Thursday, August 9, 2018

David Egan has made correct career move

David Egan has done the right thing in taking out a full professional jockeys’ licence rather than to chase a second apprentices’ title.

In the general scheme of things I don’t think a second apprentices’ title really matters. Ryan Moore only landed it once, and there are many winners who you never hear of again.

David has to think about his career going forward, and be ready to take one of the top jobs when it arises.

It is much harder for a trainer to tell his owners that he is appointing an apprentice or a less high-profile rider as stable jockey.

However, John Gosden took the bull by the horns when he appointed William Buick, and Roger Charlton did the same with James Doyle. They were both brave decisions, and it paid off for those guys.

David rode out his claim at Newbury in June, and was well clear of his rivals in the race for the apprentices’ title once again.

Being champion apprentice isn’t the be all and end all and, by turning professional at this stage in his career and raising his profile, David is sending out a clear message of intent as to his future ambitions.

At this next stage of a rider’s development there are two things which are of fundamental importance - one is that you can ride, and the second is that you continue to work very hard.

David rides extremely well and isn’t afraid of hard graft. Above all, he genuinely loves riding.

Some champion apprentices fall by the wayside because they do not possess all of those qualities.

A jockey must put in the hours away from the track by doing his homework on the horses he is riding, and also learn about those he is riding against.

If you keep looking at the formbook you will inevitably find something that could win or lose you the race.

Of course, if you’re playing Gameboy while you could have been studying form then you won’t have given yourself that advantage.

Good jockeys invariably know the form of all the horses in the race they are riding in. If you know the information before the race is run there is a good chance that it will prove beneficial during the contest.

David certainly made a great start to his career as a professional when getting Pilaster home by a short head in the Group 2 Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday. It was lovely to see him put his stick down going to the line.

He has an old head on young shoulders and, if he continues to work hard, there will be many more great days like that for him to enjoy.

It’s been great week at Goodwood

The track at Goodwood has been in great condition all week. It has maybe ridden a bit on the dead side, but it looks beautiful.

Ed Arkell had big boots to fill when he took over as clerk of the course from Seamus Buckley, for so long one of the best in the business.

The clerks who are good at their job are those who aren’t afraid to come into the weighing-room and ask the jockeys how they think the ground is riding. Some don’t go in and ask - it just baffles me.

Ed has always been very good at listening to the views of the riders. After all, ground to ride on can sometimes feel very different to how it walks.

Clerks have generally had an easier time of it this summer in terms of deciding how much water to put down. Those decisions are easier to make when no rain is forecast for weeks and weeks.

However, an awful lot of hard work has been undertaken by the groundstaff team at racecourses in actually getting the water on.

There has been less pressure on clerks. It has simply been a case of getting loads of water down and letting the surface dry out naturally.

They haven’t had to worry about putting too much down because the ground just dries out under the sunshine and high temperatures.

An example of what can happen when it does rain unexpectedly, though, came at Newmarket last weekend when the ground turned soft from good to firm immediately after a downpour.

Goodwood has a lot of grass, and it holds the moisture. A lot of tracks stage racing on grass which is cut too short and doesn’t retain any moisture.

It has been fascinating this week to see the action at Goodwood unfold. The Group 2 Vintage Stakes on Tuesday, won by Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision, was a particularly good race to watch.

It provided further confirmation of how hard it is to win from the front on the round course at Goodwood.

The problem with races on this track is that they tend to go off too fast. Some jockeys on horses with wide draws attempt to overcome them by getting out quickly and racing up with the pace, which causes some jockeys with good draws electing to ride up in the early stages to hold their place and maintain the advantage of their low draw.

All this inevitably plays into the hands of the hold-up horses. The round course doesn’t suit the forward-ridden horses at all, and the result of the Vintage amply demonstrated this point with the two who had forced the pace, Burj and Drogon, finishing last and second-last respectively.

A further complication in terms of tactics arises from the top of the hill as the field descends into the home straight.

You can’t steer a wide course round the outside because you simply give away too much ground, and you can’t go down the inner hoping it’s all going to open up in the last furlong and a half.

I always found it best to take the shortest route round the inside to the three-furlong pole, at which point you had to pull off the rail and get out.

You are always turning to the right at Goodwood, and they tend to quicken very early in the straight.

For all those people who bet in-running, I would suggest that if you see a horse at Goodwood early in the straight that is on the outside and close to the pace then you should press the ‘lay’ button.

That horse will be covering the most ground at a time when it is too far out to be quickening anyway.

Silvestre De Sousa produced Dark Vision from out the back to lead well inside the final furlong, having taken a middle course from halfway up the straight.

As the pace collapsed up front, he was perfectly placed to take advantage. It was an excellent Goodwood ride.

Sir Michael’s patience pays dividends yet again

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes provided a great race and, of course, a great training performance from Sir Michael Stoute, whose Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean fought out a thrilling finish to give him a sixth victory in the Ascot showpiece.

It is hard to get one horse to a Group 1 race at its peak on the day, yet Sir Michael managed it with two.

And don’t believe that it just happened. This wouldn’t have been the plan for the last two months; Sir Michael would have been thinking about it fully a year ago.

Poet’s Word was twice beaten in handicaps during his three-year-old career, while Crystal Ocean has also been brought along with trademark patience.

Sir Michael nurses them through the grades, and builds up their confidence so they are ready for the heat of a Group 1 battle.

If those horses had been placed in the hands of other trainers, they might not have got as far as Group 1 level. Sir Michael over-achieves with his horses. Patience is his greatest virtue.

Bath unfortunate to lose fixture

Bath’s fixture on Friday was rescheduled to take place at Wolverhampton owing to hard ground and small field sizes caused by the ongoing heatwave.

I think they have been a bit unlucky. It’s all about perception in the modern age, and horses are being asked to race on a turf track that is no longer green - it is brown.

There is always pressure from the animal-rights people, and I can totally understand why the decision has been made at a track which doesn’t possess a watering system.

I have had plenty of runners at Bath this summer, and none of them have come back sore.

Sir Mark Prescott’s Matchmaking, who won there last month, backed up four days later with a victory at Wolverhampton.

I would rather run horses on rock-hard ground at Bath than on badly-watered ground elsewhere.

Nick Rust visits yard

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, came to the yard earlier this week to gain more of an insight into how a training yard works and get an understanding of the difficulties we all face.

I often given the BHA a bit of grief in my articles, but it was great to welcome Nick to Weathercock House, and he seemed keen to take our views on board.