Whatever the number with which Joao Moreira finishes the 2015-16 season, the lid for this thing will not have been found.
The Brazilian is going to get to 160 wins with a subpar finish, top 170 if he finishes with a flourish and then, whatever that final record is, he’s likely to break it again next year.
The extra five meetings in the season will push the racetally past 800 and the configuration of the extra cards will determine how close to 200 wins Moreira could go.
Of course, as ever, he needs the support, to stay healthy and away from suspensions but the proportion of the extra races at Sha Tin is probably crucial too once you’re getting to an area where 2 or 3 per cent here or there will make the difference.
After our recent look at winning percentages at the different courses between the trainers, we’ve had a peek at the jockeys’ numbers, too. They are a bit more fluid, as jockeys can chop and change all the time, while trainers have a fairly consistent base of talent with which to work.
But if there’s one place that Moreira has got the game parcelled up it’s the main track at Sha Tin, where he won at better than 27 per cent last season and is poking along at just short of that again this term.
He’s much weaker ... all right, that was a beat-up, but the numbers are numbing.
Moreira’s strike rate is a couple of points lower this season at Happy Valley (23.8 per cent) or on the all-weather (21 per cent) and most likely the extra events will be at those tracks, since the new meetings will fill in empty midweek dates.
As we said, though, those numbers are a bit fluid. Moreira also struck at a lower rate at Happy Valley in his two previous campaigns but his 2014-15 season on the dirt saw him at a whopping 29.8 per cent – but even smoothing them out across his full Hong Kong experience, the Magic Man is worth an extra 10 wins a year at Sha Tin.
Accordion effect costs Energetic Class & Co on the A+3 track
It struck us on Sunday that the A+3 track seems to see a lot of messy types of races – you know, like the one that Energetic Class should have won easily after the leaders dropped anchor approaching the home straight and horses were shuffled back and held up.
While winner General Of Patch was always three wide into the breeze – not normally a plus – he did have fluency and consistency to his passage and was able to keep on galloping while others were getting stopped and started behind him.
And there were other races on the day where it seemed something similar happened between about the 600m mark and the 300m, and we have found quite a few others on the A+3 in past meetings.
It seems the culprit could be that quite a few trainers believe that being up on the pace is crucial on the A+3 and instruct their jockeys accordingly.
So we are getting a mad rush early and, by the time they get to the 700m, the riders then realise they have done a bit of work and really need to slow it all down for a breather.
This accordion effect happens, the field packs up behind them and, well, it can get pretty messy. It might be why we do see winners sitting wide on the A+3 because they get that uninterrupted flow forward.
So do the trainers have a point? Well, statistically, perhaps but it’s a qualified yes.
Looking back at the last 500 circle races run on the A+3, the importance of being in the first five at the 800m –i.e. where the last bend begins – is significant.
To compare apples with apples, we thought to compare the same positioning on the A course. On the A track, 51 per cent of the winners are in the first five positions in the call at the 800m, but, on the A+3, those first five in running at the 800m provided 59 per cent of the winners.
Interestingly, whatever statistical advantage there is to being in the first five at the 800m isn’t specifically an A+3 thing – the B+2 (58.6 per cent) and C (56.2 per cent) Sha Tin tracks also show a similar difference from the same positioning on the A course.
But when they get to the 400m, it all evens out so maybe that big early hurry isn’t actually necessary – the first five at the 400m for the A, A+3, B+2 and C courses provide between 67.2 and 69 per cent of the winners on all rail placements.
Un-fanning the flames
Part of this column had originally been earmarked for a shot at the stewards in the heat of the moment after the declaration of Dancing Flames as a starter at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Anyone who follows our Twitter feed will be aware of a comment that the stewards got it wrong, that punters who backed Dancing Flames should have got their money back and the horse declared a non-runner after getting left hopelessly.
Stewards these days are going head-to-head with jockeys when it comes to post-event excuses so as not to hand back any bets but we’ve probably got to concede this one was right.
Watching the start live, it appeared some kind of discourse was taking place between Joao Moreira and the handler, who is holding Dancing Flames’ hood at the moment when the gates opened because it also happened to be a split second after the moment the horse decided to duck his head down.
So the handler got pulled down with him and is trying to pick the head back up when the gates are open. (The argument that the attendant’s hand on the horse didn’t prevent it jumping is a very shallow one, however. Let’s face it, the biggest and best blocker in the NFL could stand directly in front of the horse and do his best and couldn’t prevent it jumping.)
Alas, Moreira told the stewards he was ready. The horse was the fly in the ointment.
Grudgingly, case dismissed. The sudden putting down of the head, well, that’s horses and they do this stuff all the time with no thought of the consequential effects on punters.