Is the Cheltenham Festival tempting us to allow rule-bending by trainers?

binocularsThe love of money is the root of all evil, so say some. Is our collective love of the Festival causing blind eyes to be turned to the rules by many of us, the BHA included?

How many horses are truly being run on their merits throughout the jumps season? In this week’s Weekender, Alan King says . . .

A King, Weekender, 26th Feb

“We train our horses to progress as the season develops”  Is that within the rules?

BHA Rule:

45.3 A Trainer must not send any horse to race with a view to schooling or conditioning the horse.

There’s the matter of fitness, readying horses to peak at a particular time, and, crucially, timing medication to be out of their systems so that the doping rules are not infringed come race time.  If this is what we have come to, perhaps we should be honest about it and the rules modified to fit. Some might gladly agree to such a compromise for that glorious week in March; I might even be one of them. But we need a degree of  openness about it.

Should trainers be required to declare a quantifiable fitness assessment for each runner before a race?  Rather than: ‘He’ll be doing his best, but I’d expect him to come on for this,’ something like, ‘I’d say he is 80% fit.’  It would then be up to punters to decide whether that 80% fit horse has enough natural talent to beat another in the race who’s been declared 95% fit. Doubtless trainers will win with horses declared as 70% fit and plenty will lose with horses deemed 100% fit. But at least the information is in the open. It is then up to punters to decide what to do with that information. Of course there is also the question of the judgement of the trainer and the honesty of the trainer. But as things stand, there’s a level of compulsory dishonesty anyway, if many horses are running in races with the intention of preparing them to win another race.

Or, if NH racing needs prep races for horses, then perhaps the Jumpers’ Bumpers should be properly structured, and horses who are being openly prepped, confined to those races until declared 100% fit and ready to win over jumps.

It’s a tough problem with many facets,  but as the Festival’s influence grows, it’s going to have to be faced at some point.


2 thoughts on “Is the Cheltenham Festival tempting us to allow rule-bending by trainers?

  1. Superb honesty as ever Joe with no personal gain on your agenda. The sport could do with people like you to be heading up an independent body looking into the day-to-day dealings within the sport for the benefit of all.

    It is quite clear that comments like this confirm that once and for all, punters are invariably ‘in the dark’ and let’s face it, that for all the ‘bow tie’ types on the various boards who don’t like facing the fact that without punters, there are no positions within the sport for them to talk down to ‘lesser types’ in their governing roles.

    For the punter to have any chance of investing on a level playing field, ‘grass roots’ people should be consulted on a daily basis.

    Big Mal, News at some ridiculous hour, stating the bloody obvious.

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