A friend linked me to the Francesca Cumani and Simon Marshall spat that concluded yesterday’s racing.
For those that didn’t see the discussion about the ‘ride-of-the-day’ that had an expensive Longines watch as the prize, Marshall was the sole judge and awarded the prize to Michelle Payne for her ride on Prince of Penzance. Yes, the ‘brilliant’ ride where she later copped a 20 meetings suspension for her karmic race decision that had Chad Schofield eating turf.
The stewards viewed the incident with the same severity as when Chad caused interference to Michelle a few weeks back, issuing the same penalty. Everyone remembers the race where Chad muscled Michelle but she was skilful enough not to end-up eating turf.
I believe both incidents were dangerously amateurish and deserved the heavy suspension.
But back to the Francesca and Simon spat.
To begin, I’d like to remind Simon that he needs to be careful in future when debating with Francesca. Firstly, she is smarter than you, and secondly, she has half-Italian heritage so somewhere under all that grace, elegance and exceptional good manners is a very feminine toggle switch that if you had manage to flick, may have you wearing anything she could lay her hands on. Lucky boy, and well maintained Francesca.
Concerning the best ride award, as expressed elsewhere I plumbed for Nick Hall. When you have a decent gamble happening, you want to see a bulletproof performance from your jockey and Team Williams got that from Hall. No complaints whatsoever.
Beaten by a better animal, so well done Coolmore. Nick couldn’t have done anything better to improve the finish.
Francesca Cumani defended Ryan Moore’s ride questioning Marshall’s judgement and suggesting it was the best of the day. Marshall continued, saying incredulous things like “Moore’s ride was the best ‘worst’ ride.” The boiling point was beginning to be reached as the debate increased in intensity with Cumani quite rightly not yielding a millimetre.
Most of you know I am an evidence-based gambler, so let’s see what comprised this best ‘worst’ ride.
Let us have a look at what Moore got up to before the Cox Plate.
Ryan’s first mount of the day seen him sit last on Bull Point in the Crystal Mile. He rode it cold and was last into the straight and then let rip to beat all but the best horse Hooked. Brilliant stuff I thought.
Next ride, he takes Zululand to the front, rates the 20/1 chance perfectly to be run over in the last 100m, finishing three lengths from the winner in sixth place. So now he has completed two rides at Moonee Valley, one in front and one from last and no doubt his tactics for the Cox Plate have now firmed-up .
What does Moore know about Adelaide?
He has ridden him at his last two starts. His first ride resulted with an on-the-pace victory in a messy Secretariat Stakes (G1-T) at Arlington. The only convincing thing about the win was that he went early and stayed on strongly the whole length of the straight. Sound familiar?
At his last ride on Adelaide before the Cox Plate, he got ‘caught-in-traffic’ at Longchamp but literally flies from the back to run second over 2400m in 2.26.5 seconds. It was an eye-catching run in a Group Two.
So just like his two race-day rides at the Valley gave an understanding of the track, his last two rides on Adelaide allowed him to profile the horse.
Let’s look at the Cox Plate ride.
Moore eases Adelaide back to last. He begins to make ground down the back and you will notice that he has passed half the field easily before Steve Arnold presses the button to accelerate on The Cleaner.
He then he rests Adelaide when others have got moving. Not asking of him again until the 500m and from there, he continues to build momentum and now he is at the turn in full flight. What is left in the tank?
The tactical Moore knew through his previous two rides what his horse would do in most situations and backed Adelaide’s stamina to see it out. It was similar to his Arlington run, and he knew he was chasing a tough, hardened stayer. The astute race watcher would have noticed him pull the whip and slap him at the point of the home turn to wake him up before riding vigorously in the last 100m.
What Marshall and Freedman where saying I found embarrassing. They make Australian race-watchers sound like idiots.
I was thanking Cumani for defending the sophisticated race-watcher. Surely someone realises that Moore rode the camber. No doubt this is something he learnt to do in the United States because if you can’t ride the camber there, a jockey becomes a track-work rider very quickly, end-of-story.
The other thing Moore and other international quality riders can do is effectively pace a race in lanes. It is a skill lacking in too many Australian riders.
Many jurisdictions throughout the racing world have very strong regulations about when and how you cross any opposition. The result is a style of racing called ‘racing-in-lanes’. It requires a special skill and an absolute understanding of race-pressure combined with supreme horsemanship.
In nearly every other jurisdiction, nobody worries too much about covering ground. Here we carry on and sound like brain-dead geese. ‘Covering ground’ is often strategised in tactics because competent riders can settle their mounts into a wide lane with little disadvantage if they know how their horse will react when the pressure is applied.
Moore got where he wanted to be before the half mile and when Arnold dragged the field along on The Cleaner, Moore wasn’t spending a penny.
Before you start telling me about big roomy, looping, European tracks I’ll remind you of very tight cambered American tracks where they have turned assessment of pace into an art-form.
In the past, Moore had been criticised by sections of the media for his rides on Mount Athos and Dandino. In reality, he was a victim of circumstances on Mount Athos after copping interference on the turn but still had rated him well and made the best of a bad hand to finish fifth. But to receive criticism for his ride on Dandino is just damned pig-ignorant. His ride was a ripper.
All I heard was a moaning managing-owner who was obviously watching the wrong horse. If he was watching Dandino, he may have noticed Moore save all the ground on this dubious long-distance stayer, hugging rail around the turn.
Ryan was certainly last on straightening but then he switches wide and low-and-behold he is sitting behind Fiorente at the top of the straight waiting for Oliver to press the button.
Oliver did press the button, but unfortunately for Dandino, he wasn’t up to it. Fiorente and others worked away from the American St. Ledger winner who nevertheless worked home into fifth, finishing past exhausted horses.
The margin between Fiorente and Dandino was narrowest at the top of the straight. Run that race a hundred times and I doubt he finishes any closer.
For me, Francesa Cumani was right for all the right reasons, and Simon Marshall needs to pick up his act, because at the moment he is not cutting the mustard as an informed expert.
I believe an analytically astute retired jockey has his feet up somewhere overseas, maybe Macau? Shane Dye is media savvy and could dissect a race with the precision of a surgeon whether you want to talk horses, riders or tactics.
Maybe suspend Marshall for 20 meetings for his irrational remarks, replacing him with Shane Dye and have no doubt the level of quality commentary would improve a hundredfold.
And as for Ryan Moore, I have no problem with him steering Protectionist in the Melbourne Cup. As I mentioned well over a month ago, I thought the German horse was as good as any of the internationals, including Admire Rakti.
Watch Moore’s run on Dandino in the 2013 Melbourne Cup