A Common Sense Decision
For all the criticism levelled at racing authorities it cannot be denied there is a new found level of pragmatism when it comes to decision making.
There is a willingness to reschedule lost Group Races and even a willingness to stage additional races to allow some of the top Festival runners to have prep races.
Yesterday the pragmatism went a step further following what could have been a farce at Chepstow.
For those who are not aware of the events in the EBF/TBA Free Racing post Form at totesport.com Mares Novices Chase, here is a brief resumé.
The three mile, six runner, contest was run in very testing conditions, where the going was very heavy.
By the time the runners entered the home straight only three were left in the contest with the leader Orana Conti some 70 lengths in front of second placed (and favourite) Moulin de la Croix with the outsider Ringsend Rose a further distance back in third place, coming home in her own time.
Orana Conti came to the open ditch and took a crashing fall, leaving the favourite in front.
Moulin de la Croix then approached the fence, hardly took off and ploughing through the top, unseated his rider Sam Twiston- Davies.
This left Ringsend Rose with Jimmy Derham on board the only remaining runner. (Remember under the new rules Twiston-Davies was not allowed to remount the favourite)
As he approached the fence Derham could see there was a stricken horse and two jockeys on the landing side of the fence. At the same time the vet was running across behind the fence to attend Orana Conti and a fence attendant in front of the fence was waving Derham round the fence.
Derham, therefore by-passed the fence, even though it had not officially been dolled of.
Ringsend Rose then went on to complete the race at odds of 28/1.
The immediate impression in the press room was the race would be declared void as, in by-passing a fence which had not been dolled off, Ringsend Rose had technically taken the wrong course.
In which case Ringsend Rose would be disqualified and the race would be declared void.
I should say at this point the view of the most senior member of the press room was probably prejudiced by the fact he had a substantial “investment” on the favourite and stood to have his stake refunded had Ringsend Rose been thrown out.
Equally, though, there was a group of punters just outside the press room who had backed Ringsend Rose and were hoping the horse would keep the race and were not too impressed with our discussions with the SP reporters when we opined the race would be declared void.
Indeed we were not the only ones thinking the race would be void as we saw more than one person collecting discarded betting slips in the hope of a payout should the race be declared void.
The Stewards deliberated for a good 20 minutes and by all accounts, although not officially confirmed, their deliberations included discussions with “Head Office”.
When the verdict was announced there was surprise amongst the “professionals”. Here is the verdict as reported by the stewards.
“The Stewards enquired into the possibility that the winner, Ringsend Rose (IRE), ridden by Jimmy Derham, had taken the wrong course. They interviewed the rider in the presence of the Clerk Of The Course, Mr Calvin Yates a fence attendant, Dr Leigh Davies a doctor and Mr Adam Jones the Acting Head Groundsman.
“Having heard their evidence, and viewed a video recording of the race, the Stewards were satisfied that Jimmy Derham had failed to jump the second last fence owing to exceptional circumstances, namely that he could see a fallen horse and two jockeys on the landing side of the fence and he was waved round to avoid them.
“They were further satisfied that he gained no advantage since he finished alone and therefore ordered the placing to remain unaltered.”
Speaking afterwards the Stipendiary Steward Simon Cowley explained, “"The rule covering this type of incident allows the stewards to let the result stand if the rider's reasons for taking the wrong course were satisfactory and all the remaining riders in the race took the same course.”
It was good to see a common sense decision made by the stewards, although there have been, as one would expect, the usual pocket talking whingers complaining on the Betfair forum (and presumably on other Forums as well).