We’re all smart after the race

Ron Wilson had all the answers with Family of Man 24 July 2017

A WEEK BEFORE Christmas 1980 and heading to Pinjarra for Millionaire Sires’ Stakes day. This was a short-lived weight-for-age race devised as a lead up to the Perth Cup.


Shared the back seat of a car with Ron Wilson, well known for being a flashy No.11 on the half- forward flank in West Perth’s premiership-winning years in 1970s WA Football League.

A great sporting achievement certainly but Ron was far more famous for having another better string to his bow: he was into the first decade of establishing himself as one of the longest-enduring professional horse players in Australia.

Ron asked me who I thought would win the 2150m feature race and, without hesitation, I said Brechin Castle. This great mare had run a close second to three-year-old Sovereign Red in the Western Mail Classic (now Kingston Town) at Ascot 19 days before.

“Okay answer me this,” he said. (My replies are in italics).

“Who is the best weight-for-age horse in the race?” Family of Man

“Who is the best trainer in the race?” George Hanlon (he trained Family of Man)

“Who is the best jockey in the race?” Brent Thomson (from memory, he rode Family of Man)

“Which of the six runners has won a Cox Plate?” Family of Man

“Which of the six runners can dictate the pace in front if needed?” Family of Man.

“Now, who do you think will win?”

Family of Man won at 4/1 ($5) as part of his race record shows:

1st-6 18/12/1980. 0.5L x 8L Pinjarra, WA, AUS Pinjarra RC Sunspeed Millionaire Sires’ Stakes 2150m. 58.5kg 2.17.4. Good, 4/1. Brechin Castle 56 5/4F 2nd Magistrate 58.5 10/1 3rd


This memory was revived during a review of Saturday’s results.

Picking winners is so much easier after the race. How come facts and figures jump off the page at you once the race is run and won?

Ron’s sage opinion would have been very useful before doing the form on race one at Belmont Park Saturday, won by Recoiled. He may have asked these pertinent questions and been given the following subjective answers:

Who is the best trainer in the race? Jim Taylor (he trains Recoiled)
Who is the best jockey in the race? Jason Brown (he rode Recoiled)
Who has the lightest handicap? Recoiled
**Who is the only four-year-old in the race? Recoiled ______________________________________________________________________________

** Below published in Journal of Equine Science by Japanese Society of Equine Science. The author made a random Google query and this was the first relevant opinion acquired.

The Effect of Age on Thoroughbred Racing Performance

By Marshall GRAMM and Ryne MARKSTEINER

Using a dataset of 274 male Thoroughbred racehorses in the United States, we study the effect of age on racing performance. Beyer speed figures, which are uniform measures of racing performance across distance and racing surface, are utilized in this study. A system of equations is estimated to determine quadratic improvement and decline in racing performance. We find that a typical horse’s peak racing age is 4.45 years. The rate of improvement from age 2 to 4 1/2 is greater than the rate of decline after age 4 1/2. A typical horse will improve by 10 (horse) lengths in sprints (less than 1 mile) and 15 lengths in routes (one mile or greater) from age 2 to 4 1/2. Over the next five years the typical decline is 6 lengths for sprints and 9 1/2 lengths for routes. Published January 2011

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