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Hello, please listen

Published: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hello…is anyone listening? This seems to be a regular refrain around the track at Santa Rosa Park in Arima.

On what was expected to be another good day of competitive racing which was slightly soured by the incessant rainfall, all was going as well as could have been expected until right before the big race of the day—the Caribbean Champion Stakes.

Turfites had already witnessed some thrilling performances including outstanding victories by the top three year old filly, Leading Lady, and the top imported horse in the country, Whisper Light.

So the stage was set for a somewhat watered down clash between the best older creole in the country, Bigman in Town, and an overmatched bunