Things We Learned » Duntle dilemma

Duntle dilemma

You can debate the merits and de-merits of the stewards’ decision to reverse the placings between Duntle and Chachamaidee after Saturday’s Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes as long as you like (and we have), but the fact remains that nobody knows the correct answer to this conundrum.

Did interference take place?  Yes.  Was it caused by the winner?  Yes, indirectly.  Concertina effect.  Was the loser affected?  Yes, a little.  But here’s the crux: would the loser have won if the interference had not taken place?  Who knows.  You can’t check the back of the book to get the answer.

The general feeling around Leopardstown on Saturday after the announcement was made that the placings had been reversed – general feeling determined through use of that well-known scientific research method, straw poll – was one of surprise.

We have been here several times before.  In general – and there have been exceptions – common practice seems to be that the benefit of the doubt goes to the horse that passes the post first. Unless it is almost certain that the beaten horse would have won had he or she not been subjected to the interference, then the result is generally allowed to stand.  But that can’t be right.  Why should the transgressor be allowed the benefit of the doubt?

That practice is admittedly more pronounced in Britain than it is in Ireland.  It is extremely rare that a ‘winner’ is disqualified in Britain.  That may be because most bookmakers pay double-result and because the finances of British racing are directly linked to bookmakers’ gross profits, or it may not, but it appears to be the case over there that, unless a horse is beaten by a nose or a short head – and sometimes a short head is even too long – the stewards will hardly even consider amending the result.

You could argue that the Leopardstown stewards got it right on Saturday by giving the benefit of the doubt to the sufferer of the interference, but that would be to ignore precedent.  It is the interpretation of the rule which sets the precedent.  If there is to be a shift in policy to give the benefit of the doubt to the sufferer – and there really should be – then that needs to be made clear to stewards and jockeys and trainers and the racing public.  Draw a line in the sand that over-rides what has gone before and go forward with a new norm.

The current situation, in which very few people have a clear idea as to which way the stewards of the day will lean, is a poor situation.  It fosters uncertainty, inconsistency in decision-making, and this is an area in which consistency should be paramount.

David Wachman and the Niarchos Family are correct to appeal the decision to demote Duntle.  The Matron Stakes is a Group 1 race for fillies, there is a colossal amount at stake, and you just don’t know which way the appeal board will lean.

Alla’s fair

There was a lot to like about the performance that Alla Speranza put up in winning the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Jim Bolger-trained filly was being pushed along by Kevin Manning in fourth place rounding the home turn, apparently not travelling as well as the three horses in front of her. But she picked up impressively once they straightened up, and came with a withering run down the outside to win by a game half-length in a good time, just better than standard.

The combination of good ground and a trip seemed to bring out the best in Kirsten Rausing’s filly. This was the best ground on which she had ever raced, the first time she raced on ground that was better than yielding, and the longest trip that she had ever tried. On this evidence, it is possible that she could improve again for a step up to a mile and a half, and, given that her granddam won the Champion Stakes at four, she could be an even better filly next year if she is kept in training.

Society head-scratcher

Some horses are just sent to confound you. Before last Saturday’s Sprint Cup at Haydock, the James Fanshawe-trained Society Rock was a horse who was better on easy ground than on fast ground, and better at Ascot than he was, well, just about anywhere else.

On ratings, the best three performances of his life were at Ascot, where, a little surprisingly, he has run only five times. He had run 13 times everywhere else, and none of those 13 performances made it into his top three.

His record on ground softer than good read 123, all three races Group 1 contests. His record on ground faster than good read 17227060. The win was as a two-year-old, one of the 2s was in a six-runner listed race for which he was sent off the odds-on favourite, and the other 2 was at – yes you’ve guessed – Ascot.

Even his rider Kieren Fallon, in extolling the horse’s virtues in his column in the Racing Post Weekender in the days leading up to the race, wrote: “He doesn’t mind it being on the soft side, and will act on the ground better than most of his rivals, so you will understand me not wanting to see too much sunshine this week.”

As it turned out, there was sunshine. Lots of it. So much of it, in fact, that the ground was officially firm at post time on Saturday.

We know the end of this story now. Not only did Society Rock win the race, but in so doing, he posted the highest rating of his career to date. His best performance on the fastest ground on which he has ever raced, and not at Ascot.

Time for a new label.

Leger Legends

Watching the finish of the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday, you could have been watching the finish of the 1992 Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks. Twenty years after George Duffield drove User Friendly home by a neck from Michael Kinane and Market Booster, the two riders were at it again.

The heads may be a little wiser, the hair may be a little greyer, but the timing was there, the strength from behind the horses’ necks, the will to win. As it turned out, it was Kinane who forced Patriotic’s head home by a nostril to maintain his 100% record in these legends’ races. 65-year-old Duffield got done for excessive use of the whip, which means that he can’t ride in the Arc de Triomphe this year. Shame.

Long wait

What do Richard Nixon, Eamonn De Valera and Harold Wilson have in common? That’s right, they were all President or Prime Minister of their respective jurisdictions the last time there was a Triple Crown winner.

It’s been a while all right.

© The Irish Field, 15th September 2012