13 Aug 2019

Is Gene Doping a Threat to Horse Racing?

While they are keen to reassure us that they do not consider gene doping to be a current issue, it seems that the British Horseracing Authority has significant concerns to the tune of £1m which it has added to an international pot to ensure that the practice does not find its way into the sport as bonusbets.com reports. 

Gene doping is basically the term used to cover the science of gene manipulation for the sole purpose of enhancing performance. Obviously breeders have been using the practices of natural selection for years and explicitly breeding their best examples of racing horses to create new thoroughbred lines that are even better, but until now actually manipulating genes in a lab is something we have not seen.

Less than a decade ago the idea was touted as future development, and now the know-how exists to make it a reality. Keen to keep the industry free from what would essentially be cheating there is an international team working on staying ahead of the potential threat. As they are keen to reinforce there is no danger right now, but if it were to find its way into the sport the consequences could be disastrous, and this is not something the industry wants and has global commitment to prevent.

The money will be used for various things including research as the Chief Regulatory Officers, Brant Dunshea explains. “Late last year we were in discussion with our laboratories, who said that we need to be part of international collaboration on gene doping to ensure that we are not globally duplicating work. Across six or seven countries, we are all working together to do various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on gene doping. There’s no specific evidence that we’re aware of in relation to there being genetic manipulation that’s happening, but we haven’t done the research yet to be able to develop the techniques to be able to monitor it, so that’s what this research is all about.” 

This initiative will offer reassurance to trainers and breeders, the majority of whom would not want to see the sport polluted in this way. David Sykes, the British Horseracing Authority’s director of equine health and welfare explained how technology could undermine the competition and create issues. “This is new technology that is unravelling all the time. None of us here think that there has probably been a previous incidence of it, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be looking forward into the next five or 10 years and at least being able to identify if it is going to occur. For example, you could send in the material which would alter the EPO [erythropoietin] receptor site, to allow an animal to produce increased levels of EPO naturally [and increase the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity]. That could be expanded to anything else. For example, you could target muscle mass and increasing it, or at some point talk about circulatory systems, increasing blood supply or even cardiac muscle size by genetically altering the DNA sequence.”

2 Aug 2019

Understanding the history of Glorious Goodwood

Today’s grandstand at Goodwood Racecourse
There’s no doubt that Glorious Goodwood is one of the most historic and enjoyable racing festivals in the UK, hosting a glut of high-class horse racing action. The Sussex Downs plays host to a highly competitive string of races across five days. Typically, Glorious Goodwood is scheduled some six weeks after Royal Ascot, giving top-grade Group 1 horses a chance to recover in time to enter in some of Goodwood’s most prestigious races such as the Golden Mile and the Nassau Stakes. 

British horse racing tipsters are just as passionate about Goodwood as they are about some of the other major racing festivals throughout the year, such as Cheltenham. That’s because some of the most valuable and competitive races in European horse racing are on the cards here. Let’s take a closer look at the emergence of Glorious Goodwood and some of the cherished traditions that make it one of the premier meetings of the flat racing season. 

Racing in Goodwood dates back all the way to the early 19th century. Officers of the Sussex Militia used to host annual events at neighbouring Petworth Park. However, when the invitation for the annual races was not forthcoming in 1801, the nearby Duke of Richmond sought to create an alternative course for the Militia within the Goodwood Estate. So well-received was the two-day event hosted by the Duke that he sought to host a similar meeting over three days the following year. The first Goodwood grandstand was erected for the second year to house the event’s most exclusive guests. 

Goodwood’s facilities were quickly upgraded

The Goodwood Racecourse in the rolling hills of the Sussex Downs
The now-prestigious Goodwood Cup was soon established a decade later in 1812, offering a three-mile flat race that’s always been a gruelling test even for first-rate thoroughbreds. The fifth Duke of Richmond was arguably the driving force behind the rapid evolution of Goodwood as a legitimate racecourse. After severe injury forced him to retire from fox hunting, the Duke dedicated his life to improving the facilities at Goodwood, investing in a new grandstand fit for over 3,000 spectators in 1830. 

