Newcastle Racecourse set for a return of racing
So, horse racing is set to return at Newcastle racecourse on Monday, well it may do.
No official confirmation has been given that horse racing can restart. The latest BHA announcement says they are ‘confident’, yet while Boris Johnson in Thursday evenings briefing said there would be some easing in lockdown measures, no mention was given to sport and horse racing!
A bizarre situation really, but these are very different times. Fingers crossed that racing gets the go-ahead and we have some sport to enjoy at Newcastle racecourse on Monday.
“The winner of the third race” flickr photo by walkinguphills https://flickr.com/photos/peerlawther/6533641423 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Horse racing resumes after lockdown
It seems in many ways that time has stood still in the past few months so it’s been interesting in this vacuum to observe horse racing introducing several changes. Much as in other walks of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited change. It’s good that horse racing can deploy some initiative when forced to, let’s hope those in power remember this when we get back to normality.
With the resumption comes with 72-hour declarations, maximum 12 runner fields (outside of Pattern and Listed races) and horses qualifying for a handicap mark after just 2 runs if certain conditions are met.
Will all these changes be good for horse racing?
Newcastle racecourse must have been delighted with the initial entry of 369 horses.
I have to say it fuddled my brain when I sat down eager to look at the initial entries. There is no way anyone can have a complete handle on that many horses.
A note for myself, in the first few weeks of the new season, specialise, for me that means concentrating on 3-year-old handicaps where I know my edge is biggest.
There’s one 3-year-old handicap on Newcastle’s Monday card and the opener at Yarmouth on Wednesday is a decent quality race with 3 runners, of the initial 28 runners, that look well ahead of their current marks.
Are 72-hour declarations a good thing?
From the perspective of the punter, in one respect yes, having the additional 24 hrs to study is useful. It’s the same for the bookmakers odds compilers though.
Not surprisingly given the racing drought, bookmakers were quick to get some odds up for Newcastle’s card. For punters, I don’t think this is a good thing, the markets initially are very inefficient, by that I mean the markets start as the view of a small group of odds compilers, they’ll strengthen as a race gets closer to off-time and opinions and money come into the market.
When the betting opens, if you have an opinion and want to bet it, you’ll be lucky, that’s if your opinions are any good, to get more than a few buttons on to win a bar of soap.
Potentially any value will disappear, the same as it does now, but the increased 72-hour declaration timeframe will mean it happens sooner. You’ll need to act quickly and with some guise to get on.
The 72-hour decs is a temporary measure which, at some point, not unspecified for now, will revert to 48 hours in the future.
Non-Pattern and Listed races
Field sizes outside of Pattern and Listed company will be limited to a maximum of 12 runners.
With a high level of demand for race spots, I suspect it will be a little while before we see races with less than 12 declared. That’s a good thing, no single digit fields and more competitive races.
If you’re betting each way in handicaps its a positive too, as 12 runners are the crossover between ⅕ and a ¼ odds for places.
Hopefully, there aren’t too many of these races with non-runners, with less than 12 runners, the place terms revert to a ⅕ the odds. Be prepared for more non-runners, the increase to 72-hour declarations adds an extra day for something to go wrong, a horse picking up an injury for example.
Pattern and Listed races
Pattern and Listed races will not be limited to 12 runners but carry their current limitations on field sizes or any local restriction placed by the individual racecourse.
A caveat to all of the above is that all races at Royal Ascot will carry a maximum field size of 24 runners.
Good news for the big handicaps at the Royal meeting and good news for punters if solving these ultra-competitive puzzles are your thing. A Hunt Cup or a Brittania with just 12 runners would have been far less intriguing.
Handicap mark – two runs to qualify
The qualifying criteria for a handicap mark pre-COVID were
- run three times
- ran twice and won on debut.
Now, in addition to this, if a horse has run twice and finished in the first six on both occasions then it receives a handicap mark and is qualified to compete.
Assessing a horse’s ability on the evidence of just two runs opens up the margin of error, this stands true for handicapper and punter alike.
There are some potentially very well handicapped 3-year-olds who are about to see the racetrack again, a focus on finding such horses could prove profitable in the coming weeks.