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Tanya Stevenson

Tanya's Blog - Saturday 17th August 2013

Too few horses for too many races

The countdown to the Knavesmire is on and I can’t wait to head to York for the four days, al lof which will be live on

Before that there is the small matter of the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap from Ripon, the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury and the greys’ race at Newmarket, plus action from Doncaster, Perth, Market Rasen and Lingfield. It’s just a shame I can’t be in all places at once, including Edgbaston!

Dance And Dance may finally get a clear run in the 3.50pm at Newbury. He woke up too late in the Bunbury Cup finishing really strongly and then went for a non-existent gap at Glorious Goodwood with about a furlong to go and was then eased down when beaten. 

In a quirky stat six of the last ten winners of this contest have been drawn 12, 13 or 14.  Dance And Dance is slotted in stall 13 and can start unwinding his run earlier in the long Newbury home straight. Fingers tightly crossed.

The novelty of the race for grey horses sits well with me and it could provide an opportunity for Baby Strange to swiftly regain the winning habit.  His penultimate win at Newcastle followed by his eighth behind Seeking Magic at Glorious Goodwood in the Stewards’ Sprint did enough to convince me he has the ability to land the 2.20pm at Newmarket.

Fourteen races today have less than eight runners.  As suspected the fall in field sizes hasn’t exactly happened overnight.  Racing needs to appeal to a wider audience at the same time it continues to be attractive to the hard core faithful.    

Coming to the end of my fortnight break and I’ve made an extra effort to go racing.  Windsor last Sunday was the port of call only I delayed my entrance until just after the third race as the first race contained three runners and a 1-16 favourite. The second race had another odds-on favourite. 

This situation is hardly encouraging, certainly not enticing, and another example of a countrywide problem.  In the first two weeks in August there were 151 races from 413 that had seven or fewer runners. Restricting that to handicaps there were 106 of 294 that had seven or fewer runners.  The problem of a bursting fixture list and small fields has other knock-on effects and ramifications. 

If a meeting has less than sixty runners for seven races that’s 8.5 runners per race. People are then going to question whether it’s worth attending.  On-course bookmakers will realise this and equate the expenses against the possible crowd, price of the favourites and quite often miss out themselves. 

Thus it makes for weak markets or poor value on course.  Small crowds and few on-course bookmakers doesn’t help the Tote’s pools or robustness as if very few people are in attendance to bet into it, then it is at the mercy of off-course investment which would obviously be larger.

You can bet at any meeting on the Tote, for example if I went to Newbury on Saturday I could place bets for Newmarket, yet racing doesn't help itself when more often than not I won't be able to see the racing from the other meetings on the big screen. 

Plus the cards for the other meetings are printed sparingly in the race card.  I doubt at York next week the big screen will lend itself to showing Goodwood on Saturday, but I can only hope.

Saturday racing takes on the first week of the Premier League football action and cricket’s domestic Twenty20 finals at Edgbaston.  Racing’s over-the-counter portion of betting turnover is already as low as 45%. If it doesn’t get a grip of small fields, on-course betting including each-way terms and the freak dividends on the Tote, the Levy will suffer irreparable damage and loss of income. 

Fontwell Park on Thursday did miracles to go ahead after suffering a power cut, this shut down the electricity forcing the bookmakers into using the old ways. Yes, pen, paper and write-out slips of the bets. 

I’m informed there were deep queues at each pitch, which should have been manner from heaven.  Yet it also meant the layers couldn’t use or have sight of the exchanges. Those ingenious enough would have used mobiles to see the current betting.  The problem was it would have been slower to hedge back leaving the on-course bookmakers very nervy.

As for putting up a shows using their own devices, I’m told some people’s efforts were laughable and the result can be seen by the SP percentage from the third race onwards.  It saddens me that many who stand on course haven’t got the wherewithal to form a show, or have an opinion without the benefit of the exchanges.  The dependency is there for all to see.  Let’s hope it’s a different story at York!


Tanya’s Saturday tips:

2.20 Newmarket: Baby Strange at 7-1 with Paddy Power

3.50 Newbury: Dance And Dance at 6-1 with Paddy Power


Tanya’s Pointers:

William Hill Great St Wilfrid:

Spinatrix has never finished out of the first three at Ripon with three wins, two seconds and two thirds from his seven runs at the course.

Nine of the last ten winners of Ripon’s William Hill Great St Wilfrid have been drawn no higher than 12

Over the last decade Kevin Ryan has fielded 20 runners in the Great St Wilfrid, none of which have won

Richard Fahey knows how Kevin Ryan feels as he has been just as frustrated with 15 beaten in the same time frame

The favourite has only won the Great St Wilfrid once in the last ten years

Four of the last five winners of the Hungerford Stakes were aged three

Seven of the last ten winners of the greys’ race, the  2.20 Newmarket came from the first three in the betting

All of the last ten winners of the greys’ race have been aged five or older

Eight of the last ten winners of 2.05 Newbury had run no more than twice previously

All of the last ten winners of 2.05 Newbury had finished no worse than third on their most recent start

Eight of the last ten winners of 2.40 Newbury came from the first three in the betting. Six of those were favourites

Eight of the last ten winners of 2.40 Newbury finished no worse than second on their most recent start



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