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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff — It has not been a good season for the favourites at major horse racing events across the globe. The Kentucky Derby leading contender Essential Quality finished off the pace in fourth place at the Churchill Downs. At the Epsom Derby, Bolshoi Ballet put in a poor performance as the favourite for the prestigious race. Aidan O’Brien’s charge was underwhelming after entering the contest in outstanding form, failing to compete for the victory down in seventh place.

The displays of the apparent top horses in the field shows the unpredictable nature of horse racing and the difficulty in predicting winners even for experienced bettors. It raises the issue whether punters need to change their way of thinking before backing a horse. If you were checking the latest horse racing results before the Epsom Derby, for example, all the signs pointed to Bolshoi Ballet winning the event.

The Irish thoroughbred had won its only two races of the 2021 campaign, including an impressive victory at the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes. Leading jockey Ryan Moore took the reins, while O’Brien only put forward two horses for the race, suggesting that he was extremely comfortable with his prospects. History was also on the side of Bolshoi Ballet as his stable-mate Serpentine won the event last year, adding an eighth crown to O’Brien’s record tally at Epsom.

However, for one reason or another, Bolshoi Ballet failed to rise to the occasion in the contest. The Irish thoroughbred was in position down the stretch, but the pace of Adayar proved too much for him to handle, and he drifted down the field, finishing well out of the top three. Further analysis of his previous performances perhaps may have shown that Bolshoi Ballet was not well suited for the extra two furlongs of the Epsom Derby. The evidence was there for all to see as Adayar among others went from strength-to-strength while O’Brien’s charge faded without a fight.

It’s a tough problem to identify whether a horse has a bad day or is just not suited the race in question. If you look at the performance of Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby. He had the pace down the stretch to make a run for the line, but was beaten out by Medina Spirit and Mandaloun.

Despite the winner still being in question at the time of writing, it does not take away that Essential Quality lacked nous in his display being forced on the outside rather than an inside run. Whether that was due to an error by the jockey Luis Saez or just a lack of speed from the horse earlier in the contest is up for debate. Essential Quality could arguably have done with the race being an extra two furlongs in contrast to Bolshoi Ballet. The American thoroughbred proved this point in his next outing by dominating the field in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park over a distance of one mile and four furlongs.

There are no easy answers for bettors when it comes to selecting horses. A close examination of the form guide can be illuminating, but there are so many other factors that can make or break success on the track.

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