If one didn’t learn something after watching thoroughbreds for over four-and-a-half decades, one would have to be an extremely thick humanoid.

In that timeframe I’ve seen many “worldbeaters” and/or “champion” thoroughbreds rolled. Ironically a very small percentage of racehorses have so much natural ability that they are ultimately responsible for their own demise in a race – simply because of their sheer brilliance.

And so it came to pass that it was his own “brilliance” and/or “worldbeater” status, or possible “champion” qualities that, I believe, saw the best colt in the race – Rich Enuff – get run down and finish second at Caulfield last Saturday in the stallion making race that is the Caulfield Guineas.

The name of the game is “racing”. Unfortunately in this thoroughbred “racing”, the only thing the horse doesn’t do a lot of the time is to actually “race” from the starting point when the barriers fly open to the end of the race when they reach the finish line. In greyhound racing they obviously have no option but to “race” from the moment the race starts – as they are chasing a lure. Sadly the same scenario cannot unfold in the other two codes. Unfortunately thoroughbred races are often run at a snail’s pace. You see it all the time. You’d beat them on foot half the time – in gumboots, carrying a bag of premix concrete above your head.

Renowned English physicist and mathematician, Isaac Newton, concluded during his long life (1643-1727) that, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” and just on 500 years later, what he stated has a direct relevance to what I’d call “walking races” across the thoroughbred and harness codes. It’s simply a no-brainer that horses trained under Australian conditions, cannot possibly reach their optimum fitness level if they continually contest these “walking races,” or alternatively, in order to be able to reach their optimum fitness level, they must compete in more slowly run races and/or endure more intense trackwork sessions to cover the lack of fitness due to their participating in slowly run races.

When Rich Enuff gave his opposition a cold on straightening in the 1400-metre Caulfield Guineas Prelude on Sunday 28 September, the race was as good as over as far out as the 250-metre mark. Rich Enuff’s jockey, Michael Rodd, didn’t need to pull the whip and flog the colt to the line, as put simply, the colt was a class above that field. In fact only the Queensland visitor Looks Like The Cat ran on, but flogged to the line, with Rich Enuff throttled right back, Rich Enuff still beat him home by two-and-a-half lengths. By the time they reached the finish line, Rich Enuff had been eased right down. Wow, that was a breathtaking win if ever I did see one. I’d call it “Kingston Town and Black Caviar style domination”.

But in the 1400-metre race, if the horse Rich Enuff was home at the 250-metre mark and didn’t need to have the whip pulled and/or be ridden hard hands and heels to make the horse hit the line hard, it means the horse in reality, has only run 1150 metres (1400-250). So when he has to step up to 1600 metres at his next start in tougher Group 1 company, meeting horses that he didn’t race against in the Prelude, what’s the only thing he’s definitely lacking? A good conditioning run over 1400 metres.

When Rich Enuff won the Caulfield Guineas Prelude over 1400 metres he only stopped the clock at pedestrian overall time of 1.23.49 on a good 3 track. The track record for the distance is 1.21.20 to Exceed and Excel, meaning Rich Enuff was 2.29 seconds, or 13.74 lengths, off that track record. Gee that’s a long way. In thoroughbred racing I regard six lengths as “a huge distance”. Had Rich Enuff been “made find the line” and been ridden out hard to the line hands and heels, instead of being “throttled right back”, he’d have a) run significantly faster overall time and b) – and this is the big one – he’d have come out of that Prelude race much fitter for his next assignment, which was to be over 200 metres further.

Rich Enuff was given a gorgeous ride by Michael Rodd last Saturday. There’s not a jockey born who could have ridden the horse better. Fair dinkum Rodd did everything bar get off and carry the horse to the finish line. But the horse got beaten due to the fact that he wasn’t at his maximum fitness level because of his own “brilliance”. Rich Enuff went into the Caulfield Guineas fourth-up from a spell after contesting two 1200-metre races and that 1400-metre Guineas Prelude, so in other words he had competed in races cumulatively totalling 3800 metres prior to the Caulfield Guineas.

