Closing the gate after the horse has bolted

I can’t imagine the handicapper derived a whole lot of enjoyment watching the concluding stages of the €59,000 to the winner Connacht Hotel Handicap at Galway on Monday night, writes Pat Keane.

Closing the gate after the horse has bolted

To say that the first and second, Willie Mullins’ Uradel and Limini respectively, were underestimated by the compiler of weights would qualify as a real understatement.

Being brutally honest, it is no great exaggeration to state that the other 18 runners might as well have remained in the starting stalls for all the chance they had.

When Mullins first saw the marks allocated to Uradel (81) and Limini (89) he must have been mighty tempted to mutter the immortal words of the great Del Boy: “Lovely jubbly.’’

Handicappers have the toughest job in racing and there are few other professions where the risk of getting it totally wrong are so great.

This was one such occasion when the handicapper simply got his calculations badly askew. I can’t even begin to understand how he arrived at the figures allocated to Uradel and Limini.

Uradel hadn’t been seen on the Flat for 1,437 days. In the meantime, he only ran intermittently, six times in all over flights, scoring twice.

His outings over jumps are irrelevant as far as Flat handicapping is concerned, we know that, but a mark of 81 for the horse was based on, I would contend, rather flimsy information.

The last occasion Uradel performed on the level, his first outing for Mullins, was at York on August 23, 2014, almost four years ago, when fifth of 17.

Prior to that, the seven-year-old ran nine times on the Flat in France. So, when the handicapper was tasked with deciding where Uradel fitted into the scheme of things one outing at York and nine in France was what he had to go on.

Now it wouldn’t have been too bad if those runs had been relatively recent, but he had to go back four and more years for the relevant data.

Basically, he was left with attempting what could be best described as an educated guess and simply got it wrong.

Equally, the handicapper could only guess as to Limini’s mark.

Limini hadn’t run on the Flat for 1,424 days and hadn’t been seen over hurdles since the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

In that 1,424 days, she has developed into a cracking hurdler and is now rated 150 plus over hurdles. But again, of course, what she has achieved over jumps has no bearing on her Flat rating.

Prior to Galway on Monday she ran on six occasions on the Flat and all were in France. She won the last three, her final success coming at Chateaubrian in September 2014.

The handicapper then had to give Limini a mark based on information that was almost four years old and, for three of her six runs, even longer again.

I mean it is very difficult for anyone in Ireland, including handicappers, to get a handle on French form, but to try to do so that far back is almost impossible.

Essentially, he wasn’t handicapping the same horses that had run on the Flat so long ago.

By Galway on Monday night they were much older, far more mature, and in the hands of a master trainer.

And it’s not as if one can be accused to being wise after the event, that the handicapper may have messed up, certainly in the case of Limini.

I mean this was a 20-runner handicap that, in theory, was seriously wide open.

But the bookmakers, who survive by getting it right, at least most of the time, put Limini in a very short price and your chances of getting on at much with 2-1 were very limited.

It was the same story on the exchanges, with only a little over 2-1 available at times.

This in the type of contest where it wasn’t unreasonable to expect it to be perhaps in the region of 5-1 or 6-1 the field.

Limini was eventually returned a paltry 2-1, in what should have been a highly competitive heat, and, for most of the 17 furlongs, appeared set to win doing handstands.

In the end Limini was undone by Uradel, who was clearly just as well handicapped, with the 7lbs claim of his capable rider, Aubrey McMahon, finally proving decisive.

The fact it was a whopping nine lengths back to the third, Waaheb, tells its own story. This week the handicapper raised Uradel by 15lbs and Limini 11lbs.

A clear case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted!

If you had a few quid on Clarcam at 33-1, or bigger odds, to win the Galway Plate on Wednesday then, while your luck is in, go and purchase some lottery tickets.

The eight-year-old was impossible to fancy and just turned the form book completely on its head.

He’s never been the most reliable customer anyway and arrived on the back of a dreadful effort at the Punchestown Festival in April.

Clarcam finished eleventh behind Patricks Park, beaten about 54 lengths.

In the Plate, he had Patricks Park six lengths behind in second place, on only 9lbs better terms.

Best training performance of the week surely had to be Willie Mullins producing Riven Light to land Tuesday’s night’s one-mile plus featured handicap, with in excess of €70,000 to the winner.

Successful in the same race a year earlier, Riven Light was having a first outing since being injured at Caulfield in Australia back in October.

Running off a mark 16lbs higher than a year ago, carrying 10-1 and drawn widest of all, the six-year-old somehow prevailed.

Also on Tuesday, Mullins’ Pakora won a novice hurdle by eight and a half lengths.

It was a particularly smart effort and she shapes as one who may be more than capable of holding her own against far better horses than she met at Galway, through the winter.

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