Good afternoon all,
The latest of my lockdown posts is now up, and I've tried to answer one of the questions posed to me in the comments last week. I'll try to answer a few more, but I'm rather hoping we'll be back racing soon, so they may have to wait for a while!
Thanks for suggesting a few things I could possibly write about this week. I’ll try and cover a few bases over the next few weeks if we don’t get racing but I’m going to take the suggestion that Courtney made, namely who has influenced me to learn race reading.
I think I can say now that it definitely wasn’t my grandfather, who insisted on backing his favourite jockeys week in, week out (Eddie Hide and Frankie Durr were always top of his list) and had his favourite trainers too. He’d sometimes go on the old “longest traveller” system if he thought the horse looked out of place, and would back that, but I can’t say that he was ever a keen student of form.
In truth, having the maths brain I had from a very young age, I looked at each race as a problem that could be solved. Remember me telling you about a couple of programs I wrote for my first ever computer, a Dragon 32, back in the day? That’s how, when I first started, I treated each race as a problem you could give a computer and it would give you the right answer. Of course, the trick comes from giving the computer the right information in the first place, and weighting each factor correctly, or so I thought. The winners it threw out were, looking back, more by luck than by my great computing skills!
When I started going to the bookies by myself, there were plenty of characters in there that would be only too keen to pass on their advice. And me, being young, was happy to listen to most of it and take it in, but even at an early age it was clear plenty of it was b*llocks as well.
Frankie used to work on the bins and come in to do his wages in most afternoons. He had a phrase – “I’d have backed that winner, but I thought the price was too big.” I mean, what on Earth does that mean? To me, the bigger the price, the better the winner!
Bill, who again I have mentioned before, was by far and away the best form student in the shop and I readily attached myself to him. He taught me plenty in terms of reading form and it wasn’t long before I was buying my own form books. I’d hungrily devour their contents and get most of it to memory each week. Then Bill told me about stuff like draw stats, and even a bit on pedigrees, all of which helped my knowledge. Then, sadly, Bill got moved on to pastures new and I was left looking for a new partner in crime.
And thankfully I had one in Peter, and we started going racing a lot more. It is at this point that I start seeing horses in the flesh for the first time, but I have no idea what I’m looking at. For that, I have a few to thank – Louise, Alison, my own Caroline, all of whom have taught me plenty regarding the physical side of things. I’m still learning.
In terms of more household names, Jim McGrath was one I always held in high regard, probably unsurprising given his background. I’d take note of anything he was especially keen on and go look for myself. Francome talked more sense than most as well, and he was easy to listen to. These days, most of the better pundits are on Racing TV – I like Jonathan Neesom’s dry style, and of course Eddie Fremantle, the best all-rounder there is. Andy Richmond knows his stuff inside out and has a line for every horse, and he is much underrated. I have to give a special mention to Sam Turner as well, who has been very good to me and has always pushed me forwards for work, even when it’s not come off. He’s just a decent human being as well as being a good pundit, always got time for you and stops for a chat. In a similar context Dan Barber is always on hand to answer my infernally stupid questions, and of course, my very good friend Rory Delargy.
Jamie Lynch on Sky Sports racing makes a lot of valid points but the way he tries to turn everything into a story, or game, or rhyme really does grind my gears. He overdoes that, and I don't think he needs to. I like Zoe Bird too, I think she is somewhat underrated and underused by the channel – she knows plenty and has a decent paddock eye.
There’s a few on there that absolutely do my head in – they are classed as pundits but add little or nothing when looking at a race. No names, but you can probably guess a few of them. I do sometimes feel people are pushed into punditry roles when it really doesn’t suit them. We all have our favourites though, and I suppose if we all liked the same ones, it would be a boring old world!
Stay safe until next week.