Things We Learned » Stewards made a brave call

Stewards made a brave call

This is probably best done in bullet point form:

  1. As things stand, as the rules are at present, you can argue it either way, you can argue that Simple Verse should have kept the race, and you can argue that Bondi Beach should have been awarded it.  And that is not a good thing.
  2. The fact that Coral are betting 4/7 Bondi Beach in the appeal, 5/4 Simple Verse, tells you that, even now, after viewing all the video evidence and hearing from all concerned parties, nobody has a clue how the appeal is going to go.  That is more an indictment of the rules than it is of any rider.
  3. The fact that people talk about ‘the interpretation of the rule’ is crazy.  Rules should not have to be interpreted.  Rules should be black and white.  If a rule has to be interpreted, it is not a good rule.  It is a recommendation or a guidance, but it cannot reasonably be defined as a rule.  Try to think of another sport in which a rule has to be interpreted.  The off-side rule maybe, but even that is almost clear now.
  4. Rule (B) 54.5 basically says that, if a rider or a horse has caused interference by careless or improper riding, and the stewards are satisfied that the horse improved its placing as a result, then the horse will be disqualified and placed behind the horse with which it has interfered.  If the stewards are not satisfied that the interference improved a horse’s placing, then they must order that the placings remain unaltered.
  5. The difficulty with the rule is that ‘satisfied’ is a loose term.  It’s not ‘virtually certain’.  It’s not even ‘confident’.  Or, at the other extreme, it is not ‘may have improved’.  To what degree do the stewards have to be satisfied?  Do they have to be 90% satisfied?  Is 51% enough?  Is 10%?  Hence the need for interpretation.  It is the loose language of the rule that is causing a lot of the difficulty.
  6. Common practice in Britain in recent times has been to allow the horse that passed the post first to keep the race, unless the interference was significant and the winning margin was short.  As discussed here at length in the past, that practice has created difficulties.
  7. Not only does that practice go against the laws of common sense and fairness, in that the benefit of the doubt goes to the perpetrator, not to the victim, but it has also started to foster a win-at-all-costs mentality among riders that has bordered on dangerous on occasion.
  8. So, while the stewards’ decision on Saturday to throw out the winner, to give the benefit of doubt to the victim, may have been in the best interests of racing going forward, the difficulty is that it has gone against recent precedent.  Hence the furore, hence the appeal.
  9. If this whole garbled episode results in a re-phrasing of the rule to unequivocally give the benefit of doubt to the victim, to place the burden of proof on the perpetrator, then that would be a very good thing.
  10. It was a weekend of it.  Common consensus after the Irish Champion Stakes seemed to be that Golden Horn was safe, because Found had got up to deprive Free Eagle of second place.  Surely that does not make sense either.  If a winner really does cost another horse a chance of winning, shouldn’t he be placed behind that horse?  It is a complex area but, at the very least, it is a debate that is worth having.

Glass half full

Glass House put up quite a remarkable performance in the circumstances to win the Tattersalls Ireland sales race at The Curragh on Sunday.

Just about everything that could have gone against the Ger Lyons-trained filly did go against her.  For starters, she was drawn in stall one of 30, probably in the worst box.  Generally, you want to be close to the stands rail on the straight track at The Curragh when the track is at its widest, perhaps unless the ground is very soft, and the Qatar Racing filly couldn’t have been further from it.

Then she was slowly away.  She wasn’t as slowly away, admittedly, as she had been on her racecourse debut at Navan, but you don’t want to be giving away any ground in a 30-runner juveniles’ charge up the Curragh.  To compound matters, the early pace was not frenetic, so the pace held up well.

Even so, she made up the lost ground quite quickly, she travelled well in behind the leaders, she picked up nicely when Gary Carroll asked her to, and she kept on really well out in the centre to get the better of fellow Qatar Racing filly War Queen close home.

It was an advantage to race handily in the race, and it was an advantage to race close to the stands rail, yet Glass House raced well back in the field and out in the centre of the track.  She raced against the pace bias and against the draw bias.  The eight horses who, with her, filled the first nine places raced either up with the pace or no worse than mid-division.  Also, the six horses who filled places two to seven raced, respectively, from stalls 23, 22, 29, 25, 28 and 30.  She raced from stall one.

This was just her second ever race, she should improve again for it, and she will be of interest wherever she goes next.  She clocked a time that was comparable with the two Group 1 juveniles’ races run over seven furlongs earlier on the card – faster than the colts’ race, marginally slower than the fillies’ race – and she is worth her chance in black type races now.

You have to feel for Cumani

It is always difficult to evaluate a situation without having full information, but, given the information that we have, it was difficult not to feel for Luca Cumani when the news came through on Wednesday evening that Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum would move all his horses from him and transfer them to Roger Varian.

All 23 of them?  35, said Cumani, in a refreshingly candid and magnanimous interview on Racing UK on Thursday.

Cumani and Sheikh Obaid go way back.  It was in 1998 that they won the Derby together with High-Rise.  Remember?  The first hyphenated Derby winner since Sea-Bird?

They won the Royal Whip Stakes together in 1999 with Zomaradah, who had won the Italian Oaks in 1998.  They won a Lancashire Oaks with Emirates Queen, and they won a Celebration Mile with Afsare.  And just this month, they teamed up to win the Bospherous Cup in Turkey with Connecticut and, of course, they won the Prix Foy on Sunday with Postponed, with whom they had won the King George, and who was and presumably still is on track for the Arc.

You wonder what changed, because Sheikh Obaid has horses in training at present with no other trainer in Britain.  It’s a fickle old business.

Postponed no forlorn hope

Speaking of Postponed, as long as his Arc prep is not disturbed by going from one end of Newmarket to the other, he is not without his chance in the Arc.

We all know by now that the Arc is a three-year-olds’ race, that 15 of the last 20 winners were three, that the weight-for-age scale confers an advantage on the Classic generation at this time of year over a mile and a half.  However, the market take the three-year-old factor into account these days, it may even over-compensate for it, and four-year-olds have won two of the last three renewals.

Last Sunday’s Arc trials were all about Treve, and if they were not about Treve they were about New Bay.  Treve looked special all right, and if she does improve again for her Vermeille win, as Criquette Head-Maarek thinks she will, we may as well give her the Jules Rimet trophy now and see about designing another one.

New Bay was also visually impressive in the Niel, he stayed the 12 furlongs well, and that, combined with his eight and 10-furlong pace, makes him a formidable Arc contender.

However, the time that Postponed clocked in winning the Prix Foy was faster than the time that either Treve or New Bay clocked.  He was 1.21secs faster than Treve and 2.22secs faster than New Bay.  The early pace in the Foy was admittedly faster, thanks mainly to Postponed’s pacemaker Roseburg’s contribution, and Postponed was not a visually impressive as either Treve or New Bay, but at least we know that he is in the right ballpark.

He is a battler rather than a flashy, pacey horse.  He will never be overly impressive.  But he is a high-class performer, as he showed in the King George.  He has always been really highly-regarded by Cumani.  Remember when he won the Great Voltigeur last year, the trainer intimated that he wouldn’t go for the Leger because he was keeping him for the big 12-furlong races this year.  Also, he is in the habit of winning now.

Thought to be a fast ground horse before the King George – and, indeed, a doubtful runner at Ascot at one point because of the prospect of soft ground – he handled soft ground well on Sunday and, by Dubawi, he will have nothing to fear if it does happen to come up soft on the first Sunday in October.  He shouldn’t be a 20/1 shot.

Casey’s last ride

It is difficult to believe that it is over 19 years since David Casey rode Mystical City to win the Galway Hurdle, thereby providing Willie Mullins with one of his first big wins as a trainer.  That was just four and a half months after Wither Or Which’s Cheltenham Bumper, and it was seven and a half months before Florida Pearl’s.

Few horses are value at 1/6, but Long Dog, Casey’s last ride, in the novices’ hurdle at Listowel on Wednesday was probably one of them.  Outside of his three opponents, the whole world wanted Casey to go out on a winner, and you can be sure that Willie was always going to find one for him.

It was nice to hear the accolades pouring forth, most notably from Mullins and from Ruby Walsh.  Casey’s is another name that will be missed now in the jockey’s column, but sounds like he is going to be busier than ever now at Closutton.

© The Irish Field, 19th September 2015