The fifth Duke of Richmond has also been revered for driving improved standards in the Jockey Club. The Duke introduced several measures that would eventually become commonplace on all other Jockey Club racecourses, including race numbers for each runner, fines for the course Clerk in the event of overrunning start times and flags for race starters. The Duke was even the mastermind behind the concept of the pre- and post-race parade rings. 

Some of today’s headline races at Goodwood were founded in the 19th century 

As the decades ticked by in the 19th century, some of today’s biggest races of Glorious Goodwood were established, such as the Molecomb Stakes, the Stewards’ Cup and the Nassau Stakes in 1833 and 1840 respectively. The Sussex Stakes became a race exclusively for three-year-old thoroughbreds in 1878 and it has been that way ever since. The appeal of Goodwood was enhanced during the years of World War II when no horse racing was scheduled. The post-war years saw the start of a real ‘boom’ era of racing at Goodwood. The Tuesday meeting of Goodwood’s 1955 festival drew a record 55,000 visitors to the course and more than 20,000 catching a glimpse of the action from Trundle Hill – these figures haven’t been surpassed even in the modern day of Glorious Goodwood. 

The festival was expanded in 1970 to become a full five-day event, including a Saturday brimming with races to try and entice locals and newcomers to horse racing at Goodwood. Just after the turn of the Millennium, Goodwood celebrated its 200th anniversary, maintaining its status as one of the most prestigious and historic race meetings in British horse racing. In 2014, Goodwood Racecourse confirmed a 10-year partnership with Qatar who have invested millions into improving and supporting Glorious Goodwood, although the name of the festival has now changed to the Qatar Goodwood Festival. The Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes is now one of the richest one-mile races on the planet, with a prize pool of £1 million up for grabs. There’s no doubt that Goodwood really is the definition of vintage British horse racing.

Photos: Peter Trimming

23 Jul 2019

Frankel Blog Vs Frankel Watch

You know, sometimes you find a website which keeps you informed a little bit better than the others. They are dedicated to their niche. Keep to the story and updating just enough to keep you entertained without feeling you are stuck on a conveyor belt. 

Who wants too much news? (You might!).

Anyway, Frankel Blog is a little gem of a website because it tells you about Frankel 2yo horses (colt, geldings & fillies) who are making their debut for trainer big and small. I know what you are thinking, no small horse trainer gets a Frankel. Well, you are wrong because I have detailed one truly surprising Frankel-trainer partnership which will keep you on the edge of your seat. Yes, I'm not detailing it here. 

Frankel Blog is dedicated the two-year-old racing in the UK. It has already identified a number of debut winners and juveniles you need to know.  

If you want an informed read, loving keeping track of the Frankel 2yos without doing any work then this website is the ticket. 

You may see #FrankelWatch used as the hashtag for everything Frankel on Twitter but this blog has its finger on the pulse and while other website and social media platforms come and go this one is here to stay. 

Love to know the best Frankel two-year-olds in training? 

Take a look today.  

9 Jul 2019

3 Ways to be a Wiser Gambler When Betting at the Races

I've been gambling for a long time. 

I've considered many and varied ways of making money gambling on horse racing. Some have felt like pinning the tail on the donkey. I'm sure the commentator got confused at one point and called my selection Eyeore (it's an obvious mistake). 

How do you find that elusive way to win at the races? I mean, we all want to be wiser gamblers and put a few quid in our velcro man purse. Betting should be a considered pursuit of wit and wisdom. Well, at least, the wisdom part. 

Have you ever noticed that most bookmakers price horses by the general average of the horse trainer? It's no surprise to see a Sir Micheal Stoute horse fancied in the betting compared with let's say Neville Bycroft when he trained back in the day. The former would be priced 6/4f while the latter 50/1. 

I'm sure that was Eyeore! 

Both trainers had their days. Even the smallest stables find a good horse if they train long enough and rightfully so. I always cheer on the underdog. ''Get in, Fido!''

