Ed­die wood

Ed­die Wood con­tin­ues his unique A-Z of Bri­tish cour­ses, start­ing off with an eval­u­a­tion of their al­ti­tudes

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Con­tin­u­ing his in­for­ma­tive A-Z of Bri­tish race cour­ses

We are en­ter­ing the final fur­long so to speak re­gard­ing the course de­scrip­tions and their as­so­ci­ated fac­tors.The next two ar­ti­cles will fin­ish this im­por­tant as­pect of horse se­lec­tions. Since my last ar­ti­cle, I have con­tin­ued my re­search on the ef­fect of alti­tude on the per­for­mance of race­horses. The course con­fig­u­ra­tions and as­so­ci­ated fac­tors are para­mount in my eval­u­a­tion process and should be in yours.I have dis­cov­ered cer­tain pat­terns as­so­ci­ated with spe­cific train­ers and I be­lieve that there are many more meth­ods which I could com­pile us­ing the “alti­tude fac­tor.”

In the Rac­ing Post, I was in­ter­ested to read that we will get first-hand in­for­ma­tion on horses who have re­cently un­der­gone wind op­er­a­tions. In many cases, horses which I know have had this pro­ce­dure vary in the amount of im­prove­ment they make. I am cer­tain that those who race on our higher alti­tude cour­ses will ben­e­fit more in their in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances be­cause of the cleaner air and the ex­u­ber­ance this en­gen­ders. But we need to get down to the pri­mary sub­ject: the fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with our Na­tional Hunt course con­fig­u­ra­tions.

AIN­TREE (LAN­CASHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 28 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Any Na­tional Hunt Flat horses sent here by trainer Peter Bowen must be se­ri­ously con­sid­ered.

COURSE-WISE: Most of the rac­ing takes places over the Mild­may course. It is left­handed, 1m 4f oval with eight nor­mal birch fences. It is a fair but fast, flat track with some quite sharp turns.Nearly all the Hand­i­caps are run on this course. The Grand Na­tional course is a long, flat and left-handed tri­an­gu­lar cir­cuit of 2m 2f with stiff fences which were taller and more solid than else­where, but have now been re­duced in size. The drop on the land­ing side of many of the fences has also been re­duced. There is a long run-in of 494 yards from the last.

HORSE-WISE: The track favours fron­trun­ners and, with the rel­a­tively short run-in of 260 yards, few horses can win if they are too far off the pace turn­ing into the straight.It is a gal­lop­ing track where stamina and jump­ing abil­ity are still im­por­tant. In the past, Grand Na­tional form was unique, but this is not so sig­nif­i­cant now.

AS­COT (BERK­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 89 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Harry Fry’s hur­dlers have an ex­cel­lent record here.

COURSE-WISE: The track is a righthanded tri­an­gu­lar cir­cuit of 1¾ miles. It is some­what un­du­lat­ing and is es­sen­tially a gal­lop­ing course with ten stiff fences. Novices are of­ten found out by one of the far side down­hill fences ap­proach­ing Swin­ley Bot­tom.The straight con­tains two fences fol­lowed by a stiff, up­hill run-in of 240 yards. HORSE-WISE: Good jump­ing and stamina are es­sen­tial.The track be­comes very test­ing when the go­ing is soft or worse. AYR (Ayr­shire) - Alti­tude 17 me­tres BET-WISE: Cham­pion trainer Paul Ni­cholls doesn’t send many horses to this course but when he does, take note.

COURSE-WISE: this is a left-handed oval cir­cuit mea­sur­ing 1½ miles.Ayr is a good flat gal­lop­ing track with fair fences.There are three fences in the long straight, fol­lowed by a run-in of 210 yards. The ob­sta­cles are quite stiff, par­tic­u­larly the penul­ti­mate fence which is a for­mi­da­ble open ditch. When conditions are on the firm side this is one of the fastest cour­ses of all.

HORSE-WISE: The course suits fron­trun­ning strong gal­lop­ers.

