As they passed the post in the Irish 2000 Guineas my immediate reaction was that Richard Hughes had had a shocker. A reaction shared by all the viewers who emailed in to ATR in the minutes after the race and, apparently, by trainer Richard Hannon. After a few more viewings of the race though I was not so sure and a day later I’m actually pretty confident that the best horse won.

Whenever a horse makes up ground late in a race but fails to get up the suspicion is always that the jockey has left his challenge too late on the runner up. When the runner up is the well backed favourite that suspicion often becomes a certainty in the minds of its backers. Even as a Dubawi Gold layer I had a lot of sympathy with that view as I watched the race unfold but closer analysis tells a different story I think.

Richard Hannon reportedly felt Hughes should have won on Dubawi Gold

Richard Hughes told the world he would drop this horse out last and he told us why. The first question is did he allow himself to get too far out of his ground? Trainer Richard Hannon is reported to have said as much having viewed the race on TV from Goodwood. I’m not sure the facts support that view though. It’s true that the horse was detached from the main group through the first few furlongs but he appeared relaxed and settled. By the time they had reached the half way point he had moved, easily, up onto the heels of the main body of runners and was no more than a half dozen lengths off the lead.

Between the 4 and 3 poles Dubawi Gold continued to make ground through the field with minimal effort. The race was beginning to unfold in earnest and Dubawi Gold was, in my view, well positioned to play his part. At the 3 pole Hughes, sensibly, moves out from behind the tiring Slim Shadey. He then has to take a small tug and move again to his left to clear the back pedalling High Ruler. This is exactly the type of traffic issue that Dubawi Gold was always going to encounter and which Hughes had described in detail in his Racing Post column prior to the race.

Does that little bit of traffic constitute ‘bad luck in running’? I don’t think so because, and this is the key point for me, with at least a furlong and half of the race to go and with no traffic and only a couple of lengths to find, Dubawi Gold is in the clear and being ridden hard.

When Hughes pulled out to make his decisive move as they passed the two pole, he was less than a length off Oracle and no more than 2 1/2 – 3 lengths off the winner. What happened next is what lost Dubawi the race. Richard Hughes asked the horse to lengthen and go after Roderic O’ Connor as that horse wound up the pace off the front. Dubawi Gold failed to respond. He trod water for several crucial strides. Hughes is reported to have blamed this on the ground, saying the horse was switching leads because he was feeling the impact of the quick ground when asked to stretch on it. That’s a plausible explanation. It’s equally plausible though that the horse lacked either the experience or the ability to quicken immediately.

What is clear though is that Hughes begins to make his move with a quarter of a mile to go and that he’s in the clear from at least a furlong and a half from home. What is also clear, especially on repeated viewing, is that Dubawi Gold fails to pick up when asked. Seamie Heffernan and Oracle actually increase their lead over Dubawi at this point in the race.

Once Dubawi Gold does find top gear he’s able to overhaul Oracle and is continuing to close the gap on Roderic O’Connor but by that time the race is over and Joseph O’Brien is already easing down on the winner. Ultimately a horse race is about getting from the start to the finish line as quickly as possible and Roderic O’Connor did that with a well judged front running ride from O’Brien that saw the horse maintain a level gallop, kick from the front, and hold on well. Dubawi Gold used a lot less fuel in the first half of the race and consequently had plenty of energy for the business end but was not able to convert that energy into speed when it mattered. It was not perhaps engine failure but certainly a misfire when the pedal went down. Perhaps because of the ground, perhaps because of another physical impediment or perhaps because it just takes this horse a while to engage top gear he lost ground on his main rival at a crucial point.

The great fascination, and frustration, of this sport is that often it will take several races before a clear picture of the relative merits of certain horses emerges. Roderic O’Connor showed that his Newmarket run was no run at all by winning at the Curragh. It may be that Dubawi Gold demonstrated that he was certainly not the second best horse in the race at Newmarket with his performance in Ireland. What will be interesting is which of these two horses emerges as the better over the course of the campaign and my money would be on Roderic O’Connor. In fact if they were running the Guineas at the Curragh again today and you knew for sure Dubawi Gold would get a clear run throughout I’d still want to be with the O’Brien horse.

Time will tell but by the end of the season I think Richard Hannon may be forced to give Hughes the benefit of the doubt on this one.

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12 Comments

  1. eachwayplease says:

    Clearly pilot error in the sense that the challenge was made too late if the call is that the horse takes a while to find top gear.

    Having only viewed the race once in it’s entitrety the replays i have seen don’t go back far enough.From memory,Dubawi Gold was travelling well in behind horses,think Richard Hughes could have been better positioned instead of having to switch and come around horses,coupled with the late challenge that’s where the race was lost for me.

  2. Halfway To Nowhere says:

    I expected better of you, Sean.

    Opinions are what make horseracing so interesting – indeed, betting would be rendered rather pointless if everyone was in constant agreement – but there can be little doubt that Richard Hughes gave Dubawi Gold an absolute hound of a ride.

    Perhaps he deserves some credit for managing to find the one spot on the track that denied him a run for an entire furlong – it was surely harder to do than not – but I wouldn’t have been happy had I either backed the horse or been lucky enough to own him.

    And it’s not the first time he’s done it either. Ask Mick Channon what he thinks of Richard’s ability to box himself in in a classic. It’s just all the more remarkable this time as there were only 8 runners.

  3. Patrick says:

    The best horse won? yet no mention of the incredible almost astounding totally unheard of in flat racing turnaround in form?????

    To be honest it doesn’t surprise me that a racing journalist would shirk the obvious.

    Spines are going cheap in Lidl

  4. Patrick says:

    Is there any other sport that gets such an easy ride than horse racing from its sporting journalists.

    I can’t say this for legal reasons blah blah bloody blah!, you can say an awful lot without naming names, yet as always you and your ilk bottle it….?

    Oh, if only Mr Ed was re-incarnated!

  5. seanboyce says:

    Patrick,DG was ridden to place at Newmarket which is why he survived the 1st half of the race. RoC -like several other v good horses – didn’t survive the 1st half of the race at Nmkt. The form of the 2000 Gns is, imho, utterly meaningless and should be largely disregarded.
    HtN, I’ve said in my post I felt the same way intitally but having reviewed it in detail changed my mind. It’s allowed. I’ve always been very clear that the views on this blog are my own. I can’t help it if you don’t agree. Lots of people frequently disagree with me, I’m used to it. ;[)

  6. seanboyce says:

    I should point out that in my piece I’m assuming everyone is familiar with Dubawi Gold and the traits he has shown throughout his racing career. I’m assuming everyone has heard what Hughes has told us in advance of the Irish Guineas. Maybe I should have gone through all that in more detail rather than assume everyone is familiar with it.

    For anyone who thinks Hughes did the wrong thing switching the horse off early (from stall 1) then check out the VT of his International Trial Stakes win at Lingfield 9th April. See what this horse does if he gets alongside horses or sees daylight early. Then ask yourself where else Hughes could have been in the race at the start, at half way, at the 3 pole and at the 2 pole?

    The question I’d like to see answered by his critics is how could he have ridden any differently? He’s drawn on 1 on the rail. If he jumps and is prominent the horse will light up. He has to be last early. He also has to switch the horse off mentally. He also has to avoid getting on the inside of any of the O’Brien ‘outriders’ , which incidentally he does manage. He needs to be close enough to strike when his main rivals begin their finish and, imho, he was.

    Given everything we know about the horse both from what Hughes has said and what you can see with your own eyes I honestly think he was in the right place throughout the race. Had the horse quickened when asked he could have got closer still to the winner although there’s still no guarantee he’d have caught and passed him. Horses like that make jockeys hostages to fortune.

    All opinion of course and I can’t prove any of it. I know who I think is a more likely winner of further Group One races though and it ain’t Dubawi Gold.

  7. Patrick says:

    Sean, maybe you’re right and maybe ROC is a better horse, all conjecture until they meet again, if at all?.

    So just because Frankel stretched the entire field and had them all at it, then nearly every other horses run can be dismissed?.

    I’m sure virtually the entire field were fit and ready to do themselves jusice, in ROC case I would be extremely sceptical, as the horse was barely even able to keep tabs on the main pack who were chasing Frankel and Casamento, after two furlongs the horse was treading water.

    This is, as we know not a one off where a certain training establishment are concerned, the next day in the 1000 guineas what many thought was the number one contender “Misty For Me” ran like a drain, fast forward to the Curragh Sunday and yet another miraculous turnaround, and not unbacked either.
    Its becoming almost farcical, they even had the neck to send Rip Van Winkle to the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot as his prep run for the Sussex.