By contrast, Shooting To Win went into the Caulfield Guineas having his fifth run back from a spell as he went into the race off four previous runs over 1300, 1400, 1400, and 1500 metres, or cumulatively 5,600 metres. And importantly what did Shooting To Win do when he won the Stan Fox Stakes at his previous race start prior to the Caulfield Guineas over 1500 metres at Rosehill in Sydney? He ran fast overall time of 1.29.16, which is only 1.95 seconds off Shindig’s long standing track record set over 16 years ago – on 21/3/1998. So in summary, Shooting To Win had had a good conditioning run over 1500 prior to the 1600-metre Caulfield Guineas whereas Rich Enuff had been eased down over 1400 metres in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude.

Both Rich Enuff and Shooting To Win are good colts, but the best colt didn’t win the Caulfield Guineas because, in my opinion, from the aforesaid overall time points I’ve raised above, no forward thinking on the part of the trainer went into making sure that the horse was at his peak fitness for the 1600-metre Caulfield Guineas, via simply making that his horse hit the line hard in the Prelude.

You see it all the time in thoroughbred “racing” – and I admit I cringe every time I see it. It’s particularly apparent in two-year-old racing. You’ll get a worldbeater 2YO that’s clearly panels of fencing better than his or her rivals and that horse is going to win easily, because it showed a nice turn of acceleration at the 300 – or whatever – and put the opposition away in a few strides. The jockey “throttles the horse right back”. The end result is two-fold, firstly that the horse 1) doesn’t learn to hit the line which is a terrible trait to teach a young horse – and secondly that youngster has now been deprived of a good conditioning run. When that young and inexperienced horse steps out at its next start and suddenly encounters a horse of similar ability, the lesser horse that has been forced to hit the line will be at his or her maximum fitness level and is likely to roll the short priced favourite that has been “mollycoddled to the line” at its previous start and/or starts.

My memory of such events as worldbeaters getting rolled goes back to when I was 14-years-old in 1969 and the Jim Moloney champion speed machine colt from Melbourne, Vain, got beaten by some scrubber one day in Sydney over 1400 metres. It was simply a fact of life that nothing In Melbourne could get close to the amazing Melbourne colt so they’d habitually throttle him back late. He was taken to Sydney in an attempt to win the Triple Crown of the Golden Slipper, Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes. It was pretty much a waste of time running the races according to Melbourne thoroughbred racing devotees but Sydney people disagreed and reckoned their top filly Special Girl would beat him in, with the end result being that 40,000 people headed to Rosehill to watch the showdown and backed their local filly in to run the odds-on 4/6 favourite. Golden Slipper day arrived and George Moore and Special Girl couldn’t keep up with the Melbourne colt that pounced straight on the lead from when the gates crashed back. “Throttled back” by jockey Pat Hyland when victory was clearly his, Vain still bolted in by four lengths – whilst Special Girl could only run a dismal fifth. Vain stopped the clock at an ordinary 1.12.10 for the 1200 metres. As a comparison, five years earlier Reisling had won the 1965 Golden Slipper one full second, or six lengths, quicker in 1.11.10. At his next start this wonderful unbeaten colt Vain was headed to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Sires’ Produce at 1400 metres. By now even the Sydney knockers were instantly converted to falling in love with him after that Golden Slipper domination. They’d never seen anything like it. So now as far as the entire nation had concluded, running the Sires’ Produce was just a waste of time. The opposition had virtually conceded defeat and were basically racing for second prizemoney. And so it came to pass that Vain stepped out onto the hallowed course proper at Randwick for the Sires’ Produce at the prohibitive odds of 6/1 on ($1.16) – and promptly got rolled by a 33/1 scrubber named Beau Babylon, which nailed the champion in the shadows of the winning post. You see in essence Vain was beaten that day “by his own brilliance”. He’d never been made find the line in his life to that point, having won on debut by two lengths and winning a Maribyrnong Plate at his second start over 1000 metres by just eight lengths – and so on and so forth – so he was considered a class above his rivals. Just throttle him back and show the public how good he was. Let him look like the star he obviously was, but as Isaac Newton could attest, the problem was that when he needed to draw on his conditioning to find a lousy extra metre to fend of this scrubber Beau Babylon at 1400 metres, suddenly his petrol bowser was flashing on the red of empty and there was no metre there in the reserve tank. In short, “riding him pretty” in earlier races had got him beaten. So bookies got the lot again when Vain went over in the Sires’ Produce just as they did last Saturday in the Caulfield Guineas when a horse I maintain is a “worldbeater” or “potential “champion”, call him what you like, Rich Enuff, got rolled. As a matter of interest, just seven days later, Vain and his Sires’ Produce conqueror Beau Babylon met again, over 200 metres less in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick, which was then run over 1200 metres. There was no “riding him pretty” that particular day and Vain beat the “scrubber” Beau Babylon home by 10 (in words so there’s no confusion that’s ten) lengths, proof positive that it was only being soft in condition from easy wins that saw him rolled in the Sires’ Produce.