BAN­GOR-ON-DEE (WREX­HAM) - ALTI­TUDE 22 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Any Na­tional Hunt Flat horse sent byWar­ren Greatrex and Jonjo O’Neill re­quire scru­tiny.

COURSE-WISE: The left-handed track is un­usual since its 1½ miles in­cludes no straight as such,but in­stead a suc­ces­sion of tight bends. It is rel­a­tively flat, with mi­nor un­du­la­tions. The prox­im­ity of the River Dee means that the track can be wa­tered even in times of drought.The nine fences are fairly easy with the ex­cep­tion of one open ditch.The so-called‘pad­dock bend’ is very sharp in­deed.

HORSE-WISE: The course suits front run­ners de­spite the long run-in of 325 yards. CARLISLE (CUM­BRIA) - ALTI­TUDE 66 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Jonjo O’Neill’s hur­dlers should be backed. COURSE-WISE: This is a right-handed

pear-shaped track of about 1m5f, and is one of the stiffest in the coun­try. It is dis­tinctly un­du­lat­ing, with a most se­vere up­hill fin­ish of some 300 yards.There are nine well-built fences of no great difficulty. HORSE-WISE: When the ground is soft or worse, the course be­comes one for a long-strid­ing gal­loper with lots of courage and stamina.

CARTMEL (CUM­BRIA) - ALTI­TUDE 32 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: This is another track where you should se­ri­ously con­sider Jonjo O’Neill’s run­ners. The same ap­plies to run­ners from the John Quinn sta­ble.

COURSE-WISE: This tight, un­du­lat­ing course is left-handed and mea­sures ap­prox­i­mately one mile. The six stiff fences are par­tic­u­larly se­vere for a mi­nor track,but de­spite their sever­ity ca­su­al­ties are less than you would ex­pect.This may be be­cause the un­der-hoof conditions are quite of­ten good. The run-in in­cludes a sep­a­rate chute miss­ing out the fences on the back turn,and,with a half-mile from the last ob­sta­cle,it is the long­est in the coun­try. De­spite this, the ap­proach to the fin­ish­ing-line is mainly on the turn like most of the course.

HORSE-WISE: Con­se­quently,handy and adapt­able an­i­mals are favoured rather than strong gal­lop­ers.

CAT­T­ER­ICK (NORTH YORK­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 60 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Michael Smith doesn’t have many run­ners on this course but don’t let them go by with­out a sec­ond look.

COURSE-WISE: The cir­cuit is a left­handed oval mea­sur­ing 1¼m with a run-in of 240 yards. It is es­sen­tially sharp with the course turn­ing most of the way. The un­du­la­tions add some va­ri­ety.

HORSE-WISE: The eight fences are very easy and are un­likely to ed­u­cate a novice. The track firmly favours nippy, front-run­ning types. CHEL­TENHAM (GLOUCES­TER­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 74 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Wil­lie Mullins does well with his horses at the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val but take great cau­tion in Hand­i­cap Chases; they are best avoided.

COURSE-WISE: There are two un­du­lat­ing left-handed cour­ses, the Old and the New. The for­mer is a 1½ mile oval, with nine stiff bends.Only one is jumped in the final straight leav­ing a tough up­hill runin of 350 yards.The New course is slightly

longer with ten fences, leav­ing the Old at the fur­thest point from the stands. Two fences are jumped in the straight where the run-in is 237 yards. Both cir­cuits are very test­ing.

HORSE-WISE: Fences are stiff and pun­ish the poor jumper harshly. The no­to­ri­ous third last fence on the hill be­fore the turn into the straight finds out many horses. This is also true of the fence be­fore it at the top of the hill. The last half-mile is up­hill and count­less races have been trans­formed on the long stride to the fin­ish.

CHEP­STOW (MONMOUTHSHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 96 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Be wary of any Na­tional Hunt Flat horses sent here by the following train­ers: Paul Ni­cholls, Colin Tiz­zard and TimVaughan.

