It’s safe to say that the BHA didn’t have the best day in the history of the organization yesterday with a few of their decisions causing all kinds of controversy and uproar. It was described as a ‘bad day at the office’ by Alex Steedman, a Racing UK pundit, but in all fairness, it was a bit worse than just a bad day.
The day began with employees from the BHA turned up to Jim Boyle’s yard in Epsom to do a random drugs test. It was also the Epsom Open Morning where the yards, including Boyle’s, were open for the public to visit. On Twitter, Boyle described it as ‘a joke’. It was quite thoughtless and inconsiderate of the BHA to attempt to do this on a day the trainer called their ‘busiest morning of the year’. It is common knowledge that the Epsom Open Day, in aid of Racing Welfare, happens on the August Bank Holiday and has done for many years.
Later on in the day at Epsom racecourse, Pretty Jewel, an Ian Williams trained filly, was refusing to go to the start and playing up so one of Peter Hedger’s employees, who was looking after his boss’ runner and saw what the filly was doing, tossed a small amount of water from a bottle at the filly’s hind quarters. From the looks of things, she didn’t react at all. It was an irrelevant gesture but done with good intentions. Peter Hedger and the employee where called into the stewards and the employee said he didn’t know that he wasn’t able to throw things as a form of encouragement. Peter Hedger was fined £140 for the incident, which in my eyes seems a ridiculous overreaction to a trivial thing. It didn’t hurt the horse or affect her chances so I don’t see why a fine should even have been given. The racing public showed their anger on twitter with users questioning what the sport is coming too and the reliability of those at the top of the game.
And if things couldn’t get any worse for them, yet again, one of the stalls were slower to open than the others at the start of one of the fourth race at Southwell. Handsome Dude, ridden by Andrew Elliot, was drawn in stall one and he normally runs prominently but couldn’t do that as the stall seemed to open after the rest of the field’s. The gelding was being dropped down from six furlongs, his seemingly preferred trip, to about five furlongs, a trip he had previously won at on two occasions. The horse didn’t have the required pace to get to the main body of the field and finished thirteenth of the fourteenth runners, three lengths behind the twelfth horse past the post. The horse’s chances were blown at the start but, after an enquiry into what happened, with the jockey, the starters and the clerk of the course all present, the stewards were satisfied that ‘the incident had not materially prejudiced a sufficient number of runners’ so no further action was taken but a report was forwarded to the head office.
It wasn’t the first time this has happened in the past week. On the 23rd, in the 5:10 race at Wolverhampton, stall six didn’t open as quickly as the others and the horse set to start from that stall, Cadeaux Boxer, was at an unfair disadvantage. The horse is at his happiest when bowling along in front and as a result he’s a very quick starter so with some bumping along, from his jockey, Theodore Ladd, he managed to get a reasonable position but he was never comfortable and was out of contention from three furlongs out. The starters were interviewed and said that the stalls were checked before and after the race and no fault had been detected. The stewards then decided that the malfunction ‘had not materially prejudiced a sufficient number of runners’ and the result remained the same.
Surely, something more should have been done as both horses’ chances were ruined at the start. They were both reasonably fancied and punters seem to have been let down by nothing happening to compensate them for the incident. It would only be fair that the people who have backed the horse get their stake back as the horses haven’t run to their best possible placing on that day as the rest of the got a head start on them.
If this kind of thing is going to happen regularly, the BHA should tackle it now and make sure that the stalls don’t do it again because it is unfair on everyone involved. Being realistic, the integrity of the sport is at stake by the racing authorities making decisions to turn a blind eye to incidents like these. These incidents come after the stewards at a racecourse recently got the outcome of a photo finish wrong. If more things like this happen, the faith that trainers and members of the racing fraternity have in the BHA will lessen.
It may be time for a change in the leadership to people with practical experience in the day-to-day running of racing like trainers or jockeys and a reevaluation of the rules of racing to prevent petty incidents like the one at Epsom from reoccurring.