Things We Learned » Guinness could be good for you

Guinness could be good for you

The form of the maiden hurdle that Captain Guinness won at Navan last month got a couple of nice boosts within the space of half an hour at Cork on Saturday.

First, fourth-placed Texard won the opening rated novice hurdle.  It might have been interesting if Carrigmoorna Pine hadn’t fallen at the second last flight, Robert Tyner’s horse had made nice progress for Philip Enright and had just joined the front rank when he fell.  But Jack Kennedy hadn’t gone for Texard at that point, he won by over eight lengths in the end, and Gordon Elliott’s horse might have won anyway.

A half an hour after Texard’s win, Navan runner-up Belfast Banter looked set to go on and win the maiden hurdle when he came down at the same second last flight.  Peter Fahey’s horse had just moved through on the inside and was travelling well in front under Kevin Sexton, when he was just a little low at the second last, and came down. 

The task that faced Captain Guinness at Navan was rendered easier than it might have been when Blackbow departed at the final flight, but Rachael Blackmore was only starting to ask Captain Guinness for his effort at that point, and he quickened away from his remaining rivals impressively.  He may have been a 20/1 shot, but he would have at least given Blackbow a real race.

That was Henry de Bromhead’s horse’s first run under any code in public, so there is every reason to expect that he will come on for it, perhaps appreciably.  He will be an interesting contender if he takes up his entry in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Hurdle at Punchestown tomorrow.

No surprise

It wasn’t wholly surprising that the Skeltons’ appeal against Protektorat’s disqualification on New Year’s Day was successful on Thursday. The news that the decision of the raceday stewards was reversed did not shock, that the horse who passed the post first was (re-)awarded the race.

Precedent dictated that Protektorat would keep the race.  We know that the benefit of the doubt goes to the horse who passes the post first.  It was refreshing that, on the day, the Cheltenham stewards gave the benefit of the doubt to the victim, not to the perpetrator.  But it was always probable that the decision would be reversed on appeal, only because that’s the norm in terms of practice these days. 

There was a race at Musselburgh an hour and a half after the Protektorat race in which a similar incident occurred.  On the run-in in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, Nuts Well moved across in front of Cracking Destiny, who had to check and switch.  Cracking Destiny rallied and closed to get to within a head of the winner at the line.  The stewards didn’t even hold an inquiry.

So if there was an inkling that the new year was heralding a new dawn in stewarding in Britain, one in which the benefit of the doubt was going to go to the victim and not the perpetrator, that inkling lasted for about 85 minutes, and it was scuppered completely at Thursday’s appeal.

You could have argued either way in the Protektorat/Imperial Alcazar race.  There was no correct answer.  Nobody knows for sure which horse would have won had they both run on rails.  We have been here before.  In that instance, surely the verdict should go to the horse who suffered the interference, not – as it usually does at present – to the horse who caused the interference and passed the post first. 

In order for this to change, it probably needs a line in the sand and an announcement of a change in protocol.  Then you need raceday stewards to be brave and make the correct calls in the initial stages.  Then you need consistency. 

One other thing …

And one other thing about the possible expansion of the Cheltenham Festival.  Say it did move to five days, six races each day, 30 races in total, so just two extra races.  What would the chances be that, in a little while, a seventh race would quietly be added to one of the days?  Then to another?  Then to another? 

When the fourth day was added in 2005, the total number of races was increased to 24.  Six races each day.  Most of the razzamatazz was about the extra day.  Then the number of races was increased to 25 in 2008, very little razzamatazz.  Then to 26 in 2009, then to 27 in 2011, and to 28 in 2016.

We could be up to 35 races by stealth in no time.

© The Irish Field, 11th January 2020