simply a wonderful effort for any equine or canine athlete to exude those statistics. Sadly not many extra people bothered to go to Albion Park last Saturday night to watch him race - and predictably win again. In fact nor does anyone bother going to watch him any time he races up here. It’s impossible to think that crowds will ever return to Queensland harness racing if the public aren’t remotely interested in turning up to watch a champion run. And for the record, people don’t ever have to pay to get in to see the colt race at Albion Park, whether he races during the day, or on a Saturday night meaning the admission price is certainly not a stumbling block.
On the subject of Majestic Mach I can exclusively advise some other facts. The Tattsbet win pool hold on his race last Saturday was utterly pathetic at just $8,099. When the colt won his heat just four days earlier on the Tuesday afternoon meeting at Albion Park, the Tattsbet win pool hold was still ordinary but it was at least a healthier $13,017. I can tell readers that for the record the horse created Australian racing history by starting officially at $1.00 in both those victories, just four days apart. In racing history other winners have paid money back ($1) - but the same horse has never officially started at $1 - twice in four days.
That scenario of Majestic Mach paying money back of $1 is yet another reason Australian racing is under the whip and going up and down in the one spot. A punter who puts their hard earned on a horse like Majestic Mach clearly has no chance of winning, but if the horse gallops in the run and gets beaten, the punter gets to lose their entire stake. How the hell is that fair? In other words you don’t have any chance of winning on your bet, yet you can magically lose 100% of your stake. In a bygone era, a horse or greyhound that had the majority of the pool invested on it was simply called a “refund scratching” and was removed from the pool. Punters were advised before the race and their money was refunded post race, whether the horse ran first or tenth, based simply on the pretext that “if you are no chance of winning a cent with your bet when the race starts, then conversely you shouldn’t be able to lose”. And that scenario is more relevant today than ever before, as with dividends rounded down by TABs – they are never rounded up – a horse that was going to pay $1.04 will now pay $1. So we need to re-adopt the procedures of yesteryear with respect to “refund scratching” so that punters, who are the lifeblood of the industry, are given what I’d call “a fair chance at winning”. Why the hell would anyone go and have $1,000 on Majestic Mach into a normal (not fixed odds) TAB pool on his way to take his family out to dinner last Saturday night to say celebrate the daughter’s birthday, when he wasn’t even going to make 1% profit on his money even if the horse won? In short he wouldn’t and even if the brain-dead people at Tattsbet find it too difficult to reintroduce “refund scratchings” into their vernacular, they should find a way to take horses like Majestic Mach out of the win and place pools and effectively open betting up for the other runners and whoever runs second is the winner in the win and place pool. If the Racing and Betting Act needs to change to have all that happen, well instead of sitting on your collective ever-burgeoning backsides earning a motza in your palace in Albion, at least try to do something constructive for the betterment of the industry.
What is wrong in racing? Why won’t people go to the races anymore? As stated earlier, Albion Park even has free admission so that’s no incentive obviously. Forget all the positive crap “they” all talk, the racing industry whether it’s from a crowd perspective or a turnover perspective is under the whip going up and down in the one spot and all these so called “top administrators” at the helm of all these race clubs, TABs and the like, are cumulatively 100/1 and drifting – in either the short term or the long term - to resolve the situation.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two days of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s the story of Racing Victoria Handicapper Greg Carpenter, as well as a check on what thoroughbred sales remain in the eastern seaboard States in May, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at Victoria getting a new synthetic track. Queensland’s getting rid of them – other smarter States are getting more of them. Go figure.