THE first thought on seeing confirmation of the introduction of new whip rules from February 6th in Britain was that the BHA should be concerned with some more serious matters. If races like the two-mile chase won by Coole Cody at Ascot on Saturday become more normal, then there’ll be little need for new or old whip rules. Nobody will be offended because no one outside the sport will be watching.
It all feels very unnecessary, looking on from this island, for the few offences that currently incur stiff fines. But here we are, changes afoot, no more forehand hitting and a bedding-in period begins in January.
Patrick Mullins made a valid point in the Racing Post on the timing of it - “Whether this needs to be done the month before Cheltenham. Would summer not be a better time to do it?”
The biggest impact is likely to be felt by “disqualification to be introduced for offences in which the whip has been used four times or more above the permitted level in all races.”
The deferral of this disqualification is a double-edged sword.
“Any potential decisions regarding disqualification of runners for an egregious offence will now be made by the whip review committee, away from the raceday, and will therefore not affect the outcome of a race for betting purposes.”
It would obviously be a nightmare for bookmakers if a Grand National or Gold Cup winner was disqualified on the day. Native River (Cheltenham) and Noble Yeats (Aintree) spring to mind.
The big races are obviously the ones more under the microscope. There would also be a perception element involved in not having a celebratory photo of the winner’s return in triumph on the Saturday newspapers or after the Gold Cup or Grand National, two of the few days when a racing story transends other sports to front page news. The big race winner disqualifed on those days? Where’s the winning photo and where is the good news story?
That said though, you do hope that riders embrace the ‘four over and you are out’ limit because all celebrations and presentations on the day would probably be tainted if the shadow of being thrown out hung in the aftermath.
TWO different observances from last Saturday’s racing gave me cause to have a little rant. They are commonly used excuses but do not stand scrutiny.
While watching Protektorat winning the Betfair Chase it occurred to me that there is never a real excuse for not having a horse fit enough to win.
With the facilities generally available, if Dan Skelton can get Protektorat fit and ready to run to the level that he performed to on Saturday, then really, anyone should be able to do so.
Venetia Williams is another who can prepare and produce a horse, and see it confidently supported in betting, for a target, often after being absent for as long as a year.
There really should be no tolerance anymore for the excuse that a horse wasn’t fit enough after an early season defeat.
2.‘Too much out of him’
A PLUS Tard put in a very disappointing run in the Betfair Chase for which no explanation has been discovered.
Again excuses came forth, with some pundits offering the idea that he may have left his best behind in the Gold Cup and “it took more out of him” than it seemed on the day.
Yet, his win last March was one of the most impressive performances we’d seen in the Gold Cup in years.
I’ve seen the suggestion that he was still feeling the effects, eight months later, of that Gold Cup.
He appeared to have an easier race this year than when chasing Minella Indo all the way home in 2021.
The likes of Kauto Star and Denman, and hosts of others before them, will be laughing their hooves off in horse heaven.
If we accept that humans can go to the edge of endurance to win marathons, and after rest and recuperation, then win more marathons, why would an equine athlete not be expected to recover from a hard race, given sufficient time and not have the ‘feeling the effects of’ excuse totted out.
And another excuse offered was that as an eight-year-old he might be feeling the effects of his career so far. He had run just three times in each of the last three seasons! Each one ending with his run at the Festival.
I think this winter weather is begkinning to get to me!