    Now isn’t this the same stable who’s English Guineas winners all went to Newmarket fit as fleas and having their first run of the season?.

    Will somebody please tell me why or give me one good reason why such a superb training establishment would carrying on like this?.
    I can understand leaving a little to work on, but these horses can barely lift their feet, I’m sure Henry left a little to work on with Frankel when he won the Greenham but he was always going there plenty fit enough to do himself justice.

    Maybe the simple answer is virtual world domination in the stallion department so they can do what they please, and nobody dare question the all powerful ones!.

  8. eachwayplease says:

    The argument that the Frankel guineas form being meaningless is looking pretty hollow. Frankel won by six lengths give or take,just because he didn’t win by six lenghts going away IS meaningless,it’s still six lengths.Who says a horse has to be held up or run in a certain way,apart from Richard Hannon who appears not to like the way Frankel runs.Frankel was ridden to suit Frankel,like the old golf adage “It’s not how it’s how many”
    Quite a few horses that Frankel has beaten along the way have done pretty well..
    I agree with HTN, Richard Hughes gave DG a pretty poor ride,almost matched by his ride on Presvis @ Kranji,never given a chance.Quite a few hacks pointed out that Presvis failed due to lack of pace in the race also a claim for Wigmore Halls performance.At least Wigmore Hall was given a go at it.If pace is lacking then some choices have to be made,one thing for sure is that you won’t find pace at the back of the field. Good jockeys don’t suddenly become poor jockeys but it must surely be accepted that sometimes their judgement is questionable or is daring to question it from the grandstand wrong? Jockeys get a pretty easy way of it and closer scrutiny and yes sometimes criticism doesn’t do any harm.

  9. seanboyce says:

    EWP, I think the 2000 Gns form is partially meaningless. It’s not the case that horses like RoC and Casamento were 80 odd rated horses which is pretty much what they ran to.
    I had thought DG flattered by his finishing position at Newmkt. I’m almost certainly wrong about that in terms of his proximity to Frankel. I don’t expect he’ll turn out to be the second best horse in that field by the end of the season though.
    I may well be totally wrong on DG. It will be interesting to see what Hughes says in the POst tomorrow. I do think his hands were largely tied though in terms of how to ride the horse. There is no way on earth that he cld be expected to race prominently in that race given what the horse did at Lingfield when ridden that way.

  10. eachwayplease says:

    Sean,ineresting that your view on the 2000 Gns form has changed from utterly to partially meaningless,surely any prognostications on the merit of form might be best left for the dust to settle.

    I’m not so sure that DG was ridden to place in the race either, considering that none of the participants could cope with Frankel’s early speed,didn’t DG just run the best race he could in the circumstances?
    You will note that i also thought that DG’s challenge was left too late,given that he didn’t race prominently delivering the challenge earlier was a viable proposition,hence,”pilot error”
    As i didn’t get hold of a RP i have no idea what,if anything,RH had to say on the matter?
    Thanks for the banter, i enjoy your blogs and indeed yours and anyone else that contributes.

  11. seanboyce says:

    It’s changed because I’ve had to accept that my initial judgement that DG was very much flattered by his Newmarket run might well be wrong.
    Hughes took the blame for the defeat in his column today and said he ‘held his hands up’. He did go on to say that he would ride the first half of the race exactly the same again and that the horse would have won had he not changed legs!
    Where he felt he was at fault was in getting caught in behind Oracle as he expected that horse to weaken and when he didn’t he had to switch around him.
    Like you say, and as I pointed out in my original post, it might take a whole season to get a clearer idea of the relative merits of the horses. The trouble I have with Hannon’s criticism of Hughes, Hughes admission of fault (although not for the criticisms levelled at him interestingly) and those who argue DG should have won is the underlying assumption that DG was a better horse at the Curragh that RoC was. I don’t see the evidence to support that view myself. It’s a legitimate theory but that’s all it is. I would still bet on RoC ending the season the higher achiever and the higher rated horse but , as you say, time will tell.

  12. seanboyce says:

    As for DG being ridden to place at Newmarket, that’s pretty much what Hughes said prior to the race.

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