2017 Wrapped: Aidan O’Brien

by Niamh

O'Brien Our ‘2017 Wrapped’ articles this week, looking at the racing year in review, would not be complete without some mention of the brilliant Aidan O’Brien who has had one of the best seasons in his illustrious career and possibly the best season imaginable for any trainer that there has ever been.

When it comes to the master of Ballydoyle the racing world has come to expect him to win multiple group 1s and classics in a single season as well as having a whole host of superstar horses at his disposal. A lot of people would crack under the pressure that O’Brien faces day in day out with the responsibility of creating the next throng of racing legends and being unquestionably expected to do so, and yet Aidan performs year after year to a standard that exceeds even our wildest dreams. Every year we approach the flat season with a general idea of which horses are going to take a starring role in which races and this year was no different, although I think that very few people would have been able to have predicted exactly what would happen in 2017 – a year that was packed full of surprises.

For Aidan O’Brien, the year got off to a flying start. Wins in both the English and Irish 1000 and 2000 Guineas with Winter and Churchill. Winter was possibly the biggest surprise of the season as she came from nowhere as a two year old to become a four time group 1 winner. Churchill had the complete opposite introduction to the racing public as he burst onto the scene when winning the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot before winning the National Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes at the end of 2016. A lot was expected of Churchill in 2017 and he certainly delivered in the early classics holding Barney Roy off at Newmarket and then winning easily at the Curragh a few weeks later. It was an incredible feat by any means to stand unbeaten in the first four classics of the season – in fact the classics proved very profitable hunting ground for the Ballydoyle team as it was only Enable in both the Epsom and Irish Oaks that prevented them from making a clean sweep of every single Classic in the British and Irish racing calendar. Success with Wings Of Eagles in the Derby, Capri in the Irish Derby and St Leger and Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger also followed later in the season to add to Aidan O’Brien’s success.

But it wasn’t just classics that O’Brien was sending out winners in, he won 6 races at Royal Ascot with success for Highland Reel (Prince Of Wales), Sioux Nation (Norfolk), Caravaggio (Commonwealth), Winter (Coronation), September (Chesham) and Idaho (Hardwicke). It was an uncharacteristic slow start to the Royal meeting for the team, though, as they failed to send out a winner on day 1 as Churchill disappointed in the St James’ Palace Stakes – but that soon changed as Highland Reel showed his typical toughness and bravery to win the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes, following on from his Coronation Cup success at Epsom just a few weeks earlier, for which he only arrived at the course an hour before he was due to run due to problems with transport.

Other horses that must be mentioned that were impartial to the Ballydoyle success of 2017 included 3 time group 1 winner Roly Poly who won the Falmouth Stakes, the Prix Rothschild and the Sun Chariot Stakes as well as a number of high quality two year olds, Hydrangea and Rhododendron. The great Galileo, a Ballydoyle graduate, also deserves a mention as without him many of these horses would not even be here. His record is phenomenal and he continues to be synonymous in his partnership with Aidan O’Brien even sixteen years after his final race.

With all of this success there was only one thing on the minds of flat racing fans everywhere, the push for Aidan O’Brien to beat a record that had previously been set by Bobby Frankel, 25 group 1 wins in a single season. Aidan didn’t just beat that record, he destroyed it as success continued to present itself even after Saxon Warrior’s victory in the Racing Post Trophy registering his trainer’s 26th group 1 win of the season. This further success came at the Breeders Cup with Mendelssohn and in Hong Kong with the ever-reliable Highland Reel as he signed off his career with a tremendous victory overseas. After beating the great Bobby Frankel’s record at Doncaster, however, surrounded by his family O’Brien reflected all of the praise he received straight back to the team behind his success at Ballydoyle. You see, that’s the thing about Aidan O’Brien, no matter how much success he has he remains humble and thankful for what he has achieved and the hard work and talent of the team he works with day in day out.

When it comes to Aidan O’Brien there is simply no other trainer like him. He is a gentleman – humble, grateful and very down to earth. It is easy to see why many, including myself, consider him to be the greatest trainer there has ever been. Yes, it does help that he has the full force of Coolmore behind him, but it’s one thing to have the horses, it’s a completely different ball game to be able to train them to win time and time again. His success speaks for itself and in terms of how quickly he has risen through the ranks to get to the top of the mountain of horse racing where he now stands, the king of the castle, it cannot be emphasised enough how brilliant an achievement that actually is.

So what could possibly happen next in the Aidan O’Brien saga? What will he achieve in 2018? He has a number of exciting two year olds to look forward to such as US Navy Flag, Mendelssohn, September, Happily and Clemmie as well as some old favourites like Order Of St George and Capri. The high quality within his team of horses even leaves the racing world open to a lot of speculation, could he possibly top his record of 28 group 1 wins next season? With the form he has been in of late, I definitely wouldn’t dismiss that thought.

2017 Wrapped- National Hunt Racing At Its Best.

By Samantha

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Cotswold Chase. Thistlecrack (nearside) and Many Clouds fighting out the finish. (Not our photo)

It’s been a year filled with incredible National Hunt races that truly summed up the essence of the sport. There has been highs and lows with some of the big favourites of National Hunt fans being lost. The racing included some thrilling finishes and high class clashes.

The year kicked off with ITV taking over the main horse racing coverage. At first fans were unsure. Filled with cheesy scenes from presenters and bad jokes, the New Years Day coverage was nothing like how Channel 4 had done it before but now racing fans have accepted the new crew. The behind the scenes parts if the programme shows vinners the work that goes on in racing and that’s good to see.

Racing fans got exactly what the sport needed in the Cotswold Chase of 2017- a thrilling battle between the best of the best. King George winner Thistlecrack locked horns with Grand National winner Many Clouds in an amazing race. In the end, Many Clouds won by a head after being passed by Colin Tizzard’s Grade 1 winner in the run in but fighting all the way to the finish to prevail.

But then disaster struck. Many Clouds collapsed in the shadow of the winning post and it was later confirmed that the horse was put down. The whole racing world was shook by the tragic loss. His trainer Oliver Sherwood said, “I always said he would die for you and he’s died for me and the team today doing what he does best.” That is true- he died doing what he did best, winning.

After recovering from the heartbreak of Many Clouds, the racing word turned their attention to Cheltenham. Buveur D’air (5/1) bolted up in the Champion Hurdle under Noel Fehily. He was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of My Tent Or Yours, a synonymous second place horse. The favourite Yanworth (2/1) was also owned by JP McManus like Buveur D’air and My Tent Or Yours but he didn’ seem to fire and seemed outpaced towards the end.

The RSA Novices’ Chase was by far the most dramatic race of the meeting though. At two out, Might Bite was 12 lengths clear of the remainder of the field but he made a mistake at the last fence and veered right at one furlong out and was temporarily headed by his stablemate Whisper. It went to a photo and Might Bite won the race by a nose, which was a good thing for punters as he was the 7/2 favourite.

The main race of the festival was won by Sizing John. The gelding was trained by Henry De Bromhead but was transferred to Jessica Harrington’s yard at the start of the 16/17 season by his owners Ann and Alan Potts. He was a 7/1 chance to land the spoils under Robbie Power. Old favourite Cue Card fell at three out and Sizing John headed long time leader Native River at two out and went clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths with Minella Rocco in second.

At the start of April, the nation tuned in to watch the Grand National live on ITV. Blaklion was the favourite to win the infamous chase but he came forth. Second favourite Definitely Red was pulled up after a saddle malfunction. In the end, One For Arthur won under Derek Fox and for Lucinda Russell. He had Cause Of Causes four and a half lengths behind in second.

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Coneygree, Djackadam and Sizing John fight out the finish to the Punchestown Gold Cup. (Not our photo)

Now the season was coming to a close. At Punchestown, the Gold Cup had a thrilling finish between three high class chasers- Djackadam, Sizing John and Coneygree. They were neck-and-neck at the last but Sizing John stayed on to win by a short head to Djackadam in second.

Then the big national Hunt horses were turned out for the summer, turning the attention of racing fans to the flat.

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Daryl Jacob and Bristol De Mai. (Not our photo) 

The first Grade One race of the 17/18 National Hunt Season came around in November. Ran over 3 miles and 1 and a half furlongs, the Betfair Chase was won in tremendous style by Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey Bristol De Mai. The gelding had won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby beating Blaklion and Definitely Red, who both franked the form after that (Blaklion won the Becher Chase and Definitely Red won the Many Clouds Chase). Bristol De Mai won the Betfair Chase by a whopping 57 lengths to Cue Card and new rider Harry Cobden. His win was expected considering he was 11/10 favourite but no one expected him to win by that much because of the field of brilliant horses.

Christmas for National Hunt fans was incredible. It all kicked off with Sam Spinner winning the Long Walk Hurdle on the 23rd then the racing took a pause for the Christmas festivities. On Boxing Day, the King George VI Chase was won by Might Bite. The cheeky son of Scorpion won by a length with 50/1 outsider Double Shuffle back in second. The previously quirky individual was very mature in the race and didn’the give his owner or trainer any unnecessary scares. In the other two Grade Ones on the card, Black Corton gave Bryony Frost her first Grade One win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and Buveur D’air won the Christmas Hurdle.

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Might Bite crossing the line in the King George VI Chase ahead of last year’s winner Thistlecrack. (Not our photo)

On the following day, Politologue bolted up in the Desert Orchid Chase, giving Sam Twiston-Davies a welcome first winner after coming back from his time on the side lines after breaking his elbow. Politologue was left in the front when Special Tiara took a crashing fall. The 8/15 favourite gave punters a scary moment when he dragged his feet through the top of the last but ran on, unchallenged, by the other two runners.

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Politologue and Paul Nicholls. (Not our photo)

It has been a brilliant year. Bring on 2018!!

2017 WRAPPED: The Diore Lia saga

^Diore Lia, not out photo

By Evie
It was to be the story of the year. In Summer 2017 it was hard to escape the many articles surrounding one particular horse. The story just kept escalating, with people continually hoping the whole thing was finished, only for more articles to be published about the horse.

On May 29th the Derby declarations were released featuring Permian, Eminent and Cracksman. All horses you would expect in a race of this calibre and prestige. There didn’t seem to be any main contenders, but nonetheless almost all of the horses had previous successes that would naturally have seen them entered in the Derby.

Joining them, Diore Lia. Almost immediately alarm bells were raised of the dangers of having such an inexperienced horse in the Derby with 19 other horses. She had never won a race, in her two career starts.

It also raised questions about the Derby itself. Should there be a minimum rating or skill level for horses entered in the Derby? The integrity of the race was being heavily questioned, such as the fact that a maiden would be able to run in a race of such prestige.

A new layer of controversy was added. Diore Lia would be ridden by Gina Mangan, winner of only one race and not nearly as experienced as a rider in the Derby should be. Again people began to wonder if there should be a minimum level of skill jockeys should have before they faced one of the most famous races in the world.

Yet the Diore Lia camp marched on, their horse ready for the Derby, and ready for her prize money to be sent to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Eventually the BHA intervened, preventing Gina Mangan from riding in the Derby. This caused uproar, with people saying the horse was a risk and not the jockey. The owner said his horse would not race without Gina Mangan onboard. However, by the 1st of June, apprentice Paddy Pilley had the ride. At the time of the entry he had 34 wins and so was more experienced than Gina Mangan.

And so Diore Lia was all set for the Derby. 

Spectators were ready for her to arrive at Epsom on Derby day, and expected her to finish trailing the pack.

And then another story. Diore Lia was a non-runner in the Derby. The reason given by trainer John Jenkins was an injured tendon.

However, owner and breeder Richard Aylward said that the horse had been nobbled, that she had been “given a terrible belt with a piece of wood”. He had accused someone or a group of people of beating his horse. 

As any authority would, the BHA looked into the incident but nothing came from it. 

So the Derby ran, and outsider Wings Of Eagles won. Many people began saying that if Wings Of Eagles won, Diore Lia would have had a chance to place.

That’s when everyone thought the Diore Lia Saga had finished. The Derby had been run and there would be no further stories on the horse that had changed the face of the Derby forever.

That was the case until September, when Diore Lia’s owner Mary Todd was put on the forfeit list, essentially banning her from all BHA owned premises because she had been put into debt for just under £9,000 for unpaid entry fees. Unsurprisingly Richard Aylward had also been on the forfeit list for unpaid entry fees.

And that was the last that has been heard of Diore Lia for a while. We can only assume that she’s still in training, but the saga of the little filly that didn’t captured the eyes of British racing in Summer 2017 and changed the Derby for years to come.

I think her story epitomises racing in 2017 and we can only hope that she changed the sport for the better.

Who Is This Year’s Gold Cup Winner?

By LOIS

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Sizing John after winning the Gold Cup 2017

Sizing John

Sizing John was last season’s Gold Cup winner, which automatically places him in a good position in the betting market. This is heavily backed by his latest win at Punchestown on the 10th December in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (Grade 1 over 2m 4F), beating Djakadam by 7 lengths. The ground at Punchestown on the 10th was ‘Heavy’ and the ground he won the Gold Cup on was ‘Good’, showing that this horse is incredibly versatile. Jessica Harrington decided to skip Kempton this year due to the 16 day turnaround from his last run. The addition of the travelling factor over from Ireland was also significant. This is a disappointment for many but it is important that Harrington conserves her stable star so he’s at his best for March. It is looking increasingly likely that Sizing John will line up against Yorkhill in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase on the 28th of December, of which he is currently priced 6/4 with Sky bet. The field also includes Outlander, Disko, Killultagh Vic and Djakadam. Sizing John is currently in a perfect position to head to Cheltenham in March and repeat his win from last year and if he triumphs on the 28th too, his credentials will be boosted and his current price of 4-1 (Sky Bet) for the big race in March will shorten.

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Might Bite after winning the 2017 RSA Chase

Might Bite

Might Bite is currently 6-1 for the Gold Cup. This horse hasn’t been beaten since spectacularly coming to grief at the last fence in the 2016 running of the 32Red Kauto Star Novices Chase (Grade 1). His last victory came at Sandown when beating Frodon by 8 lengths. Might Bite was the winner of the 2017 Betway Mildmay Novices Chase last season when he beat Whisper by 2 lengths, he really had to work hard that day as Whisper really pressed him all the way up to the line. Whisper has been trying his hand in competitive handicap races ever since and has had a reasonable amount of success. You may be thinking, why is Might Bite currently 2nd favourite for the Gold Cup at this point? To be fair he hasn’t beaten much, however, his trainer, Nicky Henderson thinks the absolute world of him and he believes that he’s managed to iron out his obvious quirks. When I say ‘quirks’, I am directly referencing his not-so taking performance in the RSA Chase last season. Despite eventually winning by a nose, he didn’t half give his supporters a rough time of it. He was 12 lengths clear of Whisper and Bellshill when he jumped the second last but obviously began to get lonely out in front. He plunged at the last fence, giving Whisper time to catch up with a near-enough perfect leap at the last fence. Might Bite began to veer dramatically right handed and was actually headed by Whisper 120 yards out but he rallied well to just about get back on top when following a slightly straighter line. This performance showed his ability as he was 12 lengths clear but it also exposed his immaturities as well. If Nicky really has straightened out his quirks then I believe Might Bite will be a fierce contender in March.

