The most important consideration for any punter trying to find a winner is to first establish if the horse of choice is actually capable of delivering.
There are, obviously, other things in the mix as well, such as the ground, the distance of the relevant contest and, of course, the jockey.
Legend has it that the great Lester Piggott finished with a flourish on a beastie one day, but just failed to get up.
On returning to the number two berth, the trainer reportedly indicated to Piggott he thought he might have arrived on the scene a trifle sooner. To which Piggott is said to have responded: “That would have been a good idea, but I didn’t like to come without the horse!’’
While the jockey can’t come without the horse the skills applied from the saddle can certainly make the difference between victory and defeat.
The point is that if the jockey gets it wrong then all of your hard work will have been for nothing.
Three races this week, one at Goodwood and two at Galway, didn’t half illustrate that having a top man on your side is nearly as vital as your four-legged friend.
At Goodwood on Wednesday, Ryan Moore partnered The Gurkha to success in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes, a race that was worth £560,200 (€665,519) to the winner.
Earlier in the month we made the case in this column for The Gurkha winning the Sussex, after he was beaten into second by Hawkbill in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
The10 furlongs then, on soft ground, found out the horse and there was every chance of him putting it right on a far faster surface and with two furlongs less to travel.
And so it came to pass, but only after the magical Moore had essentially ridden James Doyle to sleep.
Doyle was aboard the Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester and I believe that colt should have won.
Moore gambled on getting a split at the right time on The Gurkha — it duly transpired — while Doyle raced relatively wide in the straight on Ribchester.
Passing the post, The Gurkha was narrowly ahead of the front-running Galileo Gold and the fast-finishing Ribchester.
Oh to be a fly on the wall as Fahey tucked in for the night!
At Galway on Tuesday evening, Ruby Walsh won a maiden hurdle on Willie Mullins’ Penhill, an outcome that basically defied all logic.
Mullins admitted after the race that the idea was to make the running. However, Penhill’s jumping was less than clever early on, so Walsh changed to another plan.
For much of the two miles Walsh left Penhill alone, as he attempted to get him jumping.
Penhill was surely a 1000-1 shot entering the final half mile, so far out of his ground was he, but Walsh somehow conjured a late burst from his puzzling partner to get up close home.
And that was merely a prelude to an extraordinary display of timing and sheer power by Walsh to win the Galway Hurdle aboard Clondaw Warrior on Thursday.
This was, quite simply, one of the greatest rides in the history of racing. Moore and Walsh are men at the very top of their profession.
They were raving on television on Wednesday about the great spectacular the Galway Plate was, but to my eyes this was a race largely contested by a motley bunch for a lot of money.
Of the 22 runners that faced the starter a whopping 16 were fitted with either a tongue-tie, cheek-pieces, a visor or blinkers, some with more than just one aid.
And the final result was very much a portent, you suspect, of what is going to be on the agenda throughout the coming winters months.
Gordon Elliott saddled the first, fifth and sixth, with Willie Mullins responsible for the second, third and fourth.
That meant the two major forces in Irish National Hunt racing scooped the lot. Elliott’s share of the prize money was €136,400, while Mullins took home €70,400.
Interestingly, neither the first or the second, Lord Scoundrel and Alelchi Inois, were fitted with anything.
We are well aware that Joseph O’Brien has more advantages than most rookie trainers, but you would still have to impressed with the start he has made.
He’s enjoyed a decent Galway, especially with the rather progressive three-year-old, Motherland.
Most observers were aware the son of Galileo was on the upgrade, as evidenced by his smooth win in a maiden at Ballinrobe last month.
On Monday night at Galway, he ran in his first handicap off a mark of 87, over an extended 12 furlongs, which translated to top weight.
He went off a well-backed 2-1 favourite to beat nine rivals, so a big run was clearly anticipated. But few of us were prepared for him powering home no less than 17 lengths clear of his nearest rival.
The handicapper has taken the form literally and this week bumped Motherland up by 20lbs to 107. Now Joseph, what’s your next move?
We woke on Tuesday morning to the jolting news that John Thomas McNamara had left us, after over three years of battling insurmountable odds.
Tony McCoy described him, among other things, as “grumpy’’, I’d imagine that was fairly accurate, and I don’t think John Thomas suffered fools gladly.
But do you know what he really was, a typical McNamara and just a nice person.
If there is any modest amount of comfort to be got from a vibrant young man, universally recognised as a superb rider, departing so sickeningly prematurely it has to be that he is now free and at peace.
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