Mike Deasy, sitting in for Gary McKenzie, on suffering from seconditis, information overload, saying farewell to the Timeform annuals, and revealing family secrets
This week I’ve succumbed to “seconditis” which has undone a lot of good work with The Racing Hub Daily Tip. After a 5/2 winner on Sunday, the 70th this year for the Daily Tip, I’ve put up three seconds, and a third. A modest profit at level stakes has evaporated.
Each time, the selection was expected to defy a penalty. It didn’t. So, with a change of tack, the Friday pick was 4lb ahead of the handicapper. It didn’t get placed.
I suppose picking horses that get placed means you’re in the zone and it’s preferable to being out with the washing.
There’ll be no Racing on the Ice at St Moritz next year, but I did like the suggestion of Neil Watson, who writes for 3 Furlongs Out Magazine, who proposed painting the sand white at Lingfield
What I try to avoid is information overload. Back in the 70s when racing became my preferred Saturday afternoon sporting fix, the Sporting Life didn’t even have ratings. Life was simpler. Man on the Spot was my guiding light.
But, as the interest grew and money became a little more readily available, I started getting the Timeform racecard. Or, rather, I paid for half of it. Back then there was quite a difference between the price of Timeform and the Life or the official racecard, and it was something of a premium purchase.
I paid half the cost because my dad would say “do you want to go halves on Timeform?” From that point onwards it was a battle to get it out of his hands.
And whilst it added much valuable information, it sometimes meant a change of mind from horses picked earlier from the Life. That was almost always a fatal thing to do.
But then Dick Whitford’s ratings appeared in the Life, the technology changed and data was transferred from filing cards to computers which led to databases that can spew out information on an industrial scale.
There was, however, more to Timeform than it’s racecards. You could buy just the ratings, or the whole shebang in the weekly A4 format Black Book, or use the Timeform telephone service. Those of a certain age may remember the advertisements depicting a young lady with a beehive hairdo holding a trimphone.
The flagship of the Timeform stable was the Racehorses Annual. A weighty hardback printed on glossy paper, illustrated throughout, with entries for every horse that ran the previous season, ranging from lengthy essays on the best to shorter, somewhat dismissive comments on the less talented animals, such as “of little account”.
In amongst the longer entries, the Halifax sages would express their opinion on aspects of the sport which needed addressing. Their views carried clout and hit home.
For a number of years, only the Flat got the annual treatment, but then along came Chasers & Hurdlers. It was as if National Hunt racing had at last been put on equal terms with the Flat.
We’ve seen the last
So, this week began with the news that we’ve seen the last of the annuals. The new Chasers & Hurdlers 2019/20 is the final one to be published. Also gone is the Black Book.
I bought Racehorses on only a handful of. It was more a possession than something frequently consulted. The production values with high and it looked good on a bookshelf but it got overtaken by events. Maybe the title didn’t help. My mum wanted to know why I’d spent so much money on last year’s edition.
Now it has succumbed to the age of technology. Those databases, with the ability to be updated on a second-by-second basis and accessed online, have called time on the lavish hardback books.
I feel sorry for those who have Racehorses & Chasers and Hurdlers collections, especially if they’ve got the entire set of each. No more bookshelves are going to be needed to add further volumes.
And it’s even sadder for those who championed the high standards the books maintained.
It won’t have been an easy decision for Timeform, and I doubt it will be the last of some traditional ways of presenting racing information to disappear.
We leave behind something of exceptional quality.
A regular feature for years now in the Sunday Times Magazine has been Relative Values, where two family members talk about each other. On Sunday it was ITV Racing’s Francesca and her dad, Luca Cumani (pictured), on her teenage tantrums.
It largely chronicles the issues that a parent and daughter have during teenage years, and it finishes, as it does every week, with Strange Habits.
Francesca on Luca: Dad’s very muted – even if his horse is romping home for a big win. You would never see him shouting and hollering.
Luca on Francesca: My daughter is really tight with her money – I don’t know where she gets that from!