by Tony Kelzenberg for “Brisnet.com”
Written February, 2006
My name is Tony Kelzenberg, and I am a huge fan of International horse racing. For years I would read about the great horses from other countries in the Daily Racing Form. Then I started to go to web sites dedicated to international racing to get more information, but primarily sites dedicated to European flat racing, Sportinglife.com and Racingpost.com. Unfortunately, I had no access to the European racing channels and their racing would go off during the workday, so I had little chance to see most of the races, either live or by videotape.
Over the years I have dabbled in betting Australian races Friday nights (i.e. Saturday afternoon in Australia) with fair success, and I’ve been asked to pass on my observations on Australian racing to BRIS readers.
Australia has a GREAT racing tradition, highlighted most recently by super-mare Makybe Diva (Desert King), who won over $10,840,535 through her six year old season, and the top class Starcraft (Soviet Star), who won $2,330,958 in a multiple Group 1 winning career. Purses in Australia are very healthy, especially on Saturdays, when typical handicap races go for $40,000 to $50,000 and Group 1 races commonly have purses over $350,000. ALL races are on grass. This makes the race meets short in duration (so the grass does not get ‘worn out.”), with racing moving every week or two from one venue to another.
Question: Which country has the largest purse in the world for a 2-year-old race?
Question: What is the most important 2-mile race in the world?
As you can see from the questions above, the Australian racing program is quite varied, offering horses of disparate talents and abilities the chance to run in races suited to them. The main programs are juvenile sprinters (4 to 6 furlongs), 3 and up sprinters (5 to 7f), milers (7 to 9f), and stayers (10 furlongs and up). There are stakes just for fillies, but in most of the big races females have to run against the colts. In Australia, that may not be as big of a handicap as you might think. For example, in the last 21 runnings of the Group 1 Australia Stakes, 3-year-old fillies have beaten colts and older horses 6 times (with 3-year-old colts winning 5 more times).
What I will try to point out to people reading this column that what we take for ‘gospel’ in the U.S. doesn’t always apply “down under,” partly because of the differences in training, jockey skills, pedigrees and race track constructions. The next section will outline racing conditions and we will conclude in Part 2 with a brief analysis of leading trainers and jockeys in Australia and suggested betting strategies.
Betting Numbers vs. Post-Position Draw
Note: the post-potion draw is SEPARATE from the Betting Numbers. Betting Number 1 could be in post 12. Betting Number 5 could be on the rail. You get the idea. The track program and/or the past performances will say who is in which gate.
Some tracks go left handed (like we run in North America, counter-clockwise). Some tracks go right handed (clockwise). Flemington (Near Melbourne) is a special track that has a STRAIGHT 1200m course for sprints. In other words, Aussie horses need to be trained to handle any track configuration, and lead changes in the lane are not as important as in the U.S. Unfortunately, neither the past performances in the “official” Aussie program, or the past performances offered by BRIS, say whether a track is right handed or left handed (this history is documented in the DRF for foreign horses). Some horses prefer going one direction to the other.
In addition, tracks usually have a slight hill in the stretch, which can give an advantage to stretch runners.
Case in point: God’s Own, in his lead up to the Group 1 Lightning Stakes, did not trial well. Leading Trainer Bart Cummings didn’t want to tip his hand early. God’s Own ran second, losing by a head. The trainer said he bet the horse heavy “each way,” which is Aussie talk for betting to place, as the trainer expected a top two finish.
Another case: Two weeks later, a contemporary of God’s Own, the hard knocking Paratroopers, was the “smart money” horse after his sharp trial before the Group 1 Australia stakes. Highly touted, he was a mysterious vet scratch at the gate!
I have learned that usually Aussie horses are fit enough for the job. If you think your horse has the class, AND you think they are well meant (we’ll discuss this more in part 2 – betting strategies), they are very reliable horses and good bets. Don’t sweat the lack of workout information.
In Australia, there an NO claiming races. Horses (if placed properly) run for the biggest purse they can win, without having to worry about being claimed. A horse with high earnings per start either won a big race a while ago, or even better, is a lightly raced horse with a high win percentage. An extra advantage is that the lightly raced horses usually will carry less weight (they haven’t established their top rating yet).
The best-case scenario is a horse that is 4th or 5th top weight, but on the way up, faces a top weight and/or 2nd top weight horse that has seen better days. This is a good way to beat the weighting system, and find value at the windows.
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