Things We Learned » Indecon and on

Indecon and on

What’s the difference between the latest Indecon report and Godot?

The report arrived.

We have been waiting for a panacea to racing’s funding ills for long enough now to know that, in reality, there is no panacea.  This was just the latest confirmation of same.  So if you were disappointed by the absence of new-thinking, originality and radicalness from the report, then you haven’t been paying attention.

And if you think that you have heard or read just about all of the report’s recommendations somewhere before, that is because you probably have, and you shouldn’t be surprised that you have.

Isn’t that the nature of commissioned reports?  The compilers are generally not experts in the relevant field, which is part of the attraction of using them, the theory being that they have no pre-conceived ideas, no vested interests, that they remain impartial.  They consult with a cross-section of experts, put a selection of the most pertinent thoughts together in a coherent fashion, top and tail them with an introduction, an executive summary and some recommendations, and hey presto, 40 grand later you have an independent report to which you can refer when you need to.

Funding remains the issue.  Until notification to the contrary, it is really the only issue.  You can set up as many strategic marketing sub-committees as you like, you can allow the minister of the day appoint as many public interest directors to the HRI board as he likes, but it’s all a bit like choosing the floral curtains before you have bought the house.

Ratings roundabout

Unusual goings-on with the ballotting order for the Guinness Galway Hurdle and the Tote Galway Plate.  This year in the Hurdle, for the first time, horses were balloted according to rating, not according to weight carried.  It amounts to the same thing in most cases, but with one crucial difference – younger horses were not penalised in the ballot because of the weight allowance they receive for their age.

It is easy to argue that this is the correct way to be going about things.  It essentially means that the best horses in theory, the horses with the highest ratings, were given priority in the ballot.  Some people have been arguing for this change in Britain for years, in order to enable more three-year-olds get into their big handicaps.  In this month’s Ebor Handicap at York, for example, Tommy Carmody’s three-year-old Ursa Major is number 46 in the ballot because three-year-olds receive a 12lb weight-for-age allowance.  If the ballot was determined by ratings in the Ebor, he would be joint-sixth on the list, and obviously certain to get to run.

The net effect of the change in Thursday’s Galway Hurdle was that the four-year-olds were given preference.  Unknown Rebel got into the race proper, number 18 of 20 in the list, while Cause Of Causes and Discoteca were first and second reserves respectively.  If the system hadn’t been changed this year, third reserve The Way We Were would have got into the race proper as number 20 of 20, Clarach would have been first reserve, and original ante post favourite Carlingford Lough and Unknown Rebel would have been second and third reserves.  As it happened, the reserves would have got in, so the race could have had a completely different shape to it.

Strangely, the same change was not implemented for Wednesday’s Galway Plate.  Positions in the ballot were determined by weight, as before, not by ratings, which meant that the four-year-old His Excellency was down as second reserve.  As it happened, the Gigginstown House horse got into the race, and there was no other youngster beneath him in the long handicap at the five-day entry stage, so the shape of the race probably wasn’t altered a jot, but still strange the disparity.

Zig-zag Stakes

It was great to see old-timer Sri Putra win the Group 2 York Stakes last Saturday in his hood and blinkers (it must be a feat of engineering to get those two pieces of apparatus working together), but there the satisfaction with the race ends.

Afsare zig-zagged across the course in the home straight, first right then left, Side Glance was hampered, Ransom Note was hampered, Jet Away was squeezed up.  Sri Putra may have been the best horse in the race anyway, but he may not have been, and that is not a satisfactory conclusion to a Group 2 contest.

You can’t blame Kieren Fallon for allowing Afsare drift to his right towards the stands rail.  That appeared to be the way the horse wanted to go and, by allowing him do so, Fallon was maximising his horse’s chance of passing the winning post first.  The rider was operating within the rules, towards the edge of them.  That’s what top class practitioners do.  The problem is with those rules.

If Afsare had passed the post first, there is no question that he would have been allowed to keep the race (he was allowed to keep second place, QED), despite the fact that his wanderings had a negative effect on the chances of at least three of his rivals.  According to the rules as they stand, unless it is virtually certain that a hampered beaten horse would have won without the interference, then the horse who passes the post first is generally allowed to keep the race.

That can’t be right.  The current rules encourage riders to employ whatever means they can to get to the winning post first, then take their chances in the stewards’ room, where they know that the benefit of the doubt will be in their favour.  There is something flawed about that way of ruling.  The benefit of the doubt should surely be with the victim of the interference, not with the executor of it.

Oojooba next time

One of the main eye-catchers of the week at Glorious Goodwood for me was Roger Varian’s filly Oojooba, who finished third in the nine-furlong fillies’ handicap on Wednesday.

Keener than ideal through the early stages of the race, the daughter of Monsun travelled well just behind the front rank to the two-furlong pole, when she showed an impressive turn of foot to come clear in what looked like a race-winning move.  Her stamina began to ebb deep inside the final 100 yards, however, and she ended up finishing third, two lengths behind the winner My Queenie.

The turn of foot that Oojooba displayed was that of a smart filly.  More than that, she was almost certainly disadvantaged by racing as close as she did to the pace.  She was the only filly who raced handily who was involved in the finish, with the other four fillies who filled the first five places occupying four of the last five places at the top of the home straight.

Oojooba has just a maiden win on her racecourse debut to her credit, but this was just her sixth run, and she remains progressive.  The handicapper can’t be too hard on her for this performance, and she should do even better dropped down to a mile, ideally on easyish ground.  She will be of interest wherever she runs next.

In-running carnage

Galway on Tuesday was not a place for in-running backers.  Horses who traded on Betfair at 1.21, 1.33, 1.04, 1.1 and 1.18 were all beaten.  It got worse on Wednesday, when horses who traded at 1.1, 1.01, 1.8, 1.5, 1.11, 1.18 and 1.3 all lost.

It can be a tough old hill when it rains.

© The Irish Field, 4th August 2012