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How much money have you lost on sick horses?

Home Forums Horse Racing How much money have you lost on sick horses?

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  • #1397201
    • Total Posts 5770

    Copied from my blog

    I first heard this gag in the 1970s: “I gave a lot of my money to sick horses. Trouble is, I didn’t know they were sick when I backed them”. Hardly a LOL, but it did make me smile. From what I’ve heard in the past couple of days, maybe it’s not so funny now.

    There’s been fiery debate on forums and social media about the forced break racing’s had to take because of equine flu. I have no knowledge of the science of it so haven’t commented other than on twitter today after I read Kevin Blake’s latest article.

    In summary, Kevin says that because equine flu is endemic, there are sick horses to be found in yards pretty much every day. He says if a yard is out of form it’s likely flu or some other virus will be to blame and that trainers dometimes discover a horse is sick only after a poor run.

    This makes perfect sense. I’ve never studied trainer form at any depth, although it has always seemed odd to me that a yard can suddenly start churning out winners relentlessly for weeks before dipping back to normal (whatever that is ). And, of course, it can work the other way and horses struggle to find a semblance of their best form. Philip Hobbs’s yard last year would probably make a strong case study in the latter.

    When a fancied horse runs a dire race in a major event we often hear that it scoped poorly afterwards and had been sick. But horses run dire races every day of the week at small tracks. I wonder how many of those were sick and shouldn’t have been offered up as betting propositions?

    I am not blaming trainers here. No right minded trainer would send a sick horse to the races. What I’m interested in is the scope of the problem and the chance of finding a solution. Aside from the punting aspect, there’s a welfare factor too. I wonder if horses who die on the track are checked to see if a virus was present?

    Returning to the betting angle; for years punters called for formal declaration of wind surgery. We were told it was unnecessary, too difficult, not our business etc., but we got it in the end. A couple of twitter correspondents today told me that with sick horses ’twas ever thus and we must suck it up. Why should we? If a horse can be diagnosed with sickness after a five minute run in a race, isn’t there some medical accessory (or couldn’t one be commissioned) that will pick up that sickness an hour earlier?

    A couple of others on twitter said (I paraphrase), ‘what’s the point of worrying about backing sick horses when so many are sent to the post with no objective other than to get their handicap mark down’? Well, that’s a completely different question and one where there are, at least, procedures in place.

    Meanwhile, in a betting industry worth almost £5bn a year in the UK, nobody knows how many sick horses, carrying wagers that are already lost, go to post each day.

    Does it total a dozen a year? A hundred? A thousand? Five thousand?

    Wouldn’t you like to know the figures? And wouldn’t you like the BHA to be doing something about reducing those figures?

    I would.

    Never argue with a fool. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience, then onlookers might not be able to tell the difference.

    • Total Posts 2543

    Impossible to keep track

    Impossible to fund

    Improbable to be accurate

    Huge waste of money and time

    horses get scoped before runs etc etc and even that isnt enough, what do you suggest, full bloodwork the day before the race? Horses cant talk joe, so until there heart rate rises and there body is put under cardiovascular pressure youd need to be god to figure out what your suggesting, were talking about minute margins At the highest level…

    Does “the racing community” love the sport so much that it is literally eating itself inside out? Literally

    This is a raw sport where the main athletetic specimen is a horse…. next we will want to know why one jumped 12/13 fences fine but not 13/13


    Ex RubyLightEx RubyLight
    • Total Posts 1496

    Thanks for starting such an interesting thread, Joe.

    First of all, here is how a race card should look like:

    Both links are referring to the same race on tomorrows card at Happy Valley.

    I find the Veterinary Records very interesting and I’m pretty sure that Racing in Hong Kong looks more transparent than British Racing does. At least you are provided with some decent information for the specific race.

    Of course, an injury might be something more visible to the eye, but so are a snotty nose or a high temperature. No need to be left in the dark about that or to accept it as part of the daily routine.
    Surely, it might not be that important to know if a horse was swimming, trotting or galloping the past few days, but it’s nice to see that they had some work to do prior to the race.