I have researched two-year-old horse racing for many years. It is my niche. I don't mind staying, I know more about this ''field'' of horse racing than anyone I have ever met. And I have researched each and every two-year-old horse trainer for both strength and weakness. 

By understanding horse trainers you are one step closer to landing a big bet.

How come? 

Because most punters don't have the slightest understanding of how trainers work. What makes them tick? If they have a decent horse, where will they race it? What kind of betting guide suggests whether it will win or lose?

If you are reading these words and don't have any idea about any given trainer, then you are missing a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle. 

Here are 3 pieces of information which will help you find a winner or miss a loser. 

1) Michael Dods

He is one of those trainers who can win with a debutant two-year-old at big odds. In fact, he does it every season. His horses seem to go best on testing ground conditions and strangely have more hope of winning at a speculative price than a favourite. His two-year-old debutants have very good place claims at huge odds. Don't believe me, follow them for a season at courses such as Ayr, Ripon or Beverley and you will put some money in your pocket. 

2)  Archie Watson

Certain horse trainers prime their two-year-olds to blast from the stalls like an Exocet missile. That's how I see Archie Watson. Now, you want to keep an eye on the betting market with his debutantes because it is usually telling. If priced 11/4 and less sp on their racecourse bow, I'd expect a big run. 

3) Karl Burke 

One of my favourite horse trainers from Spigott Lodge. He is a very talented trainer who can win with two-year-olds on their first or second start. I particularly look for them running at Carlisle because of his love of this course. He targets this place like Eric Bristow use to hit the bullseye. A master at work. 

When betting, remember the horse is only as good as its trainer.  

30 Jun 2019

Be Sure About the Horse Saddle You Want

There will be no talk about the love of horses here, but the appreciation of their very important saddles. If you just got a horse for the sake of riding it or you’re thinking of changing your saddle, then this article might help you make an informed decision. 

Firstly, you need to understand that there are various types of horse saddles out there. Each of them has been designed for specific purposes. Some are good for pleasure riding, while others offer advantages for sports, longer journeys, and so on. What will be left is for you to know the one that suits your needs. 

About Horse Saddles 

A horse saddle is a seat-like structure that is fastened to a horse’s back by a girth in order to support the rider or load being conveyed. It’s known as the most common type of animal saddles. Other less common ones are for camels, oxen, donkeys, and so on. This specialized seat is used for protection, support, padding, comfort, and balance. 

Blankets attached by a kind of girth or surcingle were considered to be the earliest forms of saddles. The designs became more and more advanced after that. The parts of this product may include the objects listed below: 

  • Tree 
  • Seat Pommel (Pomnel)/Swells 
  • Cantle 
  • Stirrup 
  • Leathers and Flaps or Fenders 
  • D-ring 
  • Girth or Cinch 
  • Panels, Lining, or Padding 
  • Surcingle 
  • Monkey 
  • Grip 
  • Horn 
  • Knee Rolls 
  • Thigh Rolls

In modern times, there are two common types of equestrian seats used for riding in the Western world. They are the “stock” and English saddle. For the stock types, the most popular are the American western saddles. The Australian stock types are second on the list. 

English Saddles

This type is used all over the world, not only in England. They are the official products used in the Olympics. The major feature that most people use to identify this product is its flatter appearance. To people who don’t know much about saddles, all products of similar design look the same. 

English types include various styles that are used for polo, eventing/horse trials, horse racing, show jumping, dressage, hunt seat, saddle seat, and so on. The “tree” is one of the parts that buyers use to check for the quality of a product. Nowadays, manufacturers are utilizing other materials other than wood for the tree. 

Stock Saddles 

The western types under this category are made for use in various western riding activities. They are the ones that you see at rodeos, tourist trail rides, or in movies about cowboys. These types of seats have no padding of their own, therefore, they are used with pads or saddle blankets in order to fit the horse. 