COURSE-WISE: This left-handed oval cir­cuit ba­si­cally con­sists of two long straights and two sharp turns. It mea­sures nearly 2m with chang­ing gra­di­ents and eleven mod­er­ately stiff fences. The fourth last claims more than its fair share of vic­tims.It is very un­du­lat­ing in na­ture.

HORSE-WISE: The 5f straight with five fences and a 240-yard run-in is daunt­ing, par­tic­u­larly when it is soft un­der­foot.How­ever, front run­ners do well here.

DON­CASTER (YORK­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 16 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Nicky Hen­der­son does well with his horses here but avoid his Hand­i­cap Chasers.

COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed pear-shaped gal­lop­ing cir­cuit of 2m. It is al­most flat with fairly dif­fi­cult fences.

HORSE-WISE: The run-in is 247 yards is ideal for the big, long strid­ing gal­loper.

EX­ETER (DEVON) - ALTI­TUDE 239 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Don’t let any Harry Fry horse go off un­backed.

COURSE-WISE: The track is hilly mea­sur­ing al­most 2m.The right-handed cir­cuit is laid out in a long oval with a rea­son­ably stiff up­hill run-in of 300 yards. The po­si­tion of the eleven fences are var­ied be­tween the sum­mer and win­ter cour­ses; in the win­ter four are placed in each straight whilst in the sum­mer five are placed in the back straight and three in the home straight.

HORSE-WISE: This is not a suit­able venue for the long-strid­ing gal­loper although the home straight and run-in is cer­tainly a test of char­ac­ter when the go­ing is soft.

FAK­EN­HAM (NOR­FOLK) - ALTI­TUDE 36 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Few from the David Pipe sta­ble see this race­course but his run­ners do ex­tremely well. The same ap­plies to the Dr Richard New­land sta­ble.

COURSE-WISE: This is a very tight, left­handed cir­cuit of 1m with some se­vere un­du­la­tions. Most of the course is on the turn. The fences are av­er­age and are claimed to be the eas­i­est in the coun­try by many train­ers. It is up­hill from the last ob­sta­cle and has a 200-yard run in.

HORSE-WISE: It is very suit­able for front run­ners and those horses that may need a bit of “kid­ding.”

FONTWELL (WEST SUS­SEX) - ALTI­TUDE 24 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Novice Chasers from the Paul Ni­cholls and Vene­tia Wil­liams sta­bles do very well here.

COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed tight lit­tle track of 1m for hur­dle races. Chases are uniquely run on a fig­ure of eight track and there is a run-in of 230 yards. HORSE-WISE: This is a course for spe- cial­ists. De­spite the climb to the line, it is ideal for handy front run­ning types and against big long strid­ing an­i­mals.

HAYDOCK (LAN­CASHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 50 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Cer­tain sta­bles should be avoided in Hand­i­cap Chases; Alan King, Char­lie Longs­don and Jonjo O’Neill.

COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed gal­lop­ing flat track of 1m5f. The fences are dif­fi­cult with a drop on the land­ing side like Ain­tree. It is a fine test­ing ground for Grand Na­tional prospects. The bends on the hur­dle course are on the sharp side.

HORSE-WISE: The fairly long test­ing runin of 440 yards does not chal­lenge front run­ners who have a good record here. A sound jumper is ideal.

HEXHAM (NORTHUM­BER­LAND) - ALTI­TUDE 228 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Ge­orge Bew­ley and Mal­colm Jef­fer­son do ex­tremely well in Hand­i­cap Chases.

COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed cir­cuit of 1m4f with un­du­la­tions and a stiff up­hill fin­ish. The sub­soil is clay and the go­ing tends to ex­tremes be­com­ing firm or very soft. The fences are av­er­age and

the long back straight slopes quite sharply down. The climb to the win­ning post is quite steep with a run-in of 250 yards that lev­els out in front of the stands.

HORSE-WISE: the pre­mium is on stamina rather than speed.

HUNT­ING­DON (CAMBRIDGESHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 14 ME­TRES BET-WISE: This is one of Kim Bai­ley’s favourite tracks and any­thing he sends here should be given more than a sec­ond look.

