Things We Learned » Foot notes

Foot notes

Volume-gate dominated the preamble to Saturday’s Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh. Drama before the stalls even opened.

The problem arose because the protrusions on the shoes on Volume’s hind feet are apparently allowed in lots of racing jurisdictions, but they are not allowed in Ireland. Some say that they enhance safety, in that they stop the filly injuring herself; others say that they are a danger to the other horses. Whatever the arguments for or against, the fact remains that the rules are different, they are allowed in one jurisdiction, not allowed in another. Different rules in different racing jurisdictions, even jurisdictions separated just by the width of the Irish Sea.

It is understandable that there have been calls during the week for the standardisation of racing rules. If you kick a fellow on the shin on a football pitch in Buenos Aires, a free is awarded against you; same as if you kick a fellow on the shin on a football pitch in Fairview. If you drive your ball out of bounds at St Andrew’s, you play your third shot from the tee; same as if you drive your ball out of bounds at Baltray.

The difficulty is that there is no global governing body for racing. There is no FIFA, no PGA.

If you come off your racing line at Sha Tin and nudge a rival, you get disqualified and a minimum of three days. If you carry your rival across the track at Newmarket, you probably get to keep the race as long as you ‘win’ by more than a nose. If you race on lasix or bute at the Curragh, you get disqualified. If you do not race on lasix or bute at Churchill Downs, people wonder why you don’t.

The reality is, there are racing rules other than those that relate to footwear that are in more urgent need of standardisation on a global scale.

Worked up

Some fillies suffered more than others at the hands of the 20-minute delay to the start of the Irish Oaks. Interestingly, the winner Bracelet seemed to be as happy as a lamb, a quiet one, meandering around the parade ring secure in her hood, her ears insulated from the hubbub even if her eyes weren’t. By contrast, Tapestry seemed to be getting more and more anxious with every circuit that she completed.

Tapestry was unquestionably one of those fillies who was most inconvenienced by the delay. Aidan O’Brien said beforehand that she usually goes out with first or second lot at home, just because she simply wants to get on with it. That if they left her until sixth or seventh lot, she would be in danger of melting.

To compound matters, she stumbled on leaving the stalls, her saddle shifted back, and Joseph O’Brien performed heroics just to stay with her and retain his balance, not to mind ride a race and kick out a finish. In the end, she went down by just an ever-decreasing neck.

Put all that with the fact that she was such a good juvenile last year, that she won the Group 2 Debutante Stakes and that she was an unlucky (promoted) second in the Moyglare, that she was sent off as favourite for the 1000 Guineas, that she did well to get as close as she did given the run she had through the race in the Coronation Stakes, that Joseph chose to ride her on Saturday in front of a Ribblesdale winner and an Irish Guineas winner, and she may be the filly to take out of the race. She could still be a Group 1 winner-in-waiting.

Colm collects

Joseph O’Brien was not the only rider who excelled in the Irish Oaks. It is always easy to say that a winning ride was a good one, but Colm O’Donoghue was very good on Bracelet.

Riding a filly in whose stamina he could have complete confidence, he was never too far off the fast pace that Volume set. Keeping everything simple, he resisted the temptation to ask his filly for her effort as soon as they straightened up for home. He waited until the two-furlong pole had passed him by on his right before he picked her up, and he didn’t reach for his stick until a furlong and a half out.

Switching his whip dexterously from right to left and from left to right, he kept his willing filly going all the way to the line. Testimony to the quality of the ride was that, at no point during the final furlong did you think that Bracelet was not going to win. The rides that keep everything simple are often the best rides.

O’Donoghue is back in Ireland now after a six-month stint in Hong Kong. He is obviously not number one at Ballydoyle, but he is an integral member of the team, and he grabs the opportunities with both hands when they come his way, and many do, as he proved yet again on Sunday. Saturday’s win was his second Irish Classic, to go with his Irish Derby win on Treasure Beach.

O’Donoghue has also ridden to Group 1 or Grade 1 success on Spartacus, Jan Vermeer, Joshua Tree, Together and Astronomer Royal, and he almost landed the Grade 1 Belmont Derby on Adelaide three weeks ago. He is a top rider, a cool head on the big occasion.

Age stats

At first glance, the stats tell you that the four-year-olds hold sway in this afternoon’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, sponsored by Qipco, not De Beers, so it’s not the Diamond Stakes. (Hands up if you thought, before De Beers ended their sponsorship, that the Diamond bit was part of the title of the race, not a reference to the company’s sponsorship.)

Nine wins from 39 runners in the last 10 years for the four-year-olds for a strike rate of just over 23% tells you that it is with last year’s Classic generation that you should probably start.

However, although the three-year-olds have won just once in the last decade, they have only had 11 runners, and they have had three placed horses (27%) from those 11. Also, although five-year-olds have provided no winners of the race in the last decade from 21 representatives, they have had seven places (33%). This compares favourably with the four-year-olds’ placed record of five from 39 (13%).

So don’t go ruling out Mukhadram on the age stat alone, and be aware that the three-strong challenge from the Classic generation is the joint-strongest numerically in the last decade, up there with the three-pronged challenge of 2009.

Top class

Q1: What do these horses have in common: Go And Go, Dance Design, Unaccompanied, Market Booster?

A1: Yes, they were/are all owned by Moyglare Stud. (Two points)

Q2: What do those horses named above in Q1 and these horses have in common: Grey Swallow, Pale Mimosa, Casey Tibbs, Mustajeeb, Tarfasha?

A2: Correct, they were/are all trained by Dermot Weld. (Four points)

Q3: What do all those horses named above in Q1 and Q2 and these horses have in common: Caradak, Aristotle, Hemingway, Mikhail Glinka, Magical Dream, Sugar Boy, The Great Gatsby?

A3: Well done, they were/are all subsequent Pattern race performers who won at the Galway Festival. (Six points)

Up you go now to the top of the class, and be sure to pay attention again next week.

© The Irish Field, 26th July 2014