This one didn't run at Goodwood - but he's firmly on my radar all the same....

Last Updated: 04.08.2021

Wednesday, 4th August 2021

This one didn’t run at Goodwood - but he’s firmly on my radar all the same….

When looking back at a big meeting and picking out horses of interest going forward, it’s probably customary to focus on horses that actually ran at the meeting….

But I’m breaking that cardinal rule today and encouraging you to keep tabs on a horse that didn’t run at last week’s Glorious Goodwood meeting – Variyann….

Martyn Meade’s 5yo was down to run in Friday’s Golden Mile but was ultimately a non-runner – he was pulled out on the morning of the race….

I’ve had my eye on this one ever since he ran at Salisbury in June. I’ve got him down as a horse capable of winning a big handicap pot this term – and he’s going on to my Watch List….

  • A sequence of career-bests.... 

That race at Salisbury was his first for Martyn Meade since switching from the care of Archie Watson in March (the upshot of a sale which saw Manton Park Racing pay 47,000 guineas for the Shamardal gelding)….

The race came 152-days after what had been a career-best winning performance on the AW at Chelmsford – a performance that topped off a decent sequence of efforts on synthetics from September through January….

The Salisbury race was his first go at C2 level handicap level. It was his first time meeting horses rated in the 90s and above. And it was his first go up a straight mile….

He didn’t need any time to acclimatise. He showed no signs of being out of his depth – none whatsoever. In a field of 12 he found just one too good on the day – the 100 rated Johan (now 104) who beat him just half-a-length….

He was only beaten by William Haggas’s horse close to home too. Perhaps he just needed the race off the back of his break….

Whatever, it was another clear career-best effort off a mark of 91 – his 3rd new top in his last 4 runs….

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the handicapper’s decision to raise him to a mark of 94 will not put the lid on him. There’s more to come….

Johan gave that Salisbury form a bit of a compliment at Goodwood last week – finishing 4th in the Golden Mile….

Migration – 4th at Salisbury – had already franked the form with his win in the Chesterfield Cup on Day 1 at last week’s Glorious meeting. He’s up 9lbs now to a mark of 103….

  • Why embark on a futile assignment? 

I was naturally sweet on Variyann in the build-up to last Friday’s Golden Mile – not least because he was priced up at an attractive 16s….

But you can’t count any chickens in the Golden Mile until you know where your horse is drawn. In a big-field around the right-handed mile at Goodwood, being drawn out wide is a severe disadvantage….

It’s not impossible to win from out wide – but it’s not likely either. To underline the point, the first four home last week were drawn in stalls 5, 8, 9 and 2. In an ideal world, you want to be drawn in the low numbers….

When the draw was made Variyann was out widest of all in 22. There was no way I was going to put him up from that stall. I thought to myself at the time that if I was Martyn Meade, I’d not be dead keen on the horse going to post….

If you’ve got a progressive horse on your hands – one on a competitive mark and capable of winning a big handicap pot – why would you set him an assignment where he’s got a big disadvantage to run against?

Energy, fitness, and freshness are all resources. Why waste them on some quest (probably futile) to overcome a track feature that counts against you while offering advantage to some of your opponents?

It makes no sense. Surely it would be better to wait for another day – when things are more in your favour?

That’s what I thought anyway. And it didn’t surprise me when Variyann was declared a non-runner on the morning of the race. He was self-certified – the process by which trainers can withdraw a horse if they believe it is unfit to race….

When I dug a little deeper into the issue I discovered that Variyann was self-certified because he’d ‘not eaten up’ – and that made me chuckle….

  • ‘Not eaten up’ – a good angle.... 

Perhaps the horse hadn’t eaten his Weetabix that morning. Perhaps he was off-colour. I can’t say one way or the other because I’m not privy to these details….

And nor would I want to cast any aspersions or give the impression that anybody has done anything wrong – or anything that I wouldn’t do myself….

All I can tell you is this: if you’re drawn out wide in a big-field race like the Golden Mile and you’re not keen on wasting your horse on a pointless exercise and you’d rather self-certify and have him go down as a non-runner – the ‘not eaten up’ angle is a good one to use to get that job done with minimum fuss….

Mainly because it’s a reason that cannot easily be verified or disproved by any officious third-party busybody who might take an interest….

If you say your horse is ‘lame’ or ‘cast’ in his box – these things can be checked out. Same with a ‘bad scope’, a ‘cough’, a ‘stone bruise’, a ‘temperature’ or a ‘skin allergy’….

Withdrawal of a horse on account of the stall he’s been allotted is a no-no. But if he hasn’t ‘eaten up’, that’s a nice get out of jail card that cannot really be queried….

You can lodge the necessary paperwork, get the horse back into his box and go the long way home – to wait for another (better) day….

I think that’s what Martyn Meade did. I don’t blame him. I’d have done the same thing. Mr Meade has got a horse with the potential (and the mark) to win a big handicap pot. Naturally, he wants to give his horse the best chance to land the money as and when the trigger is pulled….

Variyann is of interest going forward this term. He’s going on to my Watch List….

  • The final word….

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

Anything to report? Anything to say? Anything to share? Contact me at: nick.pullen@oxonpress.co.uk

Until next time. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd