6 Results Found For: May 2019

29th May 2019 – Later

Very interesting to hear that the BHA conducted three pre-race inquiries into runners trained by Irish trainer Denis Hogan. Apparently, the inquiries mostly centred around riding instructions that were to be given to the jockeys. The trainer contacted the BHA about this and was told that they have the power to do it. I am sure they do but I’d be very interested to hear how often this has occurred in the past and when. Is this a new idea?

I have only once, that I can remember, had to attend a stewards inquiry before a race and it wasn’t in this country. I’ll leave you to guess where it was.

29th May 2019

It was very refreshing to read Jamie Osborne’s Tuesday Column in the Racing Post yesterday. I hope this is to become a regular feature. We always have a good, sometimes heated, debate on racing, the meaning of life, and other vitally important issues when we meet up at the sales or races. It would be great to read his views on a regular basis.


25th May 2019

It is reported in the Racing Post this morning, and I had already heard elsewhere, that there was annoyance at the late arrival of horses in the parade ring at Sandown on Thursday night. My horses were amongst those late in the parade ring for the Henry ll stakes and I very much sympathise with those who would have liked them to be there earlier but it is totally wrong to suggest that it is deliberate and that we aim for the horses to arrive late. The previous race was a little late off and two of my three jockeys were late to weigh out for the Henry 11. I already had Making Miracles saddled before Charlie arrived with the next two saddles and we had separate teams saddling Dee Ex Bee and Austrian School but, nonetheless, there was apparently a call for our horses to come to the parade ring before we were ready. I didn’t notice but apparently Mekong didn’t come to the parade ring at all for that race. Sir Michael Stoute must have had dispensation if that was the case.

I do accept that the horses should be in the parade ring before the race but I would be most disappointed if the right to saddle in the stables was withdrawn as commentator Richard Hoiles is apparently suggesting. Saddling boxes on many tracks are inadequate and can be a very unpleasant place to be with a fractious horse. Surely, the most important thing for all concerned is to get the horses to the race ready to do their best and not to have them upset before they even get to the parade ring.

The first race at Sandown on Thursday night was over six minutes late – I don’t know why, I didn’t have a runner in it. – and officials were trying to catch up. The second race was over two minutes late but the Henry 11 Stakes started 1 minute and 18 seconds after the appointed time: the closest to scheduled off time of any race on the night. That is largely down to it being the smallest field (two other races had only one more participant) but it shows that the horses were all at the start in good time and that delays from the first race had been made up.

23rd May 2019

Before continueing further on the watering debate can I stress again that I am not having a go at any particular racetrack or clerk of the course. This issue is a problem for racing as a whole and, perhaps, even for the future  strength and development of the thoroughbred breed: we should be colectively looking for a policy that can be implemented, and enforced, by the BHA to address it. But maybe we don’t do ‘collectively’ too well in racing.

York have, this morning, in their usual super-efficient way, sent out a going update in advance of their Saturday meeting. It states that the ground is Good to Firm and that there has been no rain since the Dante. They then state that they are watering each night ‘to replace moisture’.

They are clearly aiming for Good to Firm ground, as BHA guidlines suggest, and doing their best to produce it, to order, on the day. But I don’t think I need to be an agronomist, or even a gardener, to know that there is nothing natural about watering every night to replace moisture lost. Surely it is this approach to grass management – perhaps forced on racecourses by BHA guidlines and trainer pressure – that is causing many of the problems we encounter on tracks in recent years with a loose surface and sand filler flying even on ground that is described as Good to Firm. Is it not fairly obvious that, if a small amount of water is applied to grass on a daily basis, the roots will always be near to the surface and that constant supply of moisture.

We have, perhaps, forgotten what it was like under the old Jockey Club instructions – or were they just guidlines? – which said courses should only water to promote grass growth and not to alter the state of the going. In those days, if I remember rightly, Firm ground was much more common and we raced on Hard at times. Is the new system better? Do we get more or less non-runners due to going? Are the horses sounder than they were? My gut feeling is that that was a better and certainly fairer system. Back then the clerks of the courses could quite simply blame nature and the weather: two things which we all accept are outwith their control.



22nd May 2019 …. later

Well, having said that the Racing Post article came across as me ‘bashing’ clerks of courses, so, when I read it again now, did my Bletherings. In short, I am saying that clerks of courses are wrong to aim for softer than Good to Firm ground and that they are wrong to water so regularly but I can understand why they do it. The answer is to take the responsibility away from them or, at least, have rules and checks in place to ensure that they are genuinely aiming for Good to Firm ground.

22nd May 2019

It is unfortunate that yesterday’s piece in the Racing Post about watering came across as me ‘bashing’ clerks of courses and particularly unfortunate that two individual tracks were singled out. I have the utmost symapthy for clerks of courses over this issue. They are in an invidious position and much of the blame surely sits with trainers who complain about watering but are quick to withdraw horses when they perceive the ground to be too firm. I get the impression that there are more non-runners on Good to Firm ground than there are on Good ground and, if that is the case, it is little wonder that many clerks of courses play safe and aim for Good ground or, at least, water to ensure that there is no chance of the ground going to Firm.

The fault here surely lies with the BHA’s failure to take control of the issue. They are very quick to point out that they provide guidlines, not rules, on what courses should be aiming for and the official going description is left to the, potentially biased, clerk of the course. How can something which will be written in stone in the form book for ever more, as if it were fact, be down to the opinion of one person. Even when going descriptions are changed mid meeting the, clearly wrong, description, in place before the change, remains. Likewise, going descriptions which are shown to be inaccurate based on race times are left unchanged and remain on a horse’s record for life and beyoond.

Stewards are liable to question trainers’ reasoning for withdrawal of horses based on ground and explanations for poor, or improved, performances which refer to ground conditions but the clerk of the course is not subject to sanction in the same way. Surely, the very least the BHA should be doing is to have an independant assement of the ground on raceday and put in place some sanction for courses who regularly get it wrong. It would also help if official going descriptions were checked against race times and could be corrected. Again, some sanction should be in place for those tracks who are consistantly wrong although, where ground is consistantly softer than described on a track, average race times for that track will, of course, be slower than they should be.

We have to somehow remove the incentive for tracks to trickle water on in an attempt to keep the going on that knife edge between Good to Firm and Good. It is, in my opinion, this regular, minimal, watering that does the greatest damage with roots turning to the surface rather than going down in search of water and a consequencially loose surface.

Staff Area