Racing Ground

03/02/2016 Horse Racing Tips

How much does the jockey matter in horse racing?

Ask this question to twenty punters and you are likely to get twenty different answers. Like any sports person, a jockey has strengths, weaknesses, their runs in form and their slumps.

But how much of that matters when it's the horse's form and ability that is usually the focus of form analysis?

Would you rather back a great jockey on an average horse, or an average jockey on a great horse?

Better jockey better chance

Some of the most respected form analysts that we have spoken too acknowledge the contribution that a jockey makes towards a horse's chances of winning a race, citing a range of different factors that riders control.

  • Steering the horse out of trouble.
  • Finding the best way of going on the track.
  • Giving the horse a clear run in the straight.
  • Their balance and stance which provides a smooth well distributed weight for the horse to carry in the race.
  • Knowledge about how the tracks play. Where to be and where not to be at certain points in the race.
  • Pushing the button at the right time before the finishing post.
  • Knowing how to relax the horse in the running. Conserve it's energy for the final run home.
  • Don't panic in traffic and nail any opportunity that opens-up.
  • Keep a horse running straight, saving ground.

Respected Melbourne form analyst Deane Lester spoke about a jockey's influence in a race in the context of speed maps, referring to it as "one of the most undersold elements of speed mapping".

"There are one or two riders that I place 1 to 2 lengths closer in a speed map because that's the way they like to ride", says Deane. "There are other riders with a more relaxed style and then there are all rounders who can adapt to either approach".

 

Jockey is relevant some of the time

So when do you put more emhasis on a jockey's ability and experience? When the race requires it.

  • Overcome a tough barrier - the ride from Craig Newitt on Lankan Rupee in the 2014 Manikato at Moonee Valley demonstrated how the rider can make the difference in a sprint on a tight track. Despite having one of the best sprinters in the world under him, Newitt still had some red hot early speedsters, like Buffering, inside of him. Vision of the race shows Newitt exerting great energy from the gate to get him to the front which proved to be a winning move from the gun jockey.
  • Reads the track - the 2015 Sydney Cup saw Who Shot the Barman streak to the front in the straight looking the winner from 300m out. Jim Cassidy, riding Grand Marshal, received a wide trail around the corner finding himself in the middle of the straight. While looking full of running it looked all over with Who Shot The Barman well in front. Once Jimmy Cassidy passed the last line of challengers he took his horse on an angle towards the rail to get the better going. That meant he had to travel further on the diagonal at the most crucial part of the race. Recently, I asked Cassidy how he knew he would be better off travelling over more ground to get the inside lane. He responded "..experience mate". As he levelled with the leader his strides had greater impact and he won on the post.
  • Patience in traffic - it's eerie how some riders don't panic when surrounded by a wall of horses at crtiical moments in a race. They often find an opportunity to get a run that doesn't impact the horse's momentum. It's like they have a sixth sense that tells them the break is coming. There are examples from top jockeys every week but the one stands-out in my mind was Darren Beadman's ride on Kingston Rule in the 1990 Melbourne Cup. Caught towards the back of the field on the rails, most punters were tearing their ticket up (no on-line bookies in those days). Sitting patiently on the turn Beadman found an inside run without losing any momentum. When he seemed to be running towards a dead-end at the 300m he weaved towards a wider lane. Again, unobstructed, he hit the front and won.

Horse must have ability

Ultimately the horse has to win. If the horse hasn't got the ability to win the race, the rider is insignificant. Great rider, average horse, bad result. Comparing jockeys amongst the three or four winning chances that you have singled out in the race is a more manageable and logical way to factor in the rider.

Mike Steward

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Author Biography

Mike Steward

Mike Steward

Mike has an entrenched love for a flutter having grown up in country Victoria. Blessed with a numerical mind, he has a passion for identifying trends and patterns within betting markets, always on the lookout for opportunities to fill punters’ wallets.

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