Today’s Eider Chase over 33 furlongs (6,638 metres) was the equine equivalent of The Somme. Thankfully there were no fatalities other than racing’s image.
Nine of the twelve who set off through the mud, did not finish; 75% of the field pulled up. The winner, Companero, and second, Giles Cross, didn’t jump the last so much as scale it. The third horse, Morgan Be, 188 lengths behind Giles Cross, actually stopped to rest before being asked to negotiate the final fence – for a prize of £2,760.
Clerk of the course James Armstrong : “I’d have to say, it wasn’t a nice race to watch. It didn’t look good. But what do you do? The Eider is a very tough race every year and this year we’ve got heavy ground, but although it’s heavy, it’s not unsafe ground. Anyone who rang me in the week with runners in the race were told what it would be like and the general response I was getting was that the more testing the better would suit them. Everyone who took part knew what it would be like.”
Italics are mine. If indeed connections of all these horses knew what lay ahead, then the decision to run ought to be taken from their hands. Racing’s in poor enough shape without offering ammunition to its critics and slow motion horror videos to potential fans. The Clerk and Stewards cannot simply wash their hands by passing responsibility to owners and trainers.
The racecourse executive have a vested financial interest in meetings going ahead. To make a decision on the basis that the ground is ‘safe’ isn’t good enough. Quicksand is deemed safe by many, so long as you don’t stand up in it.
I doubt either party – racecourse or connections – will step forward to take the blame and that crystallises one of racing’s main problems – the quick buck, the short term, the grab-what-you-can and to hell with the future. Shameful and demoralising.