When the Jockey Club puts a fork in the 2016-17 season on Sunday night, it will owe a small debt of thanks to horses like Fish N’ Chips, Industrialist Way, King Bountiful, Sweet Bean and Giddy Giddy.
Not exactly a list of the all-time greats of the track, we know, but it is these iron horses who have populated the scene as the season stretched out longer than ever before and they have carried more than their fair share of the burden.
Last season, the most-raced horse was Imperial Concorde with 19 starts and there were two who raced 18 times and another four who turned up on 17 occasions.
But with no extra horses in the Sha Tin equine population and more meetings to run, it was going to be a test of how often some horses could front up the make up the fields.
With still two meetings to complete, Fish N’ Chips has been the most-raced horses this season, the speedster going around for the 21st time this season last Sunday. The others in the list above have all raced 19 times, Giddy Giddy even having the audacity to push himself to a new personal best by winning in Class Four on the weekend.
Another two horses raced 18 times this season and 11 turned out for the sports on 17 occasions, so a total of 18 horses raced 17 times or more, compared to just seven last season.
That need for them to race often was exacerbated too by having only 1,307 individual horses race this season, as opposed to 1,347 last term.
These little observations turned up as we assembled our annual statistical view of the racing season this week and the figures show that things have been spread thinly, something we already suspected.
The total number of runners dropped, bearing in mind that we have completed 787 races (don’t forget the void race – we did for a moment or two) and last season was 784 in its entirety, so a similar for similar comparison but those races have been spread over three more race meetings at this stage.
There have been 9,768 runners this season as against 9,844 for all of last season. Even our favourite hobby horse in recent seasons – the proliferation of 100-1 chances was down, reversing what had been a worrying trend. The “no hopers” were only about 9 per cent runners this season, as against more than 12 per cent in 2015-16. Well done, Nigel.
In some ways, some of the seasons’s significant numbers were very close to last season. For instance, we have had 199 multiple winners, the same as the total last year, but five winners of five, which is above the usual run of things.
The average favourite started at $29.82 (for a $10 investment), close to last year’s number, but didn’t win quite as often – 30.37 per cent of favourites saluted, down 2 per cent on 2015-16 but more in line with the long term average. And that was reflected in a worse season financially if all you back are favourites – flat betting the outright favourite saw a loss of 16 per cent, a return to earth for punters who “enjoyed” losses of only 10, 12 and 9 per cent doing the same thing the three seasons prior.
If you were only betting on odds-on favourites, well the good news is that it was bumper year for them. More than 52 per cent of the 86 odds-on jollies have won. Many seasons, they struggle to get past the 50-50 point. The bad news is you still lost 14.4 per cent of your stake by flat betting them.
The average price of the winners was actually up to its highest level in five years, returning punters $96.41 on average for the $10 stake, after it had been around 9.0 in the last four seasons.
Search for the next 10-pound claimer on in earnest
The recent “over performances” by the apprentice jockeys have some trainers wondering what is to become of using the claimers in the new season.
After being drip fed apprentice jockeys, trainers have become somewhat spoiled in the past couple of seasons by having so many junior riders and, in particular, a regular flow of 10-pound claims.
Some observers might offer that the presence of so many apprentices has led to some oddly run races as the juniors tend to stand on the brakes when they get the front – and they are regularly commanded to find the front – and that has not altogether been good for clean racing.
Still, trainers do like to make use of the claims in this tightly handicapped environment and are now looking askance at where their next 10-pound claim is coming from, now that Matthew Poon Ming-fai has run through his 10 pounds in ultra-quick time.
Dylan Mo Hin-tung has rushed past 20 wins too in the last three months and the new term will dawn with two apprentices claiming only five pounds and two riders on seven pounds, and certainly Poon won’t hold on to that seven pounds for very long either.
Trainers, well aware that they will be getting withdrawal symptoms by mid-September, have expressed to us the hope that the Jockey Club fast tracks the return of Victor Wong Chun, who took Poon’s place in the Richard Jolly yard in Adelaide in April after two years prior training in Tasmania and has been doing well enough to suggest he is ready.
While we are on apprentice jockeys, we hear on the grapevine that seven and 10 pound claimers are soon to be excluded from riding in Group One and Two races. Someone at Sports Road is listening after all.