Angus McNae
Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
Saturday 20th August 2016
Racing UK


Patient tactics crucial when horses drop in trip

Let's get a few things straight. Postponed was an emphatic winner of the Juddmonte International Stakes and had he been held onto for longer he would have won by further.

© Racehorse Photos

If a horse stays a mile and a half well and then runs over a shorter trip, kicking him on from the front to use his stamina is absolutely the wrong tactic. In such circumstances a horse should be held on to and allowed to finish strongly. Andrea Atzeni did nothing wrong because his horse tanked him to front three out, but a lead for longer would have been better.

Most people don't get this, but if a horse is running short of its optimum it is going to find itself out of its comfort zone early in the race and thus use up vital energy too soon. Every day I see horses that are dropped in trip being ridden aggressively to make good use of their stamina! In effect it serves only to burst them and they are usually well beaten.

Remember Paco Boy? A brilliant miler who ran in the July Cup over six furlongs where he finished strongly to be fourth, at 9-2, after being held up. There was an outcry!

That horse stays a mile, he should have been close to the pace said the grandstand critics. Rubbish. Riding him closer to the pace would have completely taken him out of his normal racing rhythm and I swear he would have been nearer last than first if he had been ridden that way.

To use an Olympic analogy, do we really think that if Mo Farah ran in the 1500 metre final he would be best served by going as fast as he could from a long way out to utiize his stamina?

The answer is clearly no, but in a strongly run 1500 meters he would have a chance if he paced the race evenly so that he could finish strongly when the stamina of others was ebbing.

Everything is pace dependant but the worst rides are those that make horses run outside their comfort zone too early in a race, often done in the name of stamina.

Stamina will certainly have a role to play in the Betfred Ebor on Saturday, which is a tough race for punters and consequently I am going into it double handed.

My number one selection is Heartbreak City, trained by Tony Martin. Rarely have I seen a stayer win a race as easily as he did here at York last August.

He tanked through that two-mile contest and forged clear of a good field. That was his first and only start at York and a return to this track could bring about a similar result.

The drop in trip from the two miles he won over that day is no problem. He won over ten furlongs at Cork in March and he comes into this race in great heart after hurdling wins at Tipperary and Galway.

His recent win over hurdles was particularly impressive and he clearly is in very good heart coming into this. Adam McNamara takes a handy 5lb off his back and provided he rides him patiently and doesn’t make the mistake of kicking on early in the straight because this horse stays further he should go very well indeed.

My other play in the race is Battersea. I really thought this horse would be a force in staying races when he won at Meydan this year.

However his two runs since his return to these shores have been somewhat disappointing. Those runs were in Group Two and Three races behind Big Orange and the progressive Kings Fete.

Now down in grade and fitted with a hood to enable him to settle better, he looks set to run a big race. I am reluctant to touch on the form of the Roger Varian yard, a subject that has given plenty of airtime this week.

Facts say he had had two winners from 18 runners in the last 14 days and my take on trainer form is a simple one. By the time you realise a trainer is out of form he is normally coming back into form. I suspect that is the truth about the Varian yard. Andrea Atzeni is riding with plenty of confidence at the moment and it is an obvious bonus to have him aboard Battersea.

There you have it some food for thought about the stamina/pace conundrum and two for the Ebor. Good luck.

Angus McNae’s selections for Saturday:

4.00 YorkHeartbreak City and Battersea