Is favourite status at the horse racing a poisoned chalice?



Tiger Roll’s win at the Grand National extended the run at the event without the pre-race favourite taking home the crown.

Gordon Elliott’s charge put forward a brilliant performance at Aintree, although he was almost beat at the line by Pleasant Company, edging out his late surge by a head. The bay gelding was a strong contender for the crown given his display at Cheltenham Festival. Tiger Roll was on form in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, dominating the rest of the field to deliver a comfortable victory. He maintained his standards at the National and was flawless over 4 miles 510 yards, although the horse almost gave it away in the last four yards of the race.

Tiger Roll’s triumph made it eight-straight years that the race favourite has not claimed victory. The last favourite to win the crown was Don’t Push It in 2010 for Jonjo O’Neill as Tony McCoy rode the horse to victory by five lengths. Comply Or Die had success two years before as the favourite but the trend has moved away from the consensus selection in recent years, with the tag seen as some people as a poisoned chalice. A study by Betway has highlighted the issue that only nine joint and outright favourites have won the event since 1946.

Total Recall became the latest victim of the curse, although he appeared to be feeling the effects of his run at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He finished off the pace in the Festival but was expected to rise to the challenge of the longer race. The major events are the biggest test of competitors and trainers, and there’s no atmosphere like the National. However, he could not compete with the pace of Tiger Roll and failed to finish the event, pulling up at the 29th fence. The unpredictability of the National makes it a must-watch, although the struggle of the favourite is becoming a staple.




Gun Runner and Hall of Fame-trainer Steve Asmussen.

Dressed for success

Gun Runner lived up to favouritism in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the world’s richest horse race, on January 27. Despite a difficult draw, the American Horse of The Year pulled clear of his rivals to win the $16 million-dollar event at Gulfstream Park in Florida, USA. His Hall of Fame-trainer Steve Asmussen cheered the horse on dressed in a tan-coloured suit that has been his lucky garment for the past eleven years. It is both sagged and bagged, but it has been worn by the legendary trainer for big-race wins by some of the country’s best racehorses including Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Untapable. The Pegasus World Cup victory marked the finale of Gun Runner’s career, and the six-time Grade 1 winner is now off to a stud career in Kentucky. The tan suit, however, is not expected to retire anytime soon. Gun Runner wins The Pegasus World Cup.

The MIRACLE horse

When Edwulf collapsed at Cheltenham Festival last year, everyone feared the worst and the racecourse veterinarians battled for more than an hour to save his life. Since then, trainer Joseph O’Brien, the son of multiple Irish champion Aidan, has together with the vets worked to nurse Edwulf back to health again. Less than eleven months later, the now nine-year-old gelding was dubbed “the Miracle Horse” when winning a thrilling G1 Irish Gold Cup by a neck at Leopardstown in Ireland.
Bryony Frost.

One for the Ladies

22-year-old conditional jockey Bryony Frost became only the second female in Britain or Ireland to land a Grade 1 race over jumps, when riding Black Corton to victory in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, England, on Boxing Day (26th December). Frost’s top-level win came only weeks before a statistical analysis on gender differences among British jockeys was published, suggesting that female jockeys are just as good as male jockeys. The study, which was carried out through the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool, has looked at data covering a 14-year period and found that the performance of female jockeys is equal with that of their male counterparts, once the quality of the horses they are riding is factored in. However, only 11.3% of professional jockey license holders are female, and only 5.2% of available rides were taken by female jockeys during the period of the study.

Music City gets jumpin’

Nashville may be famed for its country music, but once a year it turns into a popular destination for racing fans. The Iroquois Steeplechase has been the rite of spring in  ‘Music City’, located in Tennessee, USA, since 1941. The annual steeplechase event, which takes place on May 12 this year, attracts more than 25,000 spectators to watch the best jumpers in the country compete over hurdles and timber fences. The day is named after the horse Iroquois, the first American-bred horse to win the prestigious Epsom Derby in England, in 1881. He retired to stud in Nashville.
©Japan Racing Association

The Peoples Race

Japan’s season-ending race, the G1 Arima Kinen, is set to be run on December 24 at Nakayama racecourse near Tokyo. The all-aged race is a celebration of  Japan’s favourite racehorses, as the majority of the field is decided by a public vote, similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. Last year, 1.5 million votes were cast. The public interest in the race makes it the most popular betting race not only in Japan, but in the world. The turnover for the 2016 Arima Kinen was an astonishing ¥44,902,572,000. (€366,814,052/US$383,569,131)

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