Ratings expert: Queensland cobalt trio returned career-best performances
THREE horses embroiled in Queensland’s cobalt scandal produced career-best performances when they tested positive to the banned drug, with one horse improving 10 lengths from its previous start.
The Gold Coast Bulletin can reveal In The Sky Rocket (March 29, 2014), French Lesson (January 31, 2015) and Vimzig (May 16, 2015) all produced peak career ratings in the races where they returned positive samples to cobalt.
All three horses also firmed in betting in those particular races.
Fluctuations from one of Australia’s major betting agencies, provided by DynamicOdds.com, showed French Lesson ($8.50-$4) and In The Sky Rocket ($16-$8) both firmed significantly, while Vimzig shortened from $2.80-$2.50.
French Lesson and Vimzig both won, while In The Sky Rocket ran second.
Cobalt is a heavy metal salt, which is present in all animals at very low trace levels, but at high levels can assist in generating more red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body and therefore postpone the onset of fatigue.
The other two thoroughbred horses to test positive to cobalt in Queensland, Vandalised (June 21, 2014) and Grey Countess (May 30, 2015) did not return a career peak rating in the races in question but the figure was a peak for that racing preparation for both horses.
Both Vandalised ($8-$7-$8) and Grey Countess ($5.5-$7.50) either remained steady or drifted in betting and finished first and second respectively.
The range of improvement from the five horses before testing positive to cobalt ranged from one length to 10 lengths.
The figures are based on The Rating Bureau’s weight-for-age performance ratings.
TRB’s Daniel O’Sullivan said In The Sky Rocket recorded a rating 10 lengths higher when testing positive to cobalt on March 29 compared to its previous start on March 15.
“However, In The Sky Rocket’s rating on March 29 (85.6) was only marginally better than two runs prior at Eagle Farm (82.5) and the start prior to that at Doomben (81.2),” he said.
“The three runs since that run (where he tested positive) have been almost five lengths, 11.5 lengths and two lengths inferior.”
In The Sky Rocket’s trainer at the time, Len Treloar no longer holds a trainers’ licence in Queensland and could not be contacted on Friday.
Grey Countess returned a cobalt reading of 1300 micrograms per litre of urine (ug/L) at the Gold Coast on May 30, which is 6.5 times above the 200ug/L cobalt threshold in Australia.
The cobalt reading is the highest recorded from the five thoroughbred horses who have returned elevated levels in Queensland.
O’Sullivan said Grey Countess improved six lengths from her previous start and an average of five lengths from her two starts before testing positive.
“Then her two subsequent runs (after the cobalt positive) were 2.5 lengths and five lengths inferior to that day, so basically the day in question was a big spike in performance,” he said.
O’Sullivan said big spikes in ratings were not “totally uncommon but it’s certainly not the norm”.
“Horses can show sharp improvement out of the blue, especially if they’ve proven themselves at a certain level before,” he said.
“In Grey Countess’s case, she’d been to 95 in the past, so it wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world to see her run 90.1.”
Grey Countess’s trainer Rochelle Smith put the form reversal on May 30 down to the horse being freshened up for that particular race.
“She won a trial before that start and we gave her a freshen up before that trial and she always races best fresh,” Smith said.
“I wouldn’t say that she has improved six lengths and … two starts before that run she bucked out of the barriers at Goondiwindi.”
French Lesson only improved one length from its 7.5-length win at Atherton the start before but O’Sullivan said the horse’s rating when returning the cobalt positive was “7.3 lengths better than the average rating of his three runs prior to that Atherton victory”.
French Lesson’s trainer at the time, Glen Baker said the horse peaked at Doomben on January 31 because the gelding races “best fresh”.
Vimzig, who is also trained by Smith, improved two lengths from its previous start and Smith put the improvement down to natural progression, as well as a weak field at Toowoomba on May 16.
O’Sullivan said TRB’s weight-for-age ratings are determined through a complex system.
“It doesn’t mean just because a horse wins, they return a higher or peak rating. Ratings are worked out via a sophisticated model that firstly determines race strength and then looks at weight carried and beaten margin,” O’Sullivan said.
Smith faced a stewards’ inquiry over the positive tests to Vimzig and Grey Countess on Thursday but the matter has been adjourned.
French Lesson’s trainer Baker is still waiting on the outcome of his appeal over the length of his two-year ban, while Vandalised’s trainer Jamie McConachy has successfully gained a stay of proceedings until his appeal into an 18-month ban is heard.
Story courtesy Brad Davidson Gold Coast Bulletin