Various Purposes

  • Horse-riding is considered a fun activity and can be a good stress reliever. Saddles used for pleasure rides are made with soft, padded seats for the sake of comfort. 
  • Products for show jumping are lightweight in order for the horses to jump more easily. The seats are also soft and padded. It would help the horse if the seats have padded panels for the sake of comfort. 
  • A horse barrel racing saddle may have reinforcement for the stirrups to make the seats extra safe while riding. It should be lightweight so that the horse can have more freedom during competitions or while running. 
  • For long journeys, it is advisable to go for products that have padded seats for the sake of comfort. 

Buying a horse for the sake of riding it means that you need to find the right saddle that will suit you and the horse. You need to consider the product’s manufacturer, quality of materials, and purpose too.

28 Jun 2019

The Greatest Racecourses in the World - 2019

Aintree Racecourse, Merseyside  
Here in 2019, the Sport of Kings is more popular and lucrative than it has been so far this decade. A number of famous meetings have increased their prize money this year, the internet is opening up the sport to more and more people across the world, and the industry itself is embracing technology to ensure that horses and riders can perform in peak condition for as long as possible. 

Horse racing is one of the oldest spectator sports still carried out to this day and, as such, we’re really spoilt for choice when it comes to iconic racecourses to visit. But out of all the many courses that can be found in almost every global nation, which ones are still reigning supreme as the greatest in the world?  

l’Hippodrome de Longchamp - France

Situated on the photogenic banks of the Seine River, the Longchamp racecourse in Paris is actually a 140-acre complex, which houses a number of tracks measuring between 1000 and 4000 meters in length. It was first opened in 1857 and although it’s currently undergoing renovations to update the original grandstands, it still remains the pinnacle of European racecourses. It is, of course, known for being the home of the most prestigious and richest race in this corner of the world - the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. 

Santa Anita Park - California 

The state of California has long been a place that has inspired people from all walks of life to live their dreams, so it's fitting that the U.S's best racecourse is located here. Although Santa Anita racecourse has hit the headlines recently for equine mortalities, it undoubtedly remains one of the most revered and renowned courses in the world. It’s also one of the most picturesque, thanks to the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains and its original Art Deco grandstand, which can accommodate 26000 spectators. 

Aintree - United Kingdom The UK is home to some of the most prestigious racecourses in the history of the sport - Ascot, Cheltenham and Goodwood would all be worthy of inclusion on this list. However, there’s one track that really has come to define modern British horse racing - Aintree, home of the legendary Grand National. Situated near Liverpool, the Aintree racetrack is one of the oldest on this list having been built in 1829. Every year in April it welcomes the most fearless runners and riders from across Europe, as they test themselves against such iconic fences as Beecher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn. 

Meydan’s sprawling grandstand  
Meydan - Dubai

Meydan may be the new kid on the block, having replaced Dubai’s former racecourse Nad Al Sheba in 2010, but boy has it made an impact. With its mile-long grandstand, a five-star hotel and rooftop infinity pool, Meydan is heralding in a new and luxurious era for horse racing. For the past 9 years, it has hosted the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup - another of the world’s richest races - and this year the total prize money has been increased to an eye-watering $35 million, with the winner of the Cup itself set to pocket $7.2 million. 

Flemington Racecourse - Australia 

Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne has been in use since the city itself was just five years old and is the oldest racecourse in Australia, having been completed in 1840. The course itself has been revamped and renovated in recent years and is once again at its full grandeur from the days of the “race that stops a nation”, the world-famous Melbourne Cup. 

Laytown Races - Ireland 

This unique racecourse may not be a year-round venue like the others on this list, however, there's no doubt that Laytown Races has provided the sport with some truly memorable races in the 150 years that its been in use. Each year, this stretch of sand near Dublin is transformed into Europe’s only officially-recognised beach race. It attracts thousands of spectators and visitors every year who are keen to see top racehorses battling it out along the Irish coast, but within a matter of hours, the track disappears as the tide comes in and the sand dune grandstand is washed away.

Photo:  Aintree: Paul
            Meydan source: Yousif Al Mula