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Bristol De Mai and Daryl Jacob

Bristol De Mai

Bristol De Mai has looked like a completely new horse this season. He revels in soft ground and has proved himself in two graded races in a row. Since finishing 5th in the Bowl Chase at Aintree last season behind Tea For Two, Bristol De Mai hasn’t raced on Good ground. This would be my concern for him as it’s looking like he’ll need to get a toe into the ground in order to be competitive. Having said that he won the grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice chase in Good-Soft ground. Providing Cheltenham doesn’t turn out to be any quicker than good, Bristol De Mai looks to be a solid competitor. Nigel Twiston-Davies thinks the world of this horse and thinks that the price of 4-1 for Kempton’s King George V Chase is justified. If Bristol De Mai finishes in the first 3 of the King George V Chase with the current ground being Good-Soft, I believe his current odds of 12-1 for the Gold Cup will significantly shorten.

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Thistlecrack’s magnificent flight

Thistlecrack

Thistlecrack has been slightly frustrating since his colours were lowered by none other than the superstar horse, Many Clouds, last season. In his latest run he was a weakening 5th out of 6 in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle, won by Beer Goggles. He was 11/10F that day. Colin Tizzard made the excuse that he wasn’t quite fit enough and he would come on for the run but it has put a big dent in his form. At this moment in time Thistlecrack is 6-1 to regain his King George V Chase crown but whether he’s in the form he was in 12 months ago is questionable. If he can put up a good performance in the King George then I would make him my Gold Cup favourite, not a 12-1 shot as he is now. He’s proven at Cheltenham and is relatively versatile when it comes to ground conditions. Hopefully he jumps safely around (he’s not had any issues to date) and sees out the added 2F up the Cheltenham hill.

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Sara Bradstock and her beloved Coneygree

Coneygree

Coneygree hasn’t won since 2015, he was plagued with injury in 2016 and his form record reads 3rd, PU, PU in his runs in 2017. Mark and Sara Bradstock absolutely adore their stable star but they know full well that he’s incredibly fragile. In his second run of this year, he over-reached over a fence and clipped himself and on his second run he pulled up because he was making funny noises. He has since has a wind op and is looking to be ready for January. Coneygree’s form has been on and off for a while so his 40-1 price for this season’s gold cup is probably justified despite being a previous winner of the race.

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Cue Card close up

Cue Card

Cue Card has fallen in 2 of the last 4 runs he’s had. For some reason, this widely-adored horse struggles to stay on his feet. It’s clear that Cue Card is not a huge fan of Cheltenham, more specifically, the Gold Cup. In 2016 he fell 3 out when in a brilliant position to go on and win, 12 months later he fell at the same place when moving up to challenge the leaders. Having said that, Cue Card won the Ryanair in 2013, jumping cleanly throughout, proving that he can win around Cheltenham. Cue Card’s latest run came when he was a long 2nd to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase but the ground was heavy and very much against him. Colin Tizzard is still hopeful that his star will run well in the Gold Cup, which he is 40-1 for currently! However, he also said that the Ryanair Chase may be an option in March as the competition this year is red hot. He is currently 20-1 at best for the race at the festival.

What Actually Goes On In Horse Racing.

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Smad Place jumping for fun out in front (not our Picture)

By Samantha

 

The public’s view of horse racing is naive about what actually goes on. I researched a lot into how people perceive horse racing and found animal welfare charities expressing points that were exaggerated and factually incorrect. As a way of finding out what young equestrians thought, I asked my Instagram followers what their opinion was of horse racing and some of the things I found out that people believed were uneducated and unaware. As the next generation going into the world of equitation, everyone at Rein It In thinks that young people should be told the finer details into what happens in racing rather than the broader brush strokes.

WHY DO HORSES GET PUT DOWN IN HORSE RACING?

Horse racing is like any equine sport; people and horses get hurt, whether we like it or not, it’s just how it is. Race horses’ bones are light weight so can break easier than a cob or shire. These breeds have thicker cannon bones and larger hooves so there is less pressure distributed between each of their four legs because their hooves are larger. There are a few ways a horses’ legs can break- either them snapping or shattering are the most common way. Usually, the bone bends before it snaps so if it is put back together again the horse could end up with a bent leg. As a result of this, they wouldn’t be able to walk properly and function like a regular horse.

The decision to put a horse down isn’t an easy one and there are lots of long term things to consider. One of the most predominant reasons why horses get put down after breaking their leg is that they would have to be on box rest for a long time. It would consist of the horse being kept in their stable for weeks so the break can heal and also, this can lead to laminitis which is painful for a horse. Box rest can make the horse bored and turn sour and nasty, race horses especially because they are used to running and exercising every day. Most likely, the horse wouldn’t be able to do things they did before and they would have to have lots of costly medication.

WHY IS THE GRAND NATIONAL SO INFAMOUS?

The Grand National is the most dangerous steeplechase in Britain. It combines a tough stamina test with huge fences and deadly drops. Because of this, it takes a brilliant horse to win it but some aren’t good enough. Around 80 horses have died in the race’s 187 year history.

  • WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO MAKE IT SAFER?

 

For the runners and riders, the entry requirements have become stiffer. On the course, the landing sides of some of the fences, including Becher’s Brook, have been levelled out and the start has been moved away from the stands to create a calmer atmosphere for the runners. If an accident does occur, the veterinary staff will be perfectly equipped for helping the horse in the relatively new Veterinary Surgery put on the course in 2008.

DO THE JOCKEYS CARE ABOUT THE HORSES?

I can’t definitely have the answer to this question because I don’t know how every jockey feels about the horses but I know that most of them love the horses because it is evident. One of the most moving things I’ve ever seen on a racecourse is when Sir Valentino couldn’t get up after his fall in the Tingle Creek and Adrian Heskin stayed with him, giving up his last ride of the day to be by his side. Jockeys pull up their horses if they know that the horse isn’t running well and they hug their horses even if they don’t win.

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Sir Valentino at home before schooling under Adrian Heskin. The pair had 25% strike rate and won the Haldon Gold Cup together in 2016.

 

IS THERE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIMES JOCKEYS CAN USE THE WHIP?

Yes, there is. In National Hunt Racing, jockeys are allowed to whip their mounts eight times overall and after the last fence, they are allowed to whip them five times. The whips don’t hurt the horse a lot because their ends are made of a foam padding and make a noise. Mainly during races, jockeys show their horses the whip and don’t actually hit them. A tap on the shoulder for a horse keeps them aware and on task as well as being used to change their legs, lengthen the striding and go faster just like in show jumping or cross country. Most importantly, the whip can help a jockey to keep his horse going straight and not drifting and causing an accident.

The stewards can enforce a ban if the jockey goes over the allotted amount of smacks. In the finish, if the horse isn’t racing against another for a finishing position, the jockey could get ban due to unnecessary use of the whip. Also, if the horse is far away from the rest of the field and the jockey whips him, that can also result in a ban. This occurred recently when Sam Spinner won the Betfair Stayers Hurdle at Haydock Park by seventeen lengths.

ARE HORSES FORCED TO RACE?

This is a question that can provoke lots more questions and there isn’t really a definite answer. From most horses’ expressions, you can tell when they are loving every minute and are trying their hardest for their jockeys. Take Smad Place (main Picture)  for example, the front running grey always looks like he is enjoying what he is doing. Some horses don’t like to run and that’s understandable- some people like certain types of things and others don’t. Most of the horses who don’t like racing are sold on as riding horses and rehomed by various retired raced horse charities. I’m not going to avoid the fact that some exracers do end up getting put down but that would only be because they were a danger to people and themselves.

WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE IT OUT LIKE NATIONAL HUNT RACING IS THE ONLY HORSE RELATED SPORT THAT HAS THE POSIBILITY TO BE CALLED ‘ABUSIVE’?

Something that really gets on my nerves is people saying how bad racing is but they don’t seem to recognise that other horse related sports aren’t exactly brilliant towards their horses. In Dressage, some rider use rollkur which stretches the horse’s back and neck muscles into unnatural positions just to get a better outline. By doing this, it cause the horse serious back problems which shortens their career. At the Olympics, the minimum height of a showjumping fence is 1.6m (5ft 3). The rider can wear spurs and their whips are a lot harder than a jockey’s. They are ridden around courses with tight turns and stabbed in the belly with the spurs which can leave long lasting scars and sensitive areas. Cross country is the eventing leg that resembles horseracing the most. It combines unforgiving, solid fences with a long stamina test. Horses have to jump ditches sometimes the width of trucks. The minimum jump height is 1.2m (3ft 11). On a National Hunt course, the chase fences are at a minimum height of 1.37cm (4 ½ ft). The top part of a chase fence is made of birch twigs and can be pushed aside if a horse was to crash through the top unlike most cross country fences which are solid.

 

In conclusion, there is risks in everything to do with horses. They could hurt themselves when being ridden, in the stable or in the field not just on the race track.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Kempton RacesBy Niamh

There’s no doubt that Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year, it is the pinnacle for many people of the entire calendar and for racing fans this is no exception with a week of high class National Hunt racing to add a little more to the festive celebrations.

Whether you’re braving the cold this week and going to one of the race meets at Ascot, Kempton, Chepstow or Leopardstown, or just watching from the warmth of your own home, I have studied the form and selected the horses that I think it would be wise to keep on your side over the festive season:

 JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle – Ascot

This looks set to be a race to savour, with the 1st and 2nd placed horses from last year looking set to line up again, as well as French Champion Hurdler L’Ami Serge and the improving Sam Spinner. For me, the tough and hardy Lil Rockerfeller looks like he will be difficult to beat, especially based on his last race at Ascot where he beat L’Ami Serge gamely. His tenacious attitude means that he is often a tough nut to crack and you can be sure that he will try his heart out, in order to beat Unowhatimeanharry though he will need to produce the race of his life.

32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – Kempton

This particular race is always entertaining to watch, and usually produces a very good winner, including Gold Cup winner Coneygree, and let’s not forget who very nearly romped home in it last year if it weren’t for a fall at the final fence – Might Bite. This year’s renewal looks good enough although potentially missing a horse that could be considered a superstar, but for me the horse to beat is the consistent Black Corton. In Novice Chases, jumping is important and it doesn’t hurt to have experience on your side and Paul Nicholls’ charge certainly has plenty of that and at 5/1 he looks a nice enough price against the likes of Ballyoptic and Mia’s Storm. The other horse who I think deserves a mention is Barney Dwan who is taking a big step up in class, but looks like an interesting one to keep an eye on and might just have it in him to spring a slight surprise.

Unibet Christmas Hurdle – Kempton

Whatever horse wins the Christmas Hurdle is usually a class apart from the rest, namely Faugheen, and this years renewal seems likely to be a one horse race as reigning Champion Hurdler, Buveur D’Air looks to add this festive grade 1 prize to his illustrious record. The closest horses to him in the market are Old Guard and The New One who, putting it simply, do not look good enough to beat Buveur D’Air when he is on his A-game.

32Red King George VI Chase – Kempton

Always the spectacle of the Christmas racing entertainment, the King George hails a long line of top class winners, namely the late great Kauto Star. Last year’s winner, Thistlecrack, looks to get his career back on track after an injury that ended his season prematurely last year but he faces a number of tough challengers including top novice Might Bite and the improving Bristol De Mai. For me the winner of this race looks to be Bristol De Mai after his incredibly impressive win at Haydock in the Betfair Chase last time out and I think that he is more than capable of adding this second grade 1 prize to his record this season.

Coral Welsh Grand National – Chepstow

This is always a competitive race, won brilliantly last year by Native River, and this year doesn’t look like an easy one to call. There are two horses that stand out for me and those are Chase The Spud and Vicente. Chase The Spud won nicely on his comeback at Haydock in testing conditions and is confirmed to stay as he won the Midlands National nicely back in March. Vicente is a dual Scottish Grand National winner and ran a brilliant race on his comeback at Cheltenham. He is arguably better on spring ground, but his class might allow him to run a good race in this company.

Leopardstown Christmas Chase (Lexus Chase) – Leopardstown

In my opinion, there is only one answer when it comes to this renewal of the Lexus Chase, Sizing John.  Yes, there is a decent field set to challenge him this year – including leading novice chaser Yorkhill – but since he has taken a step up in trip he has yet to be beaten and he looked very impressive on his comeback. He should have very little trouble adding this grade 1 prize to his CV.

 

From everyone on the Rein It In team, we wish you a very merry Christmas and all the best over the festive season

The Lasix Debate

By Evie
Lasix. Salix. Furosemide. The most common form of legal raceday doping worldwide.

I can safely say I know a fair bit about Lasix and the Lasix Debate, having done a speech about it for my GCSE English Speech.

From there I discovered the facts that lead to my almost complete separation from American Racing.

Before I begin my view on the Lasix debate, we first need to know what Lasix does.

On raceday, or before training, American horses are injected with the drug which can often lead to horses losing up to 30 pounds of weight in fluids.

The point of Lasix is to prevent bleeds, or exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhages and is used by up to 95% of racehorses in America. 

American trainers are all too willing to rely on this drug, to the point where it prevents them sending runners abroad, where their horses would not be allowed to run on the drug.

A fair few of American trainers are under the impression that without Lasix their horses would collapse in front of millions of people.

Using statistics of equine deaths in racing in Britain from last year, it can more than easily be seen that out of 133 equine injuries on racetracks only 11 death came from a collapse of sorts. Of course this doesn’t take heart attacks into account, so the figure for haemorrhages may, in fact, be lower. 

This figure doesn’t mean much to American racing, unless put into a figure that can be scaled up, so let’s put it into a percentage. 8%. Of all deaths on British racecourses in 2016, only 8% were from a collapse. And with every new enhancement in racing the total number of deaths goes down.

So its clear that haemorrhages are rare, and don’t often happen at racecourses. So how come Americans are still hanging on to this medieval drug?

2012.The Breeder’s Cup banned Lasix from all their races. By 2013 this ban had been pulled back, limited only to the Juvenile races. And by 2014 there was no ban. Trainer’s were free to dope their horses.

American trainers raised a ruckus, complaining to the Breeder’s Cup that their horses would die of haemorrhaging. And without a singular racing authority to manage over the 50 states, the trainers managed to get their own way again. 

This was not the first time they had complained about advances that worldwide would be commonly seen as improving the sport for the horses.

In 2007 Santa Anita replaced their traditional dirt track with a synthetic material, much like the secondary surface at many European dual surface tracks. Of course many trainers complained that their horses would not be able to run on this ‘foreign’ surface, which included preventing super mare Rachel Alexandra from the Breeder’s Cup. By 2010 Santa Anita authorities gave in and returned to their dirt surface.

Trainer Dale Romans was one of the many who objected the Breeder’s Cup’s ban of Lasix, and he certainly has a very strong view on the use of Lasix in America.

Some of the phrases he’s used include

-“they’re bled inside and it causes lung infections” Factually incorrect, as in Britain (where you would assume horses contract more lung infections due to not using the drug) horses make twice as many starts [12] as American horses [6] per year.

-“… one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.”

-[Quote from his colleague Rick Violette] “horses bleed. that is a fact. to force an animal to race without it is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.” It can be argued that forcing horses to be administered with shots that aren’t needed for them to live is animal abuse. Banning Lasix is in no way animal abuse is.

A level of bleeding that adversely effects a thoroughbred is rare, and a fatal level of bleeding is even rarer. So the question still remains. Why are Americans using Lasix, now more than ever?

Perhaps it is the weakening of a breed as a whole, due to Lasix. A theory that has been passed around by multiple people is that one of the reasons War Front’s don’t commonly train on as three year olds could be due to the use of Lasix, weakening the lungs of American breds. 

This means bleeds are more likely as horses have become so use to running on Lasix that they simply couldn’t go on without Lasix and their risk of haemorrhages have- ironically- increased.

This ‘Lasix culture’ has also had an adverse reaction on races worldwide too. 

American trainers aren’t willing to send their horses to European races as it would mean running without their beloved Lasix. 

There are some lights in the dark. Barry Irwin, owner of Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom wants the use of raceday medication banned saying “95% of horses are given a medication only 5% of horses need.”

So the real question is how can we try and stop the reliance on Lasix?

Something that I believe would help improve American racing as a whole, massively, would be the introduction of one stable (pun intended) horse racing authority to cover all 50 states. This would make the rules surrounding Lasix the same no matter where in the country you are. This would also help impose stricter sanctions for people that do break the weak drugs laws.

Its my personal belief that Lasix use shouldn’t be stopped all at once. If that were to happen I think it would cause more harm than good. I think a safer bet would be to ban Lasix from low grade juvenile races and increase from there. That way, horses who have run on Lasix their entire careers wouldn’t have to face the repercussions from being thrown into the deep end. More willing trainers could be chosen to stop the use of Lasix in their horses, and prove to the disbelievers that it is perfectly normal for horses to have careers without drugs.  

The Breeder’s Cup should ban Lasix from their races and not back down from outcry. It may be bad for their races for a short period of time, but in the long run it would be beneficial.

Even then Lasix shouldn’t be banned 100%. Horses that are proven bleeders should be allowed to run on it, but with a sanction. They should’t be allowed to breed this weakness into foals, and bleeders should be barred from breeding. It may sound harsh, but I do believe it would be for the greater good.

So now its up to the Americans. For the sake of their sport I think all across the world hope they see the truth about Lasix, and the fact that they really don’t need it. 

Cue Card’s Racing Days Are Limited

CUE CARD

By Lois,

Popular veteran chaser, Cue Card, has been given three target races for this season and will be retired after the last of those. Jean Bishop and Colin Tizzard came together and mapped out the near future of their star 11 year old. They agreed he will have three more runs until retirement from racing. The first of those races coming in February at Ascot for the Ascot Chase, of which the superstar chaser has already won twice in the past. The second race will come at the Cheltenham Festival in either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup. Cue Card’s Gold Cup efforts have been valiant but very unlucky on both occasions when coming down at the 3rd last fence in 2016 and then falling in the exact same place 12 months later. It’s currently very ‘up in the air’ about which race he will head to in March. The final race we are likely to see one of the Nation’s favourite steeplechasers in is the Betway Bowl Chase in which he was 2nd in last season and had won the year before that.

Colin Tizzard told At The Races that he wants the horse “to have three runs in the spring, then retire him” so that he can “have him as my/(his) hunter.” Cue Card has always been an exuberant jumper so becoming a hunter after his racing career seems perfectly fitting. Tizzard also explained that he would skip the King George this year with Cue Card due to the red-hot competition. He also said that the horse had a very hard race at Haydock when finishing a remote 2nd to the runaway winner of the Betfair Chase, Bristol De Mai who is currently 10/3 with Ladbrokes to win the Christmas time racing spectacle.

CUE CARD BUMPER*Cue Card winning the 2010 Champion Bumper (not our photo)*

In his career thus far, Cue Card has enjoyed many successes and carries a record of 16 wins in 39 races, placing in 28 of them all together. We first saw a glimpse of his talented nature when he skipped 8 lengths clear of the eventual 2nd Al Ferof in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2010. After this, he began to rise through the ranks as a novice hurdler and then eventually, he moved to chasing where he experienced a few blips but nevertheless, managed to win the 2012 Haldon Gold Cup Chase at Exeter. The year after, Cue Card went on to win the Betfair chase for the first of three times and the Ascot Chase (winning it again in 2017), beating Captain Chris by 6 lengths in 2013 and beating Shantou Flyer by 15 lengths in 2017. Another huge success for Cue Card came in the Ryanair Chase 2013 at the festival where he beat First Lieutenant by 9 lengths impressively.

Arguably, Cue Card’s greatest victory came in the spine-tingling 2015 King George VI Chase, when he and the ill-fated Vautour battled right to the line and Cue Card came out a short head in front. The pair drew 13 lengths clear of Al Ferof who had a further 3 ½ lengths on Smad Place with the last finisher being Irish Cavalier, 23 lengths behind Smad. It was a sensational race with a pulsating finish and it’ll go down in my books as one of the best races to watch. In the same season, Cue Card won the Betfred Bowl Chase at the Grand National meeting in April 2016.

Cue Card vs Vautour.jpg*Cue Card and Vautour battle in the King George VI Chase 2015 (not our photo)*

He really has been a super horse to watch and we will have to savour the last three runs he has left before he leaves the racing picture. There sure will a big gap left when Cue Card exits the scene but he has many younger horses waiting to take his spot, for example Native River, Sizing John, Thistlecrack, Bristol De Mai and Might Bite.

Everyone at Rein It In Racing wishes Cue Card and his connections the best luck this season and in all his future ventures!

Winstar Farm

By Evie
Photograph is Exaggerator winning the Preakness. Photograph does not belong to me.

For those who follow my Twitter, it is easy to notice my obsession for the American horse Exaggerator. For those who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief explanation as to who he is.

By multiple Group 1 winner Curlin and out of Vindication mare Dawn Raid, Exaggerator was an American racehorse, and is now an up-and-coming sire. He was Group 1 placed at two, and went on to be the first American horse since American Pharoah to win three Group 1s as a three year old, one of these being the Triple Crown race the Preakness Stakes. He was a mud specialist (meaning he ran his best on wet ground), which has lead many to believe that he would have been more than comfortable running on turf. Upon retirement he entered Winstar Farm, and was bred to several quality mares, such as Sacre Coeur (dam of Lady Eli) as well as the dams of 9 Group 1 winners.

(I’m so obsessed with Exaggerator that I’m honestly planning to take a cardboard cut out of him to my prom, which sounds worse written down than it does when spoken.)

But from there I discovered Winstar Farm, who I believe is one of the industry leaders for animal care and interactivity with fans.

One example of this is the constant updates they pump out about their horses. This includes videos of the stallions, such as them in their paddocks or in their stalls, and a new feature on their website, which is GoPro rides on their stallions (which consists of videos direct from the helmets of the riders aboard the stallions). This helps people, including long time fans, interact with their favourite horses, even into their retirement. I believe that this should be replicated in the UK, as it would be nice to see update videos on some of our favourite retired racehorses and how they are doing as stallions.

Another example of this is the several Twitter competitions they run throughout the year, which can lead to prizes such as stallion caps, locks of mane and sometimes horseshoes. This is absolutely amazing and can lead to fans of the horses being able to keep a part of their favourite horse.

This next feature really helps interact people with the horses they watch. Winstar Farm have a store in which memorabilia of your favourite horses can be purchased, and I’m really holding out for Exaggerator merch for Christmas.

As with most stud farms, they also run stallion tours. Unfortunately I live in England, so its not like I can just go and view my favourite horses. But if I do get the opportunity to go, you can believe me to force whomever I’m going with to visit Winstar.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of American racing, as I disagree with a few methods they use, however I would jump at the chance to visit Winstar and see all the horses that are famous even in Europe. It would be great if more places can have the openness and interactivity that Winstar have, and I would like to see more places following in their footsteps.
 

‘Weighting’ for a Change.

WILL FEATHERSTONE- WEIGHT ONE

By Lois,

Understandably, connections of a racehorse would want the lightest weight possible on their back to give it the best chance of winning, however these weight limits have forced abrupt ends to many jockey’s careers of late. For example, Will Featherstone, being the most recent of the jockey’s to become a victim of the relentless weighing scales. Will, aged 23, said to the Racing Post that “I could turn back amateur but I’d have the same problem again. You’re not really going to make any money riding, so there doesn’t seem much point.” Featherstone still rides out for Jamie Snowden but will cease to ride on the track. I believe that sometimes, as viewers of the sport, we forget that these jockeys have to voluntarily make themselves sick in order to be a certain weight to ride. This is no way for anyone to make their living as it puts, not only a physical strain on the body, but a mental strain too. I can only imagine the exhaustion this must cause. The thing is, it’s not only induced vomiting that is happening to lower one’s body weight, jockeys are also inclined to starve themselves. This seems silly as riders need to have a strong, stable diet in order to have the strength to control a half-ton animal, but some jockeys have to resort to limiting their eating right down to one or no meal a day.

In April, Dale Swift called time on his career after missing a ride at Lingfield and failing to explain why. He later said that weight-related issues had left him feeling “miserable” and “depressed”. Swift explained that all the days he spent in sweat suits with heaters on everywhere and all the times he had to physically make himself sick were put into perspective on the morning of the Lingfield ride he went on to miss. He said to the Racing Post that “my head just wasn’t in the game anymore,” and, realistically, who can blame him?

31 year old, Steven Clements, who partnered Oiseau De Nuit to win the Grand Annual Chase in 2011, called time on his race-riding career a few days ago, despite not having ridden since mid-October. Clements was keen to express the fact that he had been suffering physically to make the weight for some of his rides and, therefore, it took a huge toll on his mental health as well. Steven enjoyed many successes in his career but still recalled that even on his first ride, at the age of 16, he had to sweat profusely to make the correct weight. This kind of commitment is becoming rarer and rarer as more and more jockeys are becoming less tolerant and/or willing to comply with the weight restrictions these days.

Even the flat racing legend himself- Frankie Dettori, admitted he had a battle with the scales when trying to weigh in at 8st 7lbs for his ride on the superstar 3yr old, Enable, in the Queen Elizabeth this summer. He managed to make this weight but you could only imagine the determination Dettori must have shown to ride his favourite mare. These weight systems are simply too harsh. Something must be done or else we will continue to see people like Will Featherstone, Dale Swift and Steven Clements drop out of the racing picture. All too often we forget that, for these jockeys, race-riding is their life and source of income. As a racing community, I feel that we do very little to help them out and give back what they put in daily. It’s easy to watch a race and get angry if your horse doesn’t win you money, but this lack of compassion shown in the industry will be the reason that kids no longer want to grow up to be jockeys.

We are simply now just waiting for a crucial change.