Ashforth’s Angles: when it pays for finishing last
Thikriyaat (striped cap) picked up £2,943 for finishing last on Saturday
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) Ashforth's Angles: when it pays to finish last By David Ashforth 6:00PM 30 AUG 2016
What have Kristian Strangeway, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Michelle Morgan, The Picnic Partnership and Al Shaqab Racing got in common? In the last week they have all won prize-money for finishing last.
It's a rum business. Conventionally, to the winner goes the prize. In horseracing, in a tremendous display of egalitarianism, there are also prizes for finishing last. Since last Wednesday, 21 horses have won a total of £12,413 for finishing last. It's rather like appearance money.
Top of the pile is Thikriyaat, who won £2,943 for Sheikh Hamdan for finishing last of five in a Group 2 race at Goodwood last Saturday. The following day, Sheikh Hamdan won £1,165 when Fidaawy finished last of four in a class 2 0-100 handicap, again at Goodwood.
At Newmarket last Friday, Winston won £673 for finishing last of three in a class 4 nursery and the day after, at Cartmel, Fingerontheswitch won £1,202 when beaten in a two horse chase. Another two horse race is coming up at Carlisle on Wednesday, with the loser collecting £962.
Applies across the board
Small fields are good for losers and there are plenty of small fields, even in the absence of extremes of going, but it's not just in races of two to four runners, nor only in notably high class races.
Loveable Helen won £175 for finishing last of six in a class 3 0-90 handicap, yet again at Goodwood, and Sir Viktor £235 for finishing last of five in a similar race at Beverley. Ansaab won £257 for finishing last of six in a class 2 0-100 handicap, at Yarmouth.
A similar pattern extends down to the lowest level. On Wednesday there will be prizes for horses finishing last at Newton Abbot (6.40) and at Southwell (2.20), where there will also be prizes for horses finishing fourth of five (4.20) and fifth of seven (3.20).
That is not unusual. At Chepstow on Monday, Scent Of Power won £192 for finishing fourth of six in a class 6 seller. Coming up at Lingfield on Wednesday are two five-runner Class 6 races in which the fourth placed horse will win £192. All three races are worth less than £2,600 to the winner.
At Carlisle (5.50) the horse finishing fourth of five in a class 5 race will receive £240.50 while at Bath there are two six-runner races, one class 4 (3.30) and one class 5 (3.00), in which the fourth placed horses will win £481 and £240 respectively.
Is this a good idea? It can be argued that extending prize-money to fourth, fifth and sixth places, depending on the class of race, is an attraction for owners and trainers, particularly small ones, and encourages them to run, boosting field sizes.
The sums involved are often too small to be much of a motivator and horses shouldn't be given a share of prize-money for finishing last, nor for finishing nearly last in low value races. Race conditions should make provision for redistributing lower place prize-money when few horses are declared.