Happy to be 6th…

Hi Shinko finished sixth of seven runners in a claimer today, which was absolutely perfect. Now let me explain why. The French racing system is based on handicap races, not claiming races as in America. But a horse has to run three times in other races – claimers or condition races – in order to get a French handicap mark. Hi Shinko came from England, where he has five wins, six seconds and five thirds from 28 starts. Not too shabby, but he was too highly placed in the handicaps there to find races. My goal is to get him qualified here at a reasonable level – which means three performances that won’t draw the eye of the handicapper. It’s a game everyone plays, and it’s not necessarily fair to the average horseplayer, who may not understand the game at that level. But there is a fair way to play it. Shinko was carrying 63 kilos today, top weight by miles, which was pretty much guaranteed to put him out of the running. If I had really wanted to win, I would have scratched him and found something more reasonable. On the other hand, if you bet on horses and you can read the form in the most elementary way, you would see the weight penalty and bet on something else. My jockey gave the horse every chance, and got beat by the weight – and then by only three lengths. We need one more race to get a handicap rating before Deauville, which is the objective for this horse. I will try to choose something that he doesn’t have much chance of winning – and if you can read the form, that will be clear. But maybe not for everyone. Shinko was backed down to 9-1 after opening at 20-1, which is something I don’t understand. The odds fell despite the fact the horse was kicking the paddock apart on his way to the track. I’m told Shinko has a habit of this – his old trainer warned me not to dally in the presentation ring. He’s right – after one tour, Shinko started to smack the rail with his back feet like it was target practice. This was after he had already turned his box on the racecourse into matchsticks. We were stabled in the new wooden boxes rather than the older more solid block, and Shinko must have liked the sound of his feet hitting the padded wall, because it took him two minutes to trash the place. The thing is, he’s not a bad-tempered horse. He just has a few quirks that we have to manage. And manage them, we will. Just in time for the winter handicaps.

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