BOOK REVIEW OF “MR. DARLEY’S ARABIAN”

The Darley Arabian is one of three foundation sires of the contemporary Thoroughbred breed and the most dominant of the three in today’s pedigrees.  Christopher McGrath, a multiple award-winning journalist in Great Britain, chronicles the importation of the Darley Arabian to England and his influence on the Thoroughbred breed to the present day in his 2017 book titled Mr. Darley’s Arabian (363 pages in the hardback edition).  The last chapter is devoted to the undefeated Frankel, a super-talented horse in the Darley Arabian line.

The inside cover of Mr. McGrath’s book reads:

“In 1704, a bankrupt English merchant sent home the colt he had bought from Bedouin tribesmen near the ruins of Palmyra.  Thomas Darley hoped this horse might be the ticket to a new life back in Yorkshire.  But he turned out to be far more than that, and although Mr. Darley’s Arabian never ran a race, 95% of all thoroughbreds in the world today are descended from him.”

The title of the book is misleading in that the content is not just about dry and esoteric horse pedigrees and influential sires emanating from the Darley Arabian.  Mr. McGrath interspersed his narrative with brought-to-life characters from the various eras between 1704 and now, including lots of material on the turf-loving Prince of Wales (nicknamed “Bertie”) and eventually King George IV, whose mother Queen Victoria was no fan of horse racing.

“When the queen implored Bertie to quit the Turf…she had predicted that as king he would belatedly find himself embarrassed by the friends he made there.”  And the Queen “implored Bertie to set an example to a generation that appalled her with its ‘frivolous, pleasure-seeking, heartless, selfish, immoral, gambling’ ways’… she urged him to distance himself from the ignorance and self-indulgence of his male companions, and young women ‘so fast, frivolous, and imprudent.’”

In order to find this book of interest, a reader needs to have an extant interest in Thoroughbred breeding.  Then, he or she can soak up the history of the Darley Arabian line while learning of what it was like in the life and times of great Thoroughbreds and breeders of them like Federico Tesio, E. P. Taylor, and John Magnier.

Mr. McGrath’s writing style is smooth and fluid, though his choice of words is not for a reader with a limited vocabulary.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

FUTURES BETTING ON THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL IS UNDERWAY

November is the beginning of the National Hunt season in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France.  In jump racing, all roads lead to the Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March.  The 2018 renewal is scheduled for March 13-16 at the scenic Cheltenham Race Course, located about 88 miles from London.

Hundreds of million British pounds will be wagered on 28 races, ranging from six-figure bets placed by wealthy owners and legendary gamblers to small wagers from neophytes and jump-racing enthusiasts.   Free bets and betting offers on the 2018 Cheltenham Festival are available from numerous reputable and fully licensed online sportsbooks, who are eager to attract new customers and get a piece of the Cheltenham betting bonanza.

Much of the wagering turnover on the 28-race Cheltenham Festival will come via ante-post or futures bets.  In fact, Cheltenham is famed for ante-post betting, as most serious jump-race aficionados play futures.

Regardless of whether it’s a “bumper” (a flat race for jumpers) winner spotted at a mid-week Fontwell National Hunt, or a Unibet Champion Hurdle trial race winner, most National Hunt fans spot some kind of value when it comes to long-range Cheltenham betting and act on their intuition.  Established Champion Hurdle trials include the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, and the StanJames.com International, also at Cheltenham.

Over the past decade, Irish-trained winners have increasingly been a presence at Cheltenham.  To illustrate, in 2017, Irish trainers dominated the Festival week and ended the four-day racing extravaganza with a record 19 winners, bettering 2016’s previous “best ever” figure of 15.  Remarkably, Irish trainers won two-thirds of the races carded.

In addition, the “leading trainer” award has gone to Irish handlers in each of the past five years.  In 2017, Gordon Elliott was leading trainer with six winners and from 2013-2016, Willie Mullins had a total of 24 winners.  To make matters worse for the rival British jump-racing contingent, Irish-based jockeys have won the last ten “top jockey” titles; Ruby Walsh nine times and Barry Geraghty once.

The biggest ante-post betting minefield is deciphering which races the Irish-trained equine stars will ultimately run in.  For example, though Willie Mullins has had the top five horses in the Champion Hurdle ante-post betting market, a few may be re-routed to lesser races like the Stayers Hurdle or Mares Hurdle.

In 2018, Mullins and Susannah Ricci, the trainer and owner respectively of both the talented Vroum Vroum Mag (an 8-year-old mare and winner of 12 of 15 lifetime starts) and Faugheen (a 9-year-old gelding nicknamed “the machine” with a career record of 13 wins from 14 starts) may have a difficult choice to make.  Their mare is talented enough to contest the 2 mile and 1/2 furlong Champion Hurdle race on Tuesday of the Festival, but the return of Faugheen on November 19th from nearly two years on the sidelines to win Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle complicates matters.  Mullins’ decision likely depends on how Faugheen runs in a 2 1/2 mile race at Fairyhouse on December 3rd and how he is training in the weeks approaching the Cheltenham Festival.

To assist bettors with making choices, online bookmakers have come up with some new future-betting initiatives such as a horse to “win any race at the Festival.”  On the basis that trainers opt to run their horses in the race where they have the best possible chance of winning, these new betting opportunities have been embraced by serious bettors.

The Cheltenham Festival is a social event that jump-racing fans, bettors, and people just looking to be part of a fun experience look forward to every year, much like Kentucky Derby week in America.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

BIOROBOTIC ADVANCES FOR PERMANENTLY INJURED JOCKEYS

Race car drivers and professional football players work in hazardous occupations, but I would argue that jockeys are more at risk of catastrophic injury or even death.  Riding a Thoroughbred in a full field of horses takes nerve, knowing that misbehavior by one horse, or clipping heels, or a breakdown can have a chain reaction with the potential to result in terrible consequences.

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund website informs that it “provides financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.  Since its founding in 2006, the fund has disbursed over $7 million to permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have sustained paralysis or brain injuries.”

PDJF states:  “Many of the jockeys we serve were injured while in their 20s and 30s and face decades of living with a disability.  They have lost their income and the opportunity to build a financial cushion sufficient to support them and their families.”

Fortunately, help is coming to injured jockeys from science-fiction-like advances in biorobotics, a branch of science that marries medicine and engineering and can be used to assist people with such neurological maladies as spinal-cord injuries and strokes.

According to the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMB), “biorobotics encompasses a diverse array of disciplines with a myriad of applications.”  One application with great promise for injured jockeys is rehabilitation engineering.  EMB explains:

“Rehabilitation engineers create methods and technologies to help patients regain cognitive and/or motor function.  Some of these patients might have cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease, have suffered a stroke or head trauma or be recovering from a spine injury.  Since much of the work in this area is focused on neurological conditions and physical function, solutions rely heavily on neural, biomedical, and biorobotic engineers.”

To illustrate, the New York Times reported:

“Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab have developed a next-generation prosthetic: a robotic arm that has 26 joints, can curl up to 45 pounds and is controlled with a person’s mind just like a regular arm.

Researchers think the arm could help people like Les Baugh, who lost both arms at the shoulder after an electrical accident as a teenager.  Now 59, Mr. Baugh recently underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins to remap the remaining nerves from his missing arms, allowing brain signals to be sent to the prosthetic.

Mr. Baugh’s custom socket can pick up brain signals to control the arms, known as Modular Prosthetic Limbs, or M.P.L., just by thinking about the movements.”

Everything possible needs to be done to make race riding safer, from installing track surfaces that have fewer breakdowns to preventing breakdown-prone horses from running.  Even with these precautions, some injury-causing accidents are inevitable.  Biorobotics will increasingly be able to help physically disabled jockeys to function and live fuller lives.  The question will be whether the horse-racing industry will come up with the dollars needed.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business