PPs v PPGs - where's the value?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am


For all the money spent on Private Purchase (PP) horses for the four-year-old classics, the irony of today's Classic Mile is that the most likely players are predominantly horses which arrived as griffins, as did last year's eventual Derby winner and Horse Of the Year, Ambitious Dragon.

Fay Fay, Admiration and Captain Sweet even contested actual griffin races as two-year-olds - the ones so discouraged by the Jockey Club these days as unworthy.

That does not deflect from the argument that would point out that five of the previous six winners of the Classic Mile were PPs, but the advantages of buying a ready-made horse as against building one from scratch have always been up for debate.

PPGs, like blondes, do appear to be more fun, however. The six PPs in today's event have won six races between them from 30 starts, while the four PPGs have 48 starts for 23 wins between them.

And the prospects are there for one or more of the lowly-rated PPs to miss out on a win or two simply by contesting this event and running better than anyone expects.

The handicappers were at it again this week, hoisting Go Baby Go 15 points for his win up the straight and we probably should have brought this up last week in the context of the Irish handicapper's wish for sectional times - why?

It appears the handicappers don't look at them, even here, where you shake them off your umbrella or trip over them walking down the street, so abundant are they.

For while the margins were there in Go Baby Go's Class Three win, the times were not too superior to the bunched finish in the Class Four.

The two races were separated by 0.03s for the first 200m section, leader to leader, then 0.04 seconds for the next 600m - basically, had the two races been run as one, the Class Three led the Class Four by a long neck after 600m.

The Class Four then got to the line in 23.11, the Class Three in 22.91 seconds, a difference of a length over the final 400m and let's call it a length and a half overall. For that Go Baby Go came out of the rehandicap 21 points superior to Dance For Gold. Yes, Go Baby Go was value for a better final section if pushed out and times can be as unreliable as margins, but then that's the point. The handicapper relies on margins as the only rule to run across results. That disadvantages the likes of Go Baby Go - or we could mention Taverner, who took two years to recover from similar rough handling, but we won't - and advantages others who don't win by big margins.

One that comes to mind readily is Derek Cruz's improving stayer, Wrath Of Fire, raised just 11 points for two big wins, giving him a great chance to win again this weekend and still be in Class Three.

And it has relevance for today's Classic Mile as the race promises to be a stop-start, muddling affair, a circumstance which gives the lesser horse a chance to finish close to the superior ones. Considering the differences in handicap ratings between the likes of Captain Sweet and the bottom three, the worst thing New Deerfield, Packing Tycoon or Horace's Empire could do is run a race and finish within a reasonable margin of the top-rated ones. The 10 pounds penalty they can attract might be the end of them as winning propositions at all.