Sandown Injustice Shows Racing Needs More Progressive Rulebook

The sport simply cannot sit back and let such scenarios play out again in the future, writes Gavin Beech

Sandown Injustice Shows Racing Needs More Progressive Rulebook

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Every now and again the sport of racing throws up a ‘how was that allowed to happen?’ moment and we got one at Sandown on Saturday.

The Sandown hill has seen some drama over the years but there can be few injustices on the scale of Saturday’s Bet365 Gold Cup.

We’ll never know whether Enrilo would have re-rallied to fend off the fast-finishing Kitty’s Light – there are some out there that are adamant that he would have. They might be right, but no one can be certain.

The injustice here is the awarding of the race to Potterman who has benefitted from a quite barmy set of rules.

Potterman ran a huge race and all credit to the Alan King-trained 8-year-old for doing so but for him to be handed the £64,710 first prize when it was clear for all to see that he was the third best horse on the day is quite staggering.

The rules focus on demotion so I understand how this result came about but it is so blatantly unjust that the sport simply cannot sit back and let such scenarios play out again in the future.

Enrilo didn’t interfere with Potterman and beat him fair and square so in an ideal world Potterman should never have been awarded the race.

Only two outcomes should have been possible in the subsequent Stewards Enquiry – Enrilo was allowed to keep the race or Kitty’s Light was awarded it.

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Kitty’s Light was only a short head behind Potterman despite having been broadsided by the wandering Enrilo as he was motoring up the hill and there can’t have been a single person watching that race that thought Kitty’s Light wouldn’t have finished in front of Potterman had he had a clean shot at it up the hill. Whether he would have beaten Enrilo is another matter.

No racing jurisdiction has a perfect set of rules and there are obvious advantages in having a stable framework even when we all know that certain scenarios, like this one, won’t be resolved to everyone's liking.

However, there simply has to be scope for something more progressive in the rulebook, something that can be enacted when there is a danger of an injustice occurring.

I appreciate that giving people a license to be a little more creative and free-thinking can lead to inconsistency but if we are confident in the ability and knowledge of the people making the decisions, then I see no reason why we can’t give them license to amend a result more creatively.

Of course, in the Sandown scenario, the stewards would still have a call to make on whether Enrilo had the time to rally when Kitty’s Light came to him, but in such a case, why not allow them to call a dead heat between the pair because they can’t be sure either way how it would have panned out?

Like it or not, that outcome would have been infinitely more just than the one that actually happened.

Given this happened in the biggest race of the day and was live on ITV, I’m amazed that some bookmakers didn’t step in with a justice payout on Kitty’s Light. Most would have paid on first past the post so Enrilo’s backers, and there were many of them, would have been rewarded anyway.

Giving stewards the license to be a bit more creative in close finishes would also have another upside.

Promotion An Option That Needs Considering

Flat racing fans were united in uproar over Rab Havlin’s ride (more about the rider shortly) on Stowell at Lingfield last week and understandably, so how about, in such circumstances, the stewards have it within their remit to promote such a horse to first place? Is that as crackpot an idea as it sounds? I'm not sure it is.

It might seem a bit harsh on the winner who has done nothing wrong but the point is that, had Stowell been given anything like a proper ride, then he would have won.

That race sends out a message to punters and not one the sport wants to convey. If Stowell had been the first horse that I had backed in my life (I didn’t back it) then I would walk away from that race thinking the game is bent. Sure, Havlin had the book chucked at him but how does that help those that backed the best horse in the race but lost their money?

If we want to attract new fans to the sport of racing, then we must do everything we can to show them the sport isn’t as crooked as events like that at Lingfield make it look. One way of doing that is by allowing stewards to promote horses that quite clearly should or would have won.

Havlin Ride A Real Shocker

There can be no excuses for Havlin’s ride aboard Stowell and his 21-day ban is fully just.

John Gosden has since come out and told us that he doesn’t want his first-time out horses to be hit with the whip but that somewhat misses the point. Havlin didn’t lose that race because he didn’t have a whip, he lost it through sheer lack of endeavour and strength in the saddle. If that is as strong as Havlin is on a horse, then he shouldn't be riding.

We got to see just what a John Gosden newcomer can do when Martin Harley booted home Tangelo under just a hands and heels ride at Lingfield on Monday.

The difference between the two rides is simple: Martin Harley wanted to win while Rab Havlin didn’t.