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By Larry Cassidy | Friday, May 6, 2011

Larry Cassidy currently has forty-two Group 1 successes behind his name. He is a multiple Premiership winning jockey having taken out three titles in Sydney and one in Brisbane. Larry’s View, the personal blog of this top class rider will appear on horseracingonly.com.au every Friday, workload permitting.

Buffering’s win in the Group 2 Victory Stakes at Eagle Farm last Saturday has drawn wide-spread comment from racing pundits with particular emphasis being placed on the slow race tempo and therefore the value of the form coming out of that contest.

Let me give you the view from the saddle and hopefully add some insight into what it takes for a jockey to ‘rate a horse well’ in the running.

With Buffering our plan was to be positive and to go forward. Ideally we wanted to lead early and then steady up and make them sprint home.

Because he had a setback in training, we thought that was going to be the easiest way for him to win or to race to his best.

The first part of the plan went well and the second part went even better than we had hoped.

I reckon from the 800 to the 600 we ran close to fourteen seconds. I knew after we’d run that slow a sectional that, realistically, there was no way they could beat us.

That’s why I decided to let Buffering slip away as we cornered. At the same time I angled out so that I was just two horses outside that new patch of ground in the straight because that’s where the majority of winners all came from on the day.

I knew Atomic Force would be close behind me. It came up on my inside because I angled out on the turn. I actually had a peep over my shoulder, not so much to see where the others were, but it was more to make certain I didn’t have anything hard outside me so that I could angle out to the best part of the track.

Once I got out there, after letting him down for the first part of the straight, I let Buffering coast for the next furlong. I thought if I’m running 12.00 for that furlong they were going to struggle to get to me.

The main thing really was to keep Buffering balanced because the track was a bit choppy … to keep him balanced and going at a comfortable rate up the straight.

Then I hit him two or three times with the whip and he had them well and truly covered.

I didn’t really have any anxious moments, but I was still thinking that, being first-up and coming back after a setback, his condition might give out over the last 100.

Obviously, with the sectionals we’d done in the race, that enabled him to hit the line strongly.

I did go into the race with a Plan B.

If something took me on … if something wanted to kick up from inside me and they wanted to lead, we would have been happy to take a sit, but Plan A worked out just fine.

My view after the race is that Buffering was quite impressive. Take times and sectionals out of it … you’ve still got to win. He was the first horse home and he beat them convincingly.

He had a Group 1 winner (Atomic Force) behind him and a horse (Azzaland) that’s got a very good win record, finish behind him.

Obviously the opposition is going to get tougher for Buffering from here on in, but you can only beat what you are up against and you only want to run the time you have to run to win. You don’t need to run any quicker.

Races with small fields will generally turn into a tactical battle.

With bigger fields horses that are drawn wide are going to jump and try and get across to get a spot. Therefore the speed is usually on and races are usually run to a true tempo.

When I was riding in Sydney in eight to twelve horse fields, they would generally run the first part quick, get a spot and pull up. Here in Brisbane, where the majority of fields are much bigger in size, races are generally run at a quicker tempo.

Obviously when races are run true, it is certainly much easier to ride in them.

There are times when Plan A and Plan B doesn’t apply and you have to take things into your own hands.

I won a staying race (2200m) on a horse of Rob Heathcote's called Bell Academy at Doomben where I had to do that.

I was back last early and they trot and cantered and I made a mid-race move at about the 1400. I went from last straight up around to the lead.

To make a mid-race move like that it is certainly much easier to do in a staying race than a sprinting race.

Other jockeys obviously see you coming. If you take off at the 1400 they are probably happy to let you go, but, in a slowly run sprint race, if you take off at the 700 they are going to come with you and end up pushing you wide and you end up making too long a run.

If you don't make a move, they will still be going slow and the leading horses will outsprint you and leave you behind.

So, really, in some instances, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

There are a lot of difficult calls a rider has to make regarding tempo.

If I’m on a leader I’m trying to dictate the speed. You try to go as slow as you can, especially if a horse can sprint home, but you have to get it just right.

I find a lot of jockeys make the mistake of going too slow, then they wonder why they get taken on.

You have to go at a speed that sets up what you want to achieve.

For example, if I ride in a mile race and I’m on a leader and I know that there are other horses that can cross and pester me, I will always jump and go the first furlong quite quickly.

By doing that you are telling them, I want to lead … leave me alone!

What that does then, is give them the opportunity to slot in behind you from a wider draw and get a spot, whereas if you come out and try to hold up the pace and lead, you are going to get four horses up attacking you and you are going to get no rest at all.

Then you are going to come back and say to the connections, ah jeez, I didn’t get a very soft lead.

If you jump and try to lead by two or three lengths in the first part, the other riders then think, he’s going to lead and he’s going at a reasonable clip so I’m just going to take a sit. So it gives them a chance to get a reasonable position.

Then, after they leave you alone, you can get your horse to come back and slow the tempo. (But not too slow).

But then again some jockeys pull their horse up too quick. If you are going too slow and your horse is pulling it is using too much energy.

You’ve still got to go at a tempo where the horse is happy and comfortable and they’ve got an even breathing pattern going.

If you check a horse you interrupt their breathing pattern which is very, very important in a race.

Basically, if you go too fast you are going to be left with nothing. If you go too slow you are going to get attacked or your horse is going to be pulling its head off in front.

There is nothing worse than seeing a slowly run race and the leader absolutely pulling its head off. Usually that leader will not win. It is using too much energy even though it is going slow.

Very few horses can stop and start in a race. Maybe one in fifty horses can stop and start and make a couple of runs in a race, and they are usually Group horses.

The everyday mid-week or Saturday horse has be kept in a nice, comfortable racing pattern, where you are not stop-starting them, for them to be effective.

As you can see, plenty of work and thought goes into rating a horse well.

Get that right and you’ve got a chance of success, providing none of the other 1001 variables that can affect the result gets in your way.

Till next week,

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Larry Cassidy
Larry Cassidy
Happy as ...

After Buffering's win.
Happy as ...

After Buffering's win.
Ready for action.
Ready for action.
Plan A worked out perfectly as Buffering was too strong for them in the straight.
Plan A worked out perfectly as Buffering was too strong for them in the straight.
Atomic Force
Atomic Force
... and Azzaland

Buffering held them at bay.
... and Azzaland

Buffering held them at bay.
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