THERE was a vague feeling of ‘first they came for our handicappers, then they came for our group horses, now what is left for us?’ when looking at the remaining entries for the St Leger this week.
The St Leger at Doncaster is the oldest classic, first run in 1776. Hurricane Lane beat a decent field of 10 runners last season and Galileo Chrome had 10 rivals to beat the previous year. However, with this year’s race two weeks away, there are only 13 still in the race. As the number of runners dwindle, the British fixture list revealed this week didn’t offer much change, apart from less racing on Saturdays.
Though entries are holding up well in Ireland, while we still export plenty of high-quality horses, we should not be complacent at the top level.
In the British fixture list, next season Royal Ascot will take place from Tuesday June 20th to Saturday June 24th. It’s a much longer period between the Derby and the summer showcase. The Irish Derby is likely to be run on July 1st as to have it earlier would surely lose a few runners with more time from Epsom to Ascot, and many including the 2000 winner Santiago have come after winning there.
The late scheduling of Aintree also looks likely to have an impact on the British runners at Punchestown.
THE BHA get plenty of abuse over wasting time, energy, and funds on some frivolous campaigns and changes that, in the end, make little difference to racing.
It was interesting to hear champion jockey Brian Hughes interviewed during the week and asked if he felt the change in colour of the take-off boards and padding on hurdles from orange to white had made any difference to horses’ jumping.
The change had come about after research by University of Exeter claimed to show that horses see better and may jump differently over white and yellow obstacles compared to the orange which had been used on hurdles and fences. This led to many tracks trialling the white.
Here’s what Hughes said on RacingTV this week when asked if white take-off boards were better for visibility.
“Not really. It’ll be interesting when the winter comes and there’s grey days. Last year the Fighting Fifth was run in a blizzard of snow, you could see the orange hurdles”.
And it’s a valid point. Were the jockeys consulted, you wonder? It will be amusing, and not for the first time, if they have to change back!
I HAVE tried to engage in the Racing League but to little avail compared to a normally decent evening’s racing. The Irish manager was AWOL on Thursday. Yes, the pluses are more prize money and bigger fields for betting purposes.
The negatives are too many over enthusiastic presenters, the team element not being engaging and the still feeling that it’s mutton dressed as mutton despite all the indulgent praise on air and, though some producers (owners) are getting more for their product, the end consumer is still being served the same thing.