Taking “looking pretty” on racehorses to the other extreme – go and watch a replay of jockey Jimmy Cassidy riding Might And Power right out to the finish line in 1997, in the easiest Caulfield Cup victory I ever did see and watch the pair score by an amazing 7.5 lengths. You see Might and Power’s trainer Jack Denham was from the old school – the horse was out there to race, so make him race. A couple of weeks later when Might and Power was attempting to lead all the way and win a Melbourne Cup over 800 metres further, Jimmy Cassidy’s riding that horse right out to the line in the Caulfield Cup enabled the champion to fall in and beat Doriemus in a deceptive photo finish. Jimmy Cassidy could have sat up at the 100-metre mark and looked pretty in winning the Caulfield Cup, but had he done that, for even one stride, it’s history now that he’d have run a nice second in the Melbourne Cup and the duo certainly wouldn’t have got the due recognition for which they were entitled from leading all the way over 3200 metres. What a wonderful effort – leading all the way to win a Melbourne Cup – about the best effort I’ve seen on a racetrack across the three codes. Betcha that will never happen again in our lifetime, hence Might and Power’s photo adorns my car and is on many Justracing billboards.

Oddly enough there’s a rule of racing that says every horse has to be ridden out to the line at least hands and heels to finish in the best possible position. Unfortunately there’s no rule to say a horse which has classes above their opposition has to be ridden out when they are going to win by panels of fencing, like happened to Rich Enuff in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude, or to Vain in a Golden Slipper.

“They” say the overall time doesn’t matter in a horse race but “they” are fools who have no idea what they are talking about. Overall time is exactly why we have “track records” to allow us to line performances up. It is my considered opinion that had Rich Enuff been made find the line in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude he’d have then won the Caulfield Guineas last Saturday albeit I acknowledge that hindsight is a great thing in racing – or life in general. It’s not Michael Rodd’s fault either. It’s the duty of the trainer and/or owners to instruct their jockey that as the horse is being stepped up in distance next start, they need to ride their mount out to the line every time it goes to the races, as after all, the trainers all tell us that easiest way to conditioning a racehorse is from competing in races, yet they continually let their horse go out on to the racetrack of dreams and bludge.

And guess what? Whilst their horse is having a right royal “bludge”, some other trainer, possibly a smart couple of blokes with the surname of Snowden, will be plotting a bit of a boilover.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two montages of photos from Doomben last Saturday plus others of interest. On www.sydneyracing.com.au Bernard Kenny looks at the American scene in the lead up to the Breeders’ Cup race day, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Victorian racing is perused.

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