    Also the “Past Incidents” section can be quite informative as you get to understand why some horses didn’t perform the way someone expected to do.

    To answer your initial question: I’m losing less on sick horses since I’ve learned to leave out horses from certain stables, like Jonjo, NTD, Venetia (unless its December-March), A J Martin, Noel Meade and many other trainers with low strike-rates outside certain months.

    • Total Posts 5770

    I’m not suggesting a solution, ham. I’ve no experience on that front. Pre-race scoping is ineffective at the moment, I’m told, because it must be done 48 hours before raceday to ensure the results are back in good time.

    Are you saying that a sick horse will display no diagnosable symptoms an hour before he runs even though he does so immediately after running? Nothing that would show on a thermometer, an ‘instant’ blood test, a swab?

    Never argue with a fool. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience, then onlookers might not be able to tell the difference.

    • Total Posts 80

    If you’re a regular backer and keep a record, this is something you just have to factor in. It equals itself out in the end — you strongly fancy one that is then beaten 20l, another you’re not so confident about but which hoses in because the short priced fav was ‘sick’. As a keen punter, there are enough non-runners every day to contend with that alter the whole ‘aspect’ of a race, and never mind the layers giving the odds. Perhaps moving back to 24 hour decs on the flat may help cut down the non-runners or ‘sick’ horses.

    • Total Posts 1250

    HK is a completely different world to GB & IRE racing. They run on TWO tracks, have an insane revenue stream through massive punting on their PMU and the HKJC pile most of their money back into the sport.
    The two jurisdictions are chalk and cheese.

    • Total Posts 2698

    Some trainers are now complaining about the amended vaccination rules.

    So here’s the obvious question :

    Why were you planning on running a horse which hadn’t been vaccinated for over six months ?

    • Total Posts 2152

    @ #1397234

    Kev, maybe add that:

    – all the vets are HKJC-controlled and have to keep their treatment records on the HKJC database;

    – all trackwork takes place under HKJC cameras;

    the data in each case being publicly available on the HKJC website.

    a degree of centralisation of all aspects of the racing (as well as unification of racing and betting) that is way beyond most other jurisdictions (though the JRA runs it close).

    • Total Posts 1250

    Because the vaccine is valid for a year Mark. The BHA are trying to protect the horses and the sport, but i can understand the trainers frustration also.

    Ireland are implementing 8 week validity from 18.02.19, so in effect the whole of GB & IRE are in the same boat, with the trainers who have vaccinated in the last 6 months having around a weeks edge on the competition (Nicholls and Skelton probably).

    Wit :good:

    • Total Posts 337

    Out of many runners I have had over the years, I am pushed to think of any that did not run on their merit and were found afterwards to have issues. Thats over a 25 year time frame. Only 1 bled mildly having been scoped after racing and a couple were found to have minor wind issues. I think the closest NH got to pre race checks was Martin Pipe – and then everyone said this, that and tother was going on.

    • Total Posts 1341

    I think a lot of the comments thrown about stating that yards always have some horses that are off colour and that we should have carried on racing were not overly helpful and could have made the situation worse if the BHA had just rolled the dice and let racing continue.

    Some of those horses could very well have completely unrelated (to Equine Influenza) non contagious respiratory issues or other things, which are commonly labelled as the good old ‘there is a virus in the yard’ and as such would be very misleading.

    Yes it would appear that we have (fingers crossed and touching all available wood) weathered the main part of the storm but I still think the BHA did the right thing initially in shutting everything down.

    Bear in mind that the AHT processed in a couple of days the same amount of testing samples that they usually do in a whole year and with the help of trainers responding quickly in getting the tests done and sent in, the days racing which has been missed would be roughly equivalent to racing being abandoned due to a few days of sub zero weather and frost getting into the ground.

