Events of the last week or so have reminded us all of just how poorly the sport of racing is run.
A race at Cheltenham, yes Cheltenham – the highest profile jumps track in the world, took place in such poor light conditions that the judge couldn’t sufficiently decipher the photo finish so had to call a dead-heat, despite the fact that everyone watching could see that there was a clear winner.
Fontwell got in on the act by overseeing a shambles of their own on Sunday. The concluding handicap hurdle was awarded to the horse that trailed in seventh of eight after all of the other horses were disqualified.
Gathering gloom meant that most of the field bypassed the third last hurdle, believing it to have been dolled off, but ground staff were actually stood behind the hurdle trying to usher the field around a stricken horse.
Disqualifications were inevitable but, as at Cheltenham on Saturday, it is bookmakers that are left counting the cost of the sport’s deficiencies.
Several bookmakers paid out in full on both of the horses involved in the Cheltenham photo finish while punters were also paid out on the disqualified winner at Fontwell as well as those charmed soles that backed Dharma Rain – the horse awarded the race.
Now, you may say that it is each bookmakers’ choice to pay out in such circumstances, but we live in an age where competition is so stiff that layers feel that they simply have no choice but to offer such concessions given punters have so many alternative options.
However, it’s not as straightforward as that. Such acts of generosity cost the betting industry hundreds of thousands of pounds and the knock-on effect is that the sport itself also loses out because it is funded by the levy, which comes from the gross profits of betting on British horseracing.
So, amateurish governance is actually draining the sport of vital income, at a time when prize money levels at the bottom end of the sport are under particular strain. These are matters that need addressing urgently and bringing forward race times at this time of the year is an obvious starting point.
No Spring in Tiger’s Step
Understandably, there has been a fair bit of fallout from Tiger Roll’s desperate performance in Friday’s Cross Country Chase. But it was a comment from the owner, Eddie O’Leary, that intrigued me the most.
O'Leary said: “He's a spring horse, it's as simple as that. Look through his whole career, that tells you everything you need to know.”
Fair enough, but if it is so obvious that Tiger Roll is a ‘spring horse’ then why has he run twice this autumn?
This is how I see it: Tiger Roll’s two runs this winter have been so bad that connections are now pinning their hopes on a spring revival because if there isn’t one then Tiger Roll is done, sadly.
A Morgiana Mess
Like most people, I don’t know what to make of that Morgiana Hurdle form. In Abacadabras and Saint Roi we are dealing with two seriously talented horses, neither of which were able to show the true extent of their talents on Sunday given the tactical nature of the contest.
Abacadabras did enough to get the job done but that was in no small part down to a good tactical ride from Jack Kennedy. Abacadabras hardly excelled in the way he went about his business after the final flight and for all that he probably needs producing off a stronger gallop, I’m inclined to think that Saint Roi has the better prospects going forward.
Like Abacadabras, Willie Mullins' charge needs a stronger gallop but he took a lot longer to settle than that rival and didn’t help his cause with some sticky jumping. Jumping is an area that could hold him back – the best two-mile hurdlers are super slick over their obstacles, but despite those issues, he still came very close to beating a rival that also got a more tactically savvy ride.
In terms of raw talent, Saint Roi has the most scope to leave that form behind.
Tarnawa Not Done With Yet
It looked a short price that Breeders’ Cup heroine Tarnawa would be packed off to the paddocks so it is terrific news for Flat racing fans that HRH The Aga Khan has decided to keep his superstar in training in 2021.
Tarnawa, a three-time Group/Grade 1 winner, will head into the new year as arguably the best, and certainly the most exciting, mile-and-a-half horse in the world. I wrote in an earlier column that I think her performance in the Prix de l’Opera was so good that it would have won her what looked just an average Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and, providing things go to plan, that is the race that Dermot Weld can target with her now.
Is Good Effort the New Kachy?
In case you didn’t know, there is a new kid on the block in the all-weather sprinting division and his name, appropriately, is Good Effort.
This is a division that needed a new star after the tragic loss of Kachy last year, and Good Effort even has a similar, if not identical, run style to Kachy.
Kachy was a speedball that had his rivals on the stretch from the word go and he often had his races won with a furlong still to travel. Good Effort is also a front-runner but he tends to turn the screw in the middle section of the contest which tends to be as the field are going round a bend. And that’s the key point, he is so comfortable going round a bend at speed that he takes his opponents out of their comfort zone.
He might be a five-year-old, but he looks better than ever and is surely the one they all have to beat if going for the sprint on All-Weather Championship Finals Day.