The racing world can move quickly at times. Too quick for a natural slow-coach with a lot on his plate to keep tabs with. So a bit of catching-up is required.
I do not approve of the B.H.B.’s decision to disallow entry to the Derby and other top races to any horse they consider a no-hoper. This edict determines the ending of Foinavon-like fairy tale triumphs and simply make it easier for the big stables to farm the top races. Of course to protect the big stables they will not include pacemakers in this ‘no-hoper’ category, even though pacemakers have as little hope of winning as horses rated too low to be allowed entry into the race. Also, no-hopers are normally ridden out the back in hope of running past tiring horses and achieve finishing close enough to earn some prize money, whereas pacemakers by definition lead the race and when tired fall back through the pack causing, invariably, traffic problems for horses coming from behind.
To my mind the situation would be better tackled by imposing a sliding scale of entry fees whereby it costs less to run a top-rated horse in the Derby than a lowly rated horse. If it cost ten times the amount to run a ‘no-hoper’ than a favourite this might be all that is required to deter the fairy-tale seekers. Also, though as the big owners have money to burn I doubt it, it might persuade trainers to run their Derby hopes more often so as to boost their rating and bring down the cost of running for their owners.
Born out of the furore caused by one owner wishing to have a runner in the 2017 Derby the B.H.B. has created a hornets nest of debate that can only have a negative effect for racing. As of now they have not changed the situation whereby a jockey with minimal experience can ride in races like the Derby, a situation more fraught with danger than a lowly-rated horse could ever cause. I suggest they look to the conditions of the Grand National where, I believe, a jockey must have ridden 15 winners before they can ride in the race.
The scourge of non-runners is a situation created by the B.H.B. when they allowed trainers to ‘self-certificate’. Surely they should have known that some trainers would take advantage of the situation. It’s only human nature, after all to try to win an advantage.
Apart from the major races, where betting turnover is important, I see no merit in 48-hour declarations and believe the ‘scourge of non-runners’ would be better solved if they reverted to the 24-hour system still in place for National Hunt. In my opinion the B.H.B., rather like whatever political party is in government, create more problems by tinkering than if they left well alone. I sometimes think the B.H.B. should ask Mark Johnston and John Gosden their opinions on any topic of debate and when they agree do that.
You only have to go through the history of their attempts to get the whip rules sorted out to realise how uninspiring their decision making is at times.
The Shergar Cup.
A great idea that is in need of expansion. 10 runner fields when with a little imagination each race could have the magic sixteen. 4 teams is not enough. 6 or 7 would make the day far more interesting. Team 1. British. Team 2. Irish. Team 3 European. Team 4 Rest of the World. Team 5 Girls. Team 6 Male Apprentices. Team 7 Female Apprentices.
Maths are not my strong suit and 16 may well not be the magic number but I am certain that something on the lines of the above will make for much more exciting racing. Also, with larger fields the concept of a I.T.V. 7 type bet could be invented for the day and promoted throughout the betting industry, with a slice of the pooled bets going to Racehorse Rehabilitation charities.
ere to edit.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.