    • Total Posts 2261

    Swings and roundabouts. How many times have you benefited due to an opposing favourite being off colour?

    • Total Posts 26588

    Several aspects of form are under-rated by punters and bookmakers alike.
    Sick horses is just part of the overall question:
    How likely is each horse to run to its best?
    Distance and going are obvious topics in that respect.
    Fitness is a section that includes several aspects. Muscle tone and how much work has been put in to a horse is one part of fitness…

    Sick and/or the opposite – peak condition is the other part of “fitness”.

    A horse can be muscled to perfection and had the absolute best preparation and will in that case run well… But imo won’t necessarily run to its very best unless also in absolute peak internal condition. Peak condition often showing in their coats. For flat racing an ultra shiny, dappled coat gives a good indication of one in peak internal conditition and is something to look out for at the racecourse in late spring and summer. Unsure whether trainers can do anything to actually make their horses in to peak internal condition… Otherwise all trainers would be in peak condition at the same chosen part of the season. Noticeable trainers in truly exceptional form often show it in their horses coats. However, this is not always the case and some don’t show it in their coats.

    Also, different horses come to form at the same part of the season every year. Yes, am sure with some it’s a case of the trainer having a particular target. But imo some only perform to their bests at a certain part of the year. ie If we’re talking about the very best Group/Grade 1 horses there’s no reason to not try in the best races. But despite connections wanting the horse to run to its best in the Blue Riband event in the Spring, it can’t – no matter what a trainer tries to do… And if this is so with the best horses what about haandicappers?… The scenario snowballs. If a trainer knows a particular handicapper comes to form in Autumn he/she will target races at that time of year; and equally “running” but not neccesarily “targeting” races it probably won’t be at it’s best… And the handicap mark can therefore drop for another day.

    Sorry, this was about “sick” horses.

    Horses run poorly and in a large number of these cases it is for “form” reasons. Distance, going, pace, etc, but “sick” means to me running no sort of race; a totally different scenario to “poorly”.

    Yes, sometimes a punter will gain through another horse running as if sick. But that does not make a fair playing field. It does not mean the chances of all horses being “sick” are anywhere near the same.

    We do have to beware of the laws of averages, there will be times when even a trainer whose horses are in good form will have a run of horses running badly. But we shouldn’t be trying to identify those who will run sick; we should be identifying those with a bigger chance of running sick.

    Am certain the vast majority are because of viruses and viruses come in many strengths. Some are short lived, some last a season and some even longer. Philip Hobbs had an extremely bad 2017/18 season, where very few ran anywhere near their potential. Donald McCain once looked a top five trainer, but am convinced his deep drop in form was due to a particularly strong virus. This came before losing top owners which exaggerated the problem. Glad to see a resurgence in the last year or two and such a shame the equine flu struck his yard.

    Horses do get poor, hairy/wintery coats and this can suggest a flat horse is over-the-top for the seasoon or nowhere near peak condition. Some may run very poorly. Whether this can be defined as “sick” – not sure. But horses can be sick at any time of year, so coats imo don’t really come in to this issue. It’s possible some horses may show their sickness by acting differently than usual. One that does not usually act up in the paddock who does so on this occasion, will often drift badly and run poorly…

    But do we need to know the reasons why horses run abysmally? Should us punters give up in allowing for sickness in form analysis? From analysis of Trainers In (And Out) Of Form it is obvious to me a large number running as if “sick” come from yards in poor form. Just as we can allow for the chance of a horse not acting on the ground – we can also allow for the chance of a horse being sick. Trainers do not run horses known to be sick, but they don’t know they’re sick before running. On the other hand, horses running from a yard whose 20 most recent runners have barely beaten another horse home… Is far more likely to run as if sick. Of course, just as when making these judgements it’s possible a horse will still act on the ground, that doesn’t mean we should give up identifying them. Ditto sick horses.

    How much money have I lost on sick horses?
    Not as much as most punters.

    value is everything
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