A farce, a disgrace, a travesty, the worst debacle in the history of horse racing in this country. Those are just some of the words used to describe the end to what was supposed to be a great day of racing on Easter Monday.
That the travesty should take place in the biggest race of the day, and before a packed holiday crowd must only add to the shame that was brought upon the sport. For us to understand the debacle, we must isolate the various players in this tragi-comedy.
It is reported that starter Carlton Ramsaroop claimed he was asked to change the sequence for entering the horses into the stalls. The stewards' report indicates that horses were entered in the following sequence: 1 & 5, 3 & 6, 2 & 4, and finally 7 & 8. This represents a significant departure from established practice of either even numbers then odd numbers or vice versa.
In many countries, there are variations involving splitting the numbers in two and then entering in that sequence, for example, the horses could have been entered 1 & 5, 2 & 6, 3 & 7 and then 4 & 8. The sequence that the starter was instructed to enter the horses defies all logic.
Having acquiesced to the request, the starter displayed a complete lack of judgement in assessing what was taking place. The problems really began when the assistants attempted to load 2 & 4. Root of Jesse (#4) has a history of giving trouble.
The animal entered the stalls relatively easily however, but the starter was on notice re: his unease in the stalls. That the starter then allowed an inordinate amount of time to elapse before loading #2 (Hail the Chief) and this was simply unacceptable. Root of Jesse became upset by the delay and no one paid any notice. All this time, one of the favourites–Blue Tequila (#5) who had been loaded first was being asked to stand patiently in the stalls. This could not have been to the filly's benefit regardless of the eventual withdrawal.
The horses least impacted by this delay were the numbers 7 (War Maker) and 8 (Serengeti) both trained like the #2 by John O'Brien. After Root of Jesse flipped his cool and with it took out Blue Tequila, the situation did not end. Serengeti who was waiting, began her own antics.
Unwisely, the starters' assistant then decided to load the filly from the front of the stall only to lose control and see her run around the track riderless. A third horse having to be withdrawn. Not reported by the Stewards, but sworn to by all who were close to the starting stalls, is the fact that horse #1 (Legal Advisor) who was also becoming restless in the stalls (to the extent that it was erroneously thought that he was also being withdrawn) was forced to stand in the stalls with the ear twitch on and even had those on when the stalls opened.
The jockey had to try to remove the twitch which only fell off about 50 metres into the race. This must have affected the chances of this lightly raced colt. What would have happened without all of these errors–who knows?
The first mistake has to be in the loading sequence and the time has come for people to be held accountable for the errors that they make. From the report of the Stewards it does not appear that there was any actions taken against any individual with the obvious inference being that the Stewards believed that what occurred was just one of those things and therefore tough luck for the connections of the four horses who were most adversely affected.
This perspective just continues the total disregard for the sport and the individuals who keep the sport alive. But then again, can we really be surprised at the continued incompetence?
In April 2014, amendments made to the Rules of Racing governing the sport were gazette and therefore came into effect. In addition to a number of nominal adjustments, there was the significant change in the sex allowance awarded to fillies from 2kg to 3kg.
These changes had in fact been approved by the Board of the TTRA since January 2014. How could it be that a change as fundamental as this one, which became law after it was gazetted could have been missed until eight months later? That speaks to incompetence.
No explanation has been provided. It should be noted that this change has its greater impact on the races listed in the classic diary in which the weight for sex allowance between colts and fillies are most important. For example, the Trinidad Derby, the second and third place finishers, Princess Popstar and Glorious Country raced with 1 kg more than they should have. Would this have affected the result–who knows?
Urgent action is required by the authorities but it is likely that these pleas will once again fall on deaf ears.