COURSE-WISE: This is a right-handed, oval track of 1m4f.It is flat with easy bends and ground gen­er­ally on the fast side.The nine fences are mod­er­ately easy ex­cept for the two in the straight.The penul­ti­mate fence par­tic­u­larly finds out many a novice.

HORSE-WISE: The flat run-in holds few ter­rors, but horses sel­dom have a chance to get a breather here, so stamina is the name of the game.The run­ners also need to be able to main­tain a good gal­lop.

KELSO (ROXBURGHSHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 56 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Nicky Hen­der­son oc­ca­sion­ally sends run­ners to Kelso but they usu­ally win.

COURSE-WISE: this is a left-handed,tight lit­tle track of just over one mile for hur­dles and 1m2f for chases. It has a stiff up­hill fin­ish and a long 300-yard run-in on the chase course. The track is es­pe­cially sharp for the hur­dles and tends to­wards heavy go­ing be­cause of the clay sub­soil.

HORSE-WISE: the fences are easy and are suit­able for front run­ners.

KEMP­TON PARK (MID­DLE­SEX) - ALTI­TUDE 12 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Paul Web­ber has a poor strike-rate here but pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to those that con­test any Chase for ex­pe­ri­enced horses.

COURSE-WISE: This is a right-handed, flat tri­an­gu­lar cir­cuit of 1m5f. The fences are stiff but fair and the course is on the sharp side.It stands on gravel,so it drains well and rarely has heavy go­ing.

HORSE-WISE: This is a very fair track and suits horses of most types. LE­ICES­TER (LE­ICES­TER­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 90 ME­TRES BET-WISE: Vene­tia Wil­liams’ ex­pe­ri­enced Chasers re­quire a sec­ond look, as do any run­ners from Philip Hobb’s yard. COURSE-WISE: This is a right-handed, rec­tan­gu­lar cir­cuit of 1m6f. Le­ices­ter is a stiff gal­lop­ing track with un­du­la­tions and an up­hill fin­ish with the ac­cent on stamina. The course stands on clay and lime­stone and the go­ing can get very heavy. The hur­dles course (also the flat course, so wa­tered in the sum­mer) has raced a lot slower than the chase track in re­cent sea­sons. HORSE-WISE: Fences are easy but not a track for front run­ners.

LINGFIELD PARK (SUR­REY) - ALTI­TUDE 50 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: War­ren Greatrex and Dan Skelton do ex­tremely well with their Novice Hand­i­cap Hur­dlers here.

COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed, con­i­cally shaped course of ap­prox­i­mately 1¼m, with the main fea­ture be­ing the gra­di­ents. The most no­table of these is a tight down­hill 4f turn into the straight, be­fore a com­par­a­tively short run-in of 200 yards. The 10 fences are no stiffer than av­er­age, but the fourth last catches out novices. The go­ing, which is of­ten on the soft side, can be­come par­tic­u­larly hold­ing. HORSE-WISE: The turns and gra­di­ents do not suit many horses and course spe­cial­ists. Handy types are worth following.

LUD­LOW (SHROP­SHIRE) - ALTI­TUDE 97 ME­TRES

BET-WISE: Philip Hobb’s Novice Hur­dlers and Chasers do well here but the Novice Hur­dlers from the sta­bles of Nigel Twis­ton-Davies,Robin Dickin,David Pipe and Vene­tia Wil­liams are best avoided. COURSE-WISE: Lud­low is a righthanded oval track of 1m4f. It is fairly flat with av­er­age fences and is quick drain­ing in na­ture.

HORSE-WISE: it rarely rides soft and the em­pha­sis is on speed rather than stamina. Shortly,I will be talk­ing to sev­eral train­ers about var­i­ous as­pects as­so­ci­ated with the ef­fects of alti­tude lev­els on the per­for­mance of their horses. I will re­port them in my next ar­ti­cle which will in­clude the Na­tional Hunt cour­ses which I have not cov­ered today. Un­til next time, good in­vest­ing.

As­cot

Ex­eter

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