Don't turn to luck for explanations or excuses....

Last Updated: 09.08.2018

Thursday, 9th August 2018

Don’t turn to luck for explanations or excuses….

El Astronaute was about as close as we came at last week’s Glorious Goodwood meeting....

We got him at a big 9s early doors on the day before the Chelsea Barracks Handicap on the opening day. He was backed into 11/2 – but he found one too good....

Had he won, it still wouldn’t have been good enough to produce what I would consider a good meeting. But it would have made a difference. It would have mitigated a few losers later in the week....

The game at ATC is to play the percentages. We expect more losers than winners. But, of course, we need the winners to go in from time to time – at the right prices they offset losses and hopefully get us in front over the long-term….

So, selections that finish 2nd are a bit of a kick in the guts – a case of almost but not quite….

  • A fine line….

You can work as hard as you like. You can sweat over the form book. You can work the angles. You can watch races repeatedly until you’re going cock-eyed….

You can endeavour to gather every scrap of intelligence. You can wake up in the middle of the night thinking about this stuff….

But, you can’t make it happen. It comes together somehow in its own time. Or it doesn’t. Independent of you. You can’t force it....

I never do anything too much different when looking at any big race. I have a way of working – and that’s what I do. Sometimes what I do makes me look like a genius. Other times, it makes me look like a clown. It’s a very fine line….

Horses can run good races without winning. They can run races bigger than their prices and better than the market thought they would.

But it boils down to winning. And ultimately that’s something out of your control. You can see what you like on paper. But, in the race itself, it either happens or it doesn’t….

  • There is no pre-ordained outcome….

The mistake a lot of people make is to believe that there is a single pre-ordained result that the racing tipster can identify and plug into ahead of time….

It’s as if what happens in a horse race is part of the divine unfolding plan. That one horse is destined to win the race and that this can be somehow known for certain in advance of the event ….

On occasion, I find myself buying into that view of things. But, of course, it’s nonsense. There is no one certain outcome. There is no pre-ordained plan. No one horse is detained to win any specific race….

The race unfolds as it unfolds. In any race, multiple events occur that you cannot legislate for ahead of time – and each plays its own part in what happens next and what ultimately transpires. The tipster is a hostage to of-the-moment occurrences and happenstance….

As a tipster, all you can do is take a view on the relative merits of horses and their prices. And make a case for what you believe might unfold. Always bearing in mind that horses are not machines and races are not run on a rail….

I am engaged in the business of predicting the outcome of grossly unpredictable events contested by multiple flesh-and-blood animals going hell-for-leather up a turf strip….

There are going to be times when that self-appointed task turns out to be as difficult in practice as it sounds in theory….

Taking a break this weekend....

I’m sure the organisers and the authorities intend this weekend’s Shergar Cup at Ascot to be an event that causes punters to lose sleep the night before because of the excitement coursing through their veins….

They try very hard to talk the thing up, promoting it like it really is something very special – something to cherish….

But for me, it falls flat. I don’t care about the Shergar Cup. I don’t give a tinker’s cuss for it. It means precisely nothing to me who wins it. Nothing….

All that high-fiving and the forced razzamatazz and the stilted ‘Yay! We’re a team, guys’ nonsense – it turns me off….

If there’s a good Saturday to take a break from the racing, recharge the batteries and clean out the septic tank, this Saturday is that golden opportunity….

And I’m taking it. The summer is relentless in terms of big races. We all need a rest from time to time – a chance to gather our thoughts before pressing on. And I include myself in that.

There’s no harm in sitting out one poor weekend and keeping the powder dry. There will be tonnes of good races to target in the weeks ahead. I prefer to wait for those....

  • What’s luck got to do with it?

A pal often puts these things down to the fickle finger of fortune. ‘You’re having a spell of bad luck,’ he will tell me if or when I’m out-of-form….

It’s tempting to agree. Luck is real. You get good and bad versions of it. But it is dangerous to turn to luck as your get-out clause….

I’ve been re-reading a book by Ed Smith, an ex-cricketer who played a few Test matches for England and who has recently landed the role of England selector....

The title of the book is What Sport Tells Us About Life and there’s a chapter in it dedicated to luck….

Smith tells the story of an occasion when he’s walking around the boundary with a colleague who is going through a bad spell of form with the bat. Out in the middle, another player is busy compiling a wonderful century – enjoying a bit of luck in the process….

Smith’s colleague bemoans his own bad fortune. ‘Why can’t I have some luck,’ he sighs. ‘I’ve used up the bad luck and now he’s cashing in on the good luck…. I’m just an unlucky batsman. Other people play and miss; I nick it….’

  • Don’t trust to the stuff....

That batsman never came out of his trough of poor form.

And I think that’s the danger if you start looking to external forces to explain your own performance....

You abdicate responsibility. And when you abdicate responsibility, you relinquish your control over changing things....

Luck had nothing to do with my distinctly underwhelming effort at Goodwood. Just as it had nothing to do with the profits we bagged at Cheltenham, at Aintree, at Royal Ascot and at Newmarket’s July meeting earlier in the season....

When it goes wrong, as it did last week at Goodwood, I prefer to take the view that I am responsible – rather than luck – and that I’m just not getting it right enough. I’m just not clicking. My radar isn’t quite at its best. Events are repeatedly at odds with my assessments....

It happens. Form come sand it goes – just as it does with horses and yards. The world turns. Something changes and suddenly – for reasons you can’t explain because you’re doing nothing any different – you start seeing it clearly again. Events start to mirror your pre-race conclusions….

It’s just the way of it. Don’t ask me why. It’s just how it tends to work. But make no mistake: luck has nothing whatsoever to do with it….

  • The last word….

That’s all from me for today.

As I say, I’m taking a break from selections this weekend. And I’ll be back in your inbox on Monday.

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd