FRIDAY will mark 50 days since a horse raced under the name of Darren Weir.
The hundreds of horses in his care have been dispersed and at latest count there had been 179 individual horses from his stable to have started for another trainer.
So how have they performed?
Did they fall off a cliff like many thought? Have they improved? Has it been business as usual? Or do we have to wait a little longer to see the real outcome?
When Weir was banned (he last had a runner on January 31), it’s fair to say there was an expectation his horses wouldn’t be as good in the care of new trainers.
The reasoning was that on average Weir was regarded as one of the best (if not the best) conditioners in the country and the circumstances of his exit led to the assumption his horses had been afforded an illegal advantage.
So you could say punters went into this period thinking Weir horses probably won’t prove as good as we’ve been used to.
The marketplace backs up that suggestion to some extent.
Of those 179 runners, 29 won at their first start for another trainer (16.2%), which is slightly superior to Weir’s 14.6% strike rate for the season.
More telling, if you backed all 179 runners, they show a +14.5% profit on turnover at the VIC Tab dividend (using proportional staking), which is quite amazing. The overall market average for all runners on the VIC Tab is a 15% loss!
This shows the market took a slightly negative view to their chances, which was reflected in pricing, when in fact they have been winning at a similar or slightly better rate.
Further to this, there’s been a good number of ex-Weir horses run to new peaks in their new surroundings.
Verry Elleegant became the latest feature winner from the former Weir stable when she convincingly won the Phar Lap Stakes for Chris Waller on Saturday at Rosehill.
She also added her name to a list of horses that have run to new peaks since they left Weir’s stable.
Here is a list of some of the bigger names to have started since Weir’s disqualification and their WFA Performance Ratings.
Those ratings highlighted blue show where runners have run to a figure higher than their previous peak with Darren Weir, while those in light green shown runs within a length of their previous peak with Darren Weir.
From the horses that have improved to new peaks, there’s probably not a lot of surprise in most of them given where they were at in their respective careers.
The likes of Yes Yes Yes, Fifty Stars and Verry Elleegant were on an upward spiral when they left.
The two exceptions are Brave Smash and Red Cardinal, who both went to Kris Lees at Newcastle.
Red Cardinal had been a bitter disappointment since arriving in Australia, finishing no closer than 4.1 lengths from the winner in seven Australian runs before shifting to Lees. He is now two for two (in stakes races) since heading north.
Brave Smash has been a topliner for a couple of seasons, but Lees managed to coax something even more from him to get as close as he did in the Newmarket Handicap this month.
From the same list, the only ones you could say that have under-performed are Big Duke (veteran now), Voodoo Lad (returning from possible arduous Perth trip), Whispering Brook (end of long prep) and Extra Brut (needs 2000m?).
So the easiest conclusion to draw is that there’s been very little change at all in the performance of those runners.
While the results suggest there’s been no real change to the status quo, it’s possible the answer to the Weir question won’t be known for some time yet.
Is the suspected effect of the reported illegal practices under Weir overstated? Or is there a longer lasting effect of those practices still in play with these horses?
Will the performance of these horses deteriorate next preparation? Or has there been benefit for these horses in new surroundings and in different routines under the care of their new trainer?
There’s some who believe all Weir horses should have been stood down for a mandatory period. If the horses were getting an unfair advantage at Weir’s, what’s to say that advantage doesn’t stay with the horse for some time to come? With such serious allegations levelled at Weir – and him subsequently pleading no contest – it’s a question that shouldn’t readily be dismissed.
On the other hand, there may be nothing in it and the results may continue to flow next preparation and beyond.
We will find out later in the year as the horses return for a full preparation in the care of another trainer and different regime, but for now, there’s no evidence at all to suggest they shouldn’t be backed with confidence.