Monday, September 7, 2009

Boy Them Whips Really Make Them Go Faster, eh?

Go to any simulcast center in North America. Or listen in on a driver excuse-trainer/owner chat after the race. You will often hear "if only I hit him more" or "if only the driver would have hit him harder" the horse would have won, or done better. This is certainly common in the world of handicapping. As handicappers we love to blame our losses on others, and the whip is a good proxy.

So, with a hundred years of watching races one would figure that the new experiment in Ontario regarding whipping would have those horses going slower, would it not? After all, a driver can not "get into them", or be a greek god and slam that whip into the saddle pad, stifle, or whereever else they find, with Roberto Duran-like force.

Having a look at the races since the new whipping rules began (started last Thursday):

Sportswriter - 149.2 World Record in the Metro Pace

Shark Gesture - 148.1 track record in the Canadian Pacing Derby (tied the fastest mile in our country's history)

Hyperion Hanover - 149.2 race record in the FFA

Keystone Horatio - 150 flat seasons record

Senor Glide - 155.2 Canadian record in the Simcoe

There have been several others set lifetime marks the past five days. And they all did it without the use of the whip. Everyone knows that Mohawk is super-fast right now, but even with that, this whipping experiment is a whole lotta nothing for handicappers; and the doom and gloomers are being proven to be completely off the mark.

And when we think of it, is it not common sense? I read Geoff Huston's book on horse behaviour awhile back and he said time and time again horses are conditioned. They are not smart, they will not do your taxes, but they know that down the lane when they hear the whip, hear yelling, see a horse come up to them, it's time to go. Trainers do a good job and have ingrained it into them with thousands of training miles, schoolers, and races. It is why when a horse gives it up late, he is a bad bet, because he is not giving it up because the driver did not whip him, he is giving it up because there is a problem, and he is tired. We saw that with Yellow Diamond earlier this year at Georgian. To think, with hundreds of hours of conditioning, that she would not have walked at the wire if she was whipped is pure folly.

So I am handicapping just like I always have. And so is everyone else it seems. It's a whole lotta nothing, and it is best to treat it as such.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I studied this quite a bit as a betting man. I found that a good deal of horses who win do so with no use of the whip at all. Most times the driver is using it because he thinks it will help, but it could have been left in the barn and the horse would still win. I also watch races at small tracks where the drivers whip really hard. Those drivers are usually some of the dumbest drivers around. I dont think there is a correlation between speed and the whip, but I sure do think there is an association between how hard a driver whips to how market he/she is. I agree with you that this means nothing to me as a handicapper.

Pacingguy said...

I can't tell you how much grief I have taken in defending this rule and I am a Yankee!

Feel free not to post this entry because I am listing my blog entry; not to promote it but it is easier than retyping the whole thing in here.

I am sure you read my latest blog entry on this rule http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/2009/09/last-word-for-while-on-whipping-history.html, but this is the reality we are facing. We can say 'the heck with the general public' and we will be remembering harness racing fondly when we are in our rocking chairs or we can adapt to modern sensibilities.

G. Rarick said...

Never in my post-race excuse sessions with my owners has anyone ever suggested a horse lost because a jockey did not go to the whip enough. Any owner or trainer who thinks that is an idiot. And Calvin Borel set racing back a LONG way with his flogging session on Rachel Alexandra the other day. No wonder she won't run again this year. It will take her at least that long to get over being annoyed with the whip.

Anonymous said...

Borel stated after the Woodward that whipping Rachel does not make her run any faster. HUH? was whipping Rachel 20 times just for fun? Poor filly! Taken to the very edge of her ability against so-so older male horses. These comments by Borel is just one more marketing ploy to project that Rachel is more than she really is. Just like the whipping Rachel got in the Haskells when she clearly have already won. 'Just tap her a little' Yeah. Good thing she isn't going to the Breeders where she would be exposed to real top class quality horses from around the world, I could just imagine what Borel might do to her. At least her handlers know her limitations.