AMONG the loads of drivel served up by trainers who feel oh-so-forced to answer calls and make a few comments about their horses came a jewel from trainer Roy Magner before the meeting at the Vaal yesterday.

Asked for a pre-race comment about long-rested Royal Cavalier (Race 3, 1000m), Magner told Computaform: “He is fit, well and ready for this race!”

Would that have been so hard for Magner to do? He spoke nine words – ten if you add our exclamation mark, and those words got several wily punters through the Place Accumulator. They will be back, investing more money at today’s meeting.

Horseplayers are clever creatures, and sensitive too. They study plenty of form and all they want is a little edge. Some trainers re-interpret form, unwilling to commit, for example: “He’s coming off a rest, may need the run.” Well, yes, if our auntie grew a pair she may have been our uncle!

There isn’t a horseplayer on earth who will brand a trainer a liar or a cheat if he or she is forthcoming with truly valuable advice. “I expect him to win!” is so much better than, “If all goes well he will be involved in the finish”.  

If a runner branded a ‘good thing’ by its trainer gets beaten in a race, so what? The trainer is seen to have been forthright and honest, not evasive and providing the kind of standard nonsense any fool can dish up.

Pointed, truly helpful comments so often make the subtle difference in the structure of an exotic perm, and enable punters to win. That is really all it’s about. Punters can sense when a trainer has spoken from the heart and if they happen to be wrong in their pre-race assessments, they’re automatically forgiven. They’ll be right next time.

We at Turf Talk count trainers who refuse to comment on first-timers among our good friends and associates and while we don’t agree with their feelings on this matter we don’t want to incur their wrath either – it’s probably better not to comment at all than to lie or to dance around the form.

Yet we’d still propose mandatory comments for all stables, because any trainer worth his salt can predict with an amount of certainty whether his horse will run well, run a few lengths off them, or run no good.

The alternative is a blanket no-comment from all.  A guessing game is better than making do with forced, confusing comments the trainers hate to make. It should be one, or the other.  Let’s make comments compulsory, or stop them altogether. The many “no comment given”, notes in form guides serve to annoy horseplayers, and make them feel that something is being hidden from them.

Back to the Magner runner.

Royal Cavalier (Ryan Munger) controlled most of the race and clocked a time of 58.17s, faster than the time set by the smart filly who won the following race, a MR82 handicap.

Magner, who must have had a line of form through his runner Sweet Trial, who beat the favourite Lion King last week, commented: “Royal Cavalier has been off the track because he had a virus and a few niggles, but we have resolved them. He’s a decent horse.”

Royal Cavalier was a R500,000 National Two-Year-old Sales purchase for Hong Kong-based Robert Chung, a long-time supporter of the Magner stable and responsible for exporting from South Africa the likes of top runners Sweet Sanette and Tiger Prawn.

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