Do horses still race on hard going?

Do horses still race on hard going? Officially, the state of the ground, or going, on a racecourse is described by one of seven descriptions, ranging from ‘heavy’ at one extreme to ‘hard’ at the other. However, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) guidelines suggest that Flat courses should aim to provide ‘good to firm’ going and National Hunt courses should aim to provide ‘good’ – and never faster than ‘good to firm’ – going, wherever possible.

Even allowing for the vagaries of the British weather, it is possible that a long, dry spell can produce going officially described as ‘firm’ or even ‘hard’, especially in the absence of watering. Bath Racecourse, situated high on Lansdown Hill, 780 feet above sea level, is a case in point insofar as it has no watering system and can produce rattling hard going during a dry summer. Under such circumstances – which are virtually unknown elsewhere – underfoot conditions must be monitored to ensure the course is safe for racing.

Of course, Bath Racecourse exclusively stages Flat racing but, for National Hunt courses, if the going is officially ‘hard’, it must be described as ‘hard (unraceable)’ and racing must be abandoned. Thus, while ‘hard’ still exists as an official going description, horses rarely, if ever, race on going faster than ‘firm’ – which, itself, is rare enough on most British racecourses – for welfare reasons.

What is the ‘penalty value’ of a horse race?

What is the 'penalty value' of a horse race? The ‘penalty value’ of a horse race, as listed on a racecard, describes the prize money awarded to the winner and, possibly, anything up to the next nine horses home, depending on the total prize fund available. However, penalty value does not reflect deductions, such as trainer and jockeys percentages, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) fees and so on, so owners’ prize money is always less than the penalty value of the race in question.

In horse racing, a ‘penalty’ is additional weight, say, 5lb or 7lb, imposed on a horse for winning a race under certain circumstances. Details of such penalties are listed in the race conditions and, in some cases, are imposed on horses that have won a race, or races, above a certain value in a certain timeframe. The winner of a race worth £3,000 might incur a 5lb penalty, the winner of a race worth £5,000 might incur a 7lb penalty and so on; in any case, it is the penalty value of the races, or races, previously won that determines whether or not a penalty is imposed and, if so, what level of penalty. That’s why it’s called ‘penalty value’ in the first place!

Which was the last Grand National to be run over four-and-a-half miles?

Which was the last Grand National to be run over four-and-a-half miles? Historically, there was a time when every schoolboy – or, at least, every schoolboy with a slightly misspent youth – knew that the Grand National was run over an advertised distance of four-and-a-half miles. Of course, that was before 2013, when safety measures included moving the start forward, about a hundred yards closer to the first fence, with the result that the race was run over the shorter advertised distance of four miles and three-and-a-half furlongs. Thus, the last Grand National to be run over four-and-a-half miles was the 2012 renewal which, fittingly, also produced the closest ever finish, with Neptune Collonges beating Sunnyhillboy by a nose.

However, Aintree, along with every other National Hunt racecourse in Britain, was subsequently professionally surveyed and re-measured, along a line two yards from the inside rail rather than down the middle of the track, as had traditionally been the case. Not unexpectedly, the change in methodology lead to traditional race descriptions becoming shorter; since 2016, the Grand National has been run over an advertised distance of four miles and two-and-half furlongs, or an exact, ‘baseline’ distance of four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards. However, notwithstanding the earlier changes, horses still travel exactly the same distance they did prior to 2016.

Which jockey has ridden the most winners?

Which jockey has ridden the most winners? According to Guinness World Records, the jockey who has ridden the most winners is Brazilian Jorge Antonio Ricardo who, as of January, 2021, had amassed a career total of 13,044 winners. Born in Rio de Janeiro in September, 1961, Ricardo rode his first winner, as a 15-year-old apprentice in 1976 and enjoyed his best season in his native land in 1992/1993, when he rode 477 winners; by contrast, the British record for the most winners in a season is 289, set by Sir Anthony McCoy in 2001/02.

‘Ricardinho’, as Ricardo is known to his fans, has suffered various fractures, including to his jaw, shoulder blade, collarbone, vertebrae, elbow and femur, in his long, illustrious career, not to mention recovering from cancer of the lymphatic system, or lymphoma, when in his late forties. Nevertheless, despite being incapacitated for protracted periods, he equalled the previous world record, 12,844 winners, set by retired Canadian jockey Russell Baze, in February, 2018. Since then, Ricardo has continued to add to his total, passing the landmark of 13,000 winners in September, 2020. Apart from Baze, no other jockey, worldwide, has achieved a five-figure career total, so his record could well last forever.

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