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Friday, 12 July 2024.

Last weekend’s Durban July day was quite the rollercoaster ride with some hot pots getting rolled, a few weird results and tough beats during the Greyville rodeo show causing some aggravation, then, thankfully, finding a couple of nice- priced winners later on to stem the bleeding.

The programming of these big meetings laded with Stakes races means that surrounding weeks sees a drop off in the class of contest. There is not much to get the pulse popping this weekend, so the Friday Interbet column goes off on a tangent prompted by the wild weather experienced in the Cape recently.

What role does the going play in race outcomes? Is it a fundamental factor or of less significance. The Brits take the state of the ground very seriously indeed. They believe it has a huge influence, with some horses able to deliver peak performances on one surface, and nowhere close to that on another unsuitable track.

Horses will even be withdrawn on race day if the ground is not to the connections liking. This makes sense where extremes in going are typical, shifting from hard as- a-road, to bog-like.

However, more stable climates don’t see such extreme fluctuations. And turf management is more scientific and advanced now, so doctoring of the course can make for uniformity in surfaces. Only aberrant weather can disrupt the best efforts of a diligent track superintendent to maintain a consistent, even surface.

In SA, Highveld racegoers are used to the summer rains softening things up at Turffontein and Vaal, then competing on firm ground through Winter. The opposite applies in the Cape where it rains during the Winter months. Lately Cape Town has endured fierce storms and flooding, with two recent meetings abandoned at Kenilworth. Cape Racing programmers are hoping that things can get underway again on Monday.

Betting proven mudlarks under these circumstances is the obvious answer but don’t be enslaved by history. In fact, most fit and healthy racehorses can handle a wide range of surfaces.

Tactics play a role too in the wet, as it can be difficult to make up ground when the going is heavy. Often dictating up front or racing comfortably in a handy position is best. Trying to weave through the kickback produced by a field of tiring plodders in poor visibility is fraught with problems.

Track bias becomes a big issue in the slush – draws take on greater importance and being gated on the wrong side can effectively remove at least half the field from consideration in sprints down the straight.

Some jockeys are better on off-tracks. They might understand the nuances more acutely and seek out those favourable strips of going or are simply braver than their peers.

It would be interesting to compile records of jockey’s aptitude not just for certain course configurations, but also their race-riding skills when it comes up mud. Who do you think are the most dependable, bad weather pilots in South Africa?

Attending the races when conditions are horrible may provide bettors with an edge. Quite understandably, most fans do the opposite and follow from the comfort of their den at home or seek sanctuary in a sports bar.

Yet the direct feedback from trainers and jockeys together with visual observation of how the horses react (equine body language) and how races unfold can be extremely useful, something which cannot be followed in sufficient detail via a sporadic TV feed or on a live streaming device.

You may not wish to bet your maximum when conditions are bad, but that does not rule out rare opportunities that crop up.

Honing in on thoroughbreds that historically do well in the rain and supporting jockeys that understand the peculiar circumstances and have the skills to execute optimal tactics makes sense.

A concluding suggestion – concentrate your betting action on horses that are in excellent physical shape. Unfit horses often use bad conditions as an excuse to throw in a clunker. Long term, you’re better off wagering your hard-earned cash on horses in great shape that are willing and able to handle adverse circumstances.

Assuming the weather clears in Cape Town, Mark van Deventer will be sending out an Interbet podcast preview for Kenilworth on Monday morning, applying the principles mentioned in this piece.

Mark van Deventer

Mark van Deventer

Mark van Deventer has been refining his speed figures for thoroughbred racehorses over three decades. He’s long been intrigued by the intellectual puzzle of form study. Andrew Beyer, creator of the Beyer speed figures in America, has always been his inspirational “guru.” So, the figures that underpin Mark’s analysis use Beyer’s main concepts, and have been adapted to suit South African racecourses.

The racing bug can be compelling - since 2013, this U.C.T. Psychology graduate has settled into a career as a full time journalist and racing manager.

Mark uses the insights gained from time-based analysis to convey well-researched handicapping opinions, building a reputation of integrity in the media as an imaginative handicapper with the ability to unearth live runners at juicy prices.

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