The Whip and Frankel (totally unrelated)
Since my last brain dump plenty has happened in the world of racing.
Dominant has been the debate surrounding the use of the whip and, frankly, neither side have really done their cause much good with some very emotive and entrenched views and some of the arguments put forward have been frankly ludicrous.
One argument, in particular, which made me smile was that if we were to introduce a whip ban it would mean we would be out of line with the rest of the racing world, a fair point. Yet some of those making that argument were the ones who were up in arms when the draw numbering system was changed to bring us in line with the rest of the world and the very same people were arguing alignment was no reason to change. It’s funny how an argument can be turned around to suit ones current stance.
I have to say I don’t hold any strong views either way and I think the current rules are just about right. Where I do have an issue is the punishment for whip misuse does not act as a sufficient deterrent.
The punishment should act as a deterrent.
I had long advocated disqualifying horses where there has been whip abuse, however it was pointed out to me by a leading administrator in the sport that introducing disqualification would give a relatively easy way for a jockey to deliberately lose a race if they were that way inclined and I have to admit they do have a point.
I have since heard two other alternatives, both of which have some credibility.
The first is to extend the current “palpable” non-runner where, if a horse wins by virtue of misuse of the whip, the stewards would have the power to declare the winner a non-runner, in which way punters would get their money refunded and connections would not get any prize money.
The second option would be for the result to stand but for all prize money to be withheld.
Neither option is perfect, indeed is any solution perfect, however whilst not eradicating the problem completely hitting (no pun intended) connections in the pocket will certainly focus the mind and those riders with a track record of heavy handed whip use may well find their employment prospects become limited.
On the subject of suspect rides it seems the sport may be under the spotlight again as the BHA carry out further investigations into possible race fixing. A number of names, including a high profile rider, have been bandied about. The BHA have been coming under pressure to reveal all as soon as possible. Bearing in mind the problems with previous investigations I would much prefer the BHA took more time, obtained water tight evidence and make sure there is a strong case, rather than acting quickly and getting it wrong.
Last weekend it was great to see racing making the headlines for all the right reasons. I defy anybody who saw Frankel’s demolition job in the 2000 Guineas not to be impressed. I watched the race at Uttoxeter and I have to confess it was the first time I have seen a jump crowd watching a flat race in near silence and then breaking out into spontaneous applause as the winner crossed the line. As one of my colleagues, who had been around a long time, said “it was a privilege to watch that.”
There was a great deal of subsequent debate as to where he went next, with a large number of observers wanting him to head for the Derby.
I must confess I would like to have seen him go to Epsom, although I have to confess that was my heart talking. My head was saying going to Epsom would be a mistake as his free running style would not be suited to the extreme test of stamina offered by Epsom. It is becoming clear he is not the sort of horse who can be settled quietly and The Derby is not a race which generally lends itself to such tactics.
Clearly his trainer Henry Cecil, who has probably forgotten more about training horses than most hacks will ever know, also concurs and it seems Frankel is going to be following the mile route this season.
It is going to be a great summer in the mile division and it will be interesting to see how other outfits, especially Ballydoyle, approach Frankel’s future races this season. Methinks there could be some very tactical contests coming up and some very interesting use of pacemakers.