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A pony to win

By racing editor Pesco Greko

Posted April 29, 2012
follow your instincts when betting
Giddyup: Horses will do anything for a sugar-lump. (Check bottom for credits)

Watch their heads and follow your gut, says racing editor Pesco Greko.

None of my family or friends understand horse racing.

Not one of them.

The minute you start talking about a decent race their eyes glaze over and they think you're on about gambling.

God, I love them, but sometimes they're f--kwits when it comes to what makes life really fizz.

A decent horse race, now that is a real intellectual challenge.

A problem to be solved.

If you get it right, you win some cash.

If you get it wrong, well it was just bad luck.

Horse had an off day.

Ground was too soft.

Too firm.

He just wouldn't let his legs down.

The hooves were starting to sting.

His knees got stiff.

Gamblers, punters, those with the blind sickness don't give a f--k about that.

Bugger the horse.

I lost.

Hope it f--king dies in its box on the way home.

They have no understanding.

That's why they lose.

a race horse's head says a lot about how it will perform
Come here often? Jockeys love a good natter. (Check bottom for credits)

Race horses can be read by the way they move – like a book once you've learnt the language.

Sometimes that's a pity because the horse tells you straight off within five seconds of leaving the gate it's not their day.

Or yours.

They throw their head about.

A nice still head, that's what you want.

The more the head moves, the harder they're trying.

Don't worry about the legs.

The stiller the head, the more energy they've got left in the tank.

An inverse proportion.

If they throw their heads just after the start, it presents the jockey with two shit options.

Hold the horse back and piss it off, which means you'll lose.

A rock.

Or, let it go on and use up all its speed so there's nothing left at the business end of the race.

A hard place.

Sometimes the jockey will manage to calm the horse down and save all the nervy energy for when it counts.

Settling the horse, or 'covering up', by placing it in a pack means there's nowhere for it to go so it has to slow up.

But only sometimes.

The same goes for jockeys (most of the time).

If two horses are side by side at the furlong pole and one jockey is pushing away on a long rein and the other isn't moving his arms much on a short rein, its plain who's shot his bolt first.

And sometimes horses exude confidence.

They move like they own the parade ring.

They ping out of the gate and get position without losing a bead of sweat.

But that's for the punters.

Either way, they always tell you if you know what to look for.

If a horse leaps out of the page at you while you're studying a race, back it.

Especially if it happens straight away.

2.30 York.

Hmm, let's have a look...


Bog Snorkeler 3-9-1/1 - P Donohue.

Back it if that thing happens where your mind, for one split second, drifts off to the planet of certainty and then snaps back with even just a miniscule taste of the atmosphere.

But never change your mind.

Because if you then start studying the form and it's a tricky race with lots of class horses in it and you subsequently decide to back Flowery Barse, for example, you'll feel so bloody sick to your stomach when Bog Snorkeler serves it up from the front in a six furlong (6f) race and wins, beating your Flowery Barse by two lengths1.

You really will.

If the horse loses, you at least had the certainty of conviction.

If it wins and you didn't back it, you'll have that gnawing feeling that you didn't listen and you turned out to be wrong.

A loser.

Always go with your intuition.

See also Racing's resilience, posted 29/4/12.


1) It's actually very rare for a horse to win a sprint from the front.

Picture Credits

Top and thumbnail: Original image by Hippodrome de Deauville-Clairefontaine; rejigged by Ignatius Rake.

Bottom: Original image by Softeis; rejigged by Ignatius Rake.

For licensing information click the above links.

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A pony to win

follow your instincts when betting

Watch their heads and follow your gut, says racing editor Pesco Greko.