Monday, June 11, 2018

Let’s rebrand sellers and claimers as ‘optionals’

There is an awful stigma in British racing about running in sellers and claimers. Most owners don’t want their horses to compete in them. It’s a stigma we need to change. We must move on.

It took a long time for people to accept all-weather racing. Owners wanted a winner on the grass, not on sand. Thankfully that has changed.

Something similar needs to happen with the sellers and claimers system so I suggest we get rid of those words and call them ‘optionals’.

There was a story in Thursday’s Racing Post about the BHA preparing to trial ‘optional claiming handicaps’ which is a step in the right direction. However, we need to go further.

In British racing ‘sellers’ and ‘claimers’ are swear words to plenty of its participants.

I have entered 12 horses already for the Tattersalls July Sale next month at £500 each. It’s quite obvious why I have done so. I believe their owners should be getting the best price potential and consider Tattersalls is the place where they can best achieve that.

If we introduced optionals with reasonable prize-money and they grew in popularity, there would be an alternative to sending those horses to the sales.

There is a £15,000 seller for two-year-olds on Sunday at Goodwood in which the winner will be sold for a minimum of £10,000 and where the minimum claiming price is £20,000.

It’s the best race I’ve seen at Goodwood, and I entered two horses for it, one who cost £5,000 [Rock Bottom] and one who cost £9,000 [Wolf Hunter].

I like both of those little horses, but if somebody claims Wolf Hunter and the owner gets £20,000 plus a slice of the prize-money, then I think I’ll have a happy owner on my hands.

Everybody wants to win in this game. Owners have long accepted that the prize-money situation is dire in this country.

They are willing to lose their money as soon as they buy the horse. We need this new system as a means of keeping owners in the game.

If you bought a yearling for £20,000 in September and then add on the eight months training fees by the time June has come around you can work out the cost for yourself!

Give the owner the opportunity to get something back by winning an optional.

If we had a bigger programme of these races I think owners would buy more horses or even claim more.

Many two-year-olds will go into nurseries on the back of three defeats to compete for just £2,500.

Owners need a get-out with this type of runner, and the way of doing it is via rebranded ‘optionals’.

Claims would have to be submitted before the race, and you’re in there to be claimed if you win or lose. If you end up losing a good horse it’s your own fault.

The long-held negative attitude towards sellers and claimers simply doesn’t exist in other countries such as France and the United States, where prize-money in claimers is most attractive.

In France an owner can win a claimer worth between 10,000 to 20,000 euros - plus they have added incentive of the French premium - and get out. Hopefully that money will be used to reinvest in another horse or two.

We need to get away from the archaic system which allows a “you can’t claim my horse” attitude to prevail.

Let’s create a situation where we have more races with similar prize-money to that on offer at Goodwood on Sunday.

You could put your horse in to be claimed for £40,000, with the prize-money being half of that at £20,000. There could be different tiers of optionals - lower to higher.

To keep owners in the game the attitude and system needs to change.

Godolphin’s resurgence is great news for racing

Masar’s Derby victory last Saturday was not only a great result for Godolphin - it was a great result for racing too.

It’s very important for the sport that Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed can compete with Coolmore as they are probably the only superpower able to take them on.

The rivalry was better in the Fantastic Light days, and it would be good to see Godolphin get back to that level.

Over the last five years, for whatever reason, that competitiveness has dropped. Masar’s win signalled a welcome resurgence. It’s a step in the right direction to keep racing healthy at the highest level.

William Buick gave Masar a lovely ride. He rode him as if he had gone out to enjoy himself, and got the horse into a lovely rhythm.

I got the race totally wrong, having been firmly on the side of Saxon Warrior, but I wasn’t the only one. After all, the Masar story so far has been quite unusual.

He made the running in a slow-run Craven, kicked over two furlongs out, and quickly opened up a nine-length margin, yet in the 2,000 Guineas he looked one-paced when finishing third behind Saxon Warrior.

It was hard to figure out if he was a miler or a mile-and-a-half horse, so fair play to his trainer Charlie Appleby who felt he’d stay and let the horse take his chance.

Sometimes we look endlessly at form and pedigree in an attempt to find the perfect scenario before committing a horse to running in a big race.

Sometimes we’re simply afraid to run if we don’t find what we want to see, yet Charlie went with his gut feeling that Masar would stay the Derby trip at Epsom.

That’s what training racehorses is all about - sometimes you can see things that people in the outside world can’t.

Charlie clearly saw something which most of us didn’t. He took his chance and it paid off.

Saturday runners

We’re backing Golden Wolf up just seven days after his run at Epsom where we found a Group horse in a handicap beating us once again.

Royal Line got the better of us in the Great Metropolitan, and then Dash Of Spice proved too good on Derby day.

That race was Golden Wolf’s long-range plan, and sadly it didn’t quite pay off. There is only one high prize-money race he can get into for the rest of June so he’ll take his chance at Newmarket on Saturday in the £50,000 John Sunley Memorial Handicap (3.40) over 1m6f.

He’s backing up quickly, but did have a six-week break between the Great Metropolitan and Derby day.

Golden Wolf fully deserves to win a handicap and, if he finishes out of the first four, it will be my fault.

Addicted To You, a ten-length winner over two miles at Chelmsford last month, will be very hard to beat, but I can’t run away from one horse. The step up in trip will suit Golden Wolf.

Saturday is sure to prove a big day for George Rooke, who is having the first ride of his career aboard Inuk in the Premier Employer Services Handicap (8.20) at Lingfield.

George joined the Weathercock House team on a placement from the British Racing School last September.

He is a lovely young fellow with a bright future in front of him. It’s a day he’ll never forget.

Why can’t common sense prevail?

Popular nine-year-old sprinter Waseem Faris has raced 92 times with no misdemeanours in the stalls.

Sprinters can be like coiled springs at the start so to go through the stalls on that many occasions without any problems is testament to the horse’s temperament.

Before what was to be the 93rd race of his career at Bath last Friday, eight-time winner Waseem Faris got frightened at the start and had to be withdrawn.

Connections now have take him for a stalls test, which he must pass before he is allowed to race again.

Is anybody allowed to use common sense any more?

Hughesie’s Hottie

Stanley, who has been raised 4lb for his win over 1m6f at Salisbury a fortnight ago, can only improve for the step up to 2m in the Maywal Handicap (3.45) at Goodwood on Sunday. He’s in great form.