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Surcharge – Draw The Hurdle?

Good horses can beat bad draws!

Gamesmanship or simply erring on the side of conservatism? Trainers bemoaning unfavourable barrier draws has been happening since time immemorial.

Stuart Pettigrew (photo: JC Photos)

Stuart Pettigrew (photo: JC Photos)

Are Stuart Pettigrew’s comments that Guineas runner-up Surcharge probably cannot win the SA Classic from his wide gate simply a case of taking some emotional insurance?

In an interview with Andrew Bon this week, the trainer of the top-class son of Gimmethegreenlight hardly exuded the confidence one would anticipate from the camp of the jointly highest-rated 3yo in Saturday’s R2 million Gr1 contest.

And it was all about the Varsfontein Stud bred colt’s rotten luck with barrier draws. On Saturday he comes in at 14 out of 14.

Classic prospect Surcharge wins Listed Secretariat Stakes

“I nominated Surcharge for the Horse Chestnut after we drew so wide for the Classic. But even there we pulled 8 out of 10. If we had drawn 1 or 2, we would have taken on Legal Eagle and even running second there would have beaten taking our chances here from the widest gate.”

He went on to point out that Surcharge had jumped at 15 from 16 in the Ready To Run Cup, when finishing 5th and 6,25 lengths behind Big Bear.

And he had also scratched him when drawing 14 out of 15 in the Dingaans.

“Then we ran him at 14 out of 16 in the Gauteng Guineas.  He ran second to Monks Hood. It is a fact – good horses can’t win from those draws,” he added, confirming that Surcharge was the best he had ever had him and that this race had been on the radar for months.

So Mr Pettigrew and his owner are naturally disappointed.

But we found some disagreement with his assertion about good horses and bad draws – and his contention that his charge probably couldn’t win it from that draw.

“Maybe he is just a conservative cautious guy, but he is overstating the negative in my opinion. Especially at a fair track like Turffontein. Nobody is looking for a bad draw, but good horses – and Surcharge is a top 3yo in my book – can win from anywhere. And in Piere Strydom they have one of the finest riders in the world,“ said a top jockey, who chose to remain nameless in the event that he was seen to be ‘having a go at anybody’.

Piere Strydom – genius

“The impact of a wide draw all hinges on the pace. To suggest negative impacts measuring up to five lengths is speculative. One never sees a top rider grabbing and yanking a horse from the 14 gate across to the rail. Strydom has done the job 1000’s of times and he will know exactly what to do on Saturday. If Surcharge is good enough he will win.”

A trainer, who also preferred not to be named, said that personalities were interesting when it came to any sport.

“We get the bullish guys who hype and trump. Then we get the negative more cautious guys. I suppose the ideal is somewhere in between. But who is perfect?” he laughed.

He recounted the story of a top jockey who phoned for a ride on a fancied horse.

“He rides him in work on Tuesday. And then says he doesn’t give him a great feel. On Wednesday he phones to tell me he is worried about the pace. By Thursday he has found five horses to beat him. On Saturday he wins by 5 lengths and tells me we have a champion on our hands! That’s why this is such a great game – where does one encounter such great personalities and horses?”

Read more interesting stories in the latest SP Digest – click on the image below

Aveen Sewpersad, Manager of the National Racing Bureau, confirmed to the Sporting Post that the barrier draw process was entirely random. “The computer doesn’t even know the horse or trainer’s name,” he said.

Snitzel’s son Heavenly Blue wins the Gr1 SA Classic

In the past 12 years, the SA Classic has been won from such gates as 10 (Hunting Tower), 9 (Forest Path), 13 (Pierre Jourdan), 15 (English Garden), 11 (Slumdogmillionaire) and 9 (Heavenly Blue).

So let’s just play the game – may the best horse win.





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5 comments on “Surcharge – Draw The Hurdle?

  1. Chris Swart says:

    If sectional timing had been allocated to a reputable company like Trakus, these questions would be answered emphatically and draw bias no longer a mystery
    The system would tell you how much more ground Surcharge covered in his trip compared to Monk’s Hood and Big Bear and you could factor that into the distance beaten. I guarantee you wouldn’t see beaten five lengths and take that on face value.

    Unfortunately, punters and information are on two separate planets and smoke and mirrors prevail.

    The lesson is leave technology to the professionals with international credentials. They’d at least spell Turffontein and Johannesburg on their website correctly.

  2. Basil says:

    I appreciate the importance of draws but a small draw doesn’t always suit a horse who runs on from off the pace especially if they are not quick out of the stalls. Tuesday’s meeting at Durbanville revealed how important the renovations to the track were as the horses were running the final 400m all over the track. It’s the running in the home stretch that is so important and not just the draw. Look at winning horses in the July like Dynasty and how Jamaican Music was ridden in 1976 and you will follow my beliefs. Turfontein has a longer stretch than Greyville and should not be as detrimental to horses with bad draws.

  3. STP says:

    Would like to ask the person who wrote this article have they ever ridden in a horse race,I suppect not otherwise they would know how hard it is from a bad draw,I have ridden many times and you need a lot of luck.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi STP
      The second opinion on whether good horses can overcome bad draws was obtained from an experienced champion jockey.
      We agree – luck must play a part- but when you have a guy like Striker up, that’s half the battle won.
      A massive runner despite the draw!

  4. DW says:

    I wonder if SP would scratch his runner if it draws 2 out of 2???
    I notice that Surcharge is slow into stride/loses ground at the start in any event so wouldn’t know what to do with a good draw even if it had one. 1800m on Turfontein with 14 runners? Shouldn’t an article like this be saved for Greyville 1200m?

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