Cross-over events taking their toll on Class Three
It has been difficult not to notice the hole appearing in Class Three lately, with 16 races over the past months failing to fill fields at declaration time.
Even one extended Class Three didn't manage to fill up, and the grade must be a concern at Sports Road, given the clear link between full fields and betting turnover.
The season has seen 258 Class Four races in the 700 events run, with 20 of those Class Fours 65-40 extended-band races, 10 under the 'special conditions' heading like tonight's fourth race for horses who have not won for the term having had three or more starts. One race has fallen under both descriptions.
In 2009-10, there were 15 extended bands and another eight special-conditions races out of 280 Class Fours for the season, so these types of races appear to be a growing aspect of the racing landscape.
And it is hard to escape the notion there is some link between the extended-band races, in particular, and the struggle to get full fields in Class Three.
We have dealt before with just how little advantage there is in trainers and owners holding back their bottom of Class Three horses to wait for a 65-40 Class Four - where most of the field is often made up of horses in the same situation - but the perception is still out there that it's a clever strategy.
So some connections, with horses in the cross-over 65-60 bracket, will bypass the Class Three races for which they are eligible either because they have just taken the chance to run in an extended Class Four or because they see one coming up.
We've said it before - these current-season maiden races, extended band tricks to get Class Three horses to run in Class Four and even the five-pound age allowances are nothing more than tricks to paper over the cracks in the handicapping philosophies at work.
P. S. And while we are on handicapping, a quick one that cannot pass without comment - Fair Navigator up 13 points in March for a win at his 18th start but one which apparently stamped him as a completely transformed animal? Looked ridiculous then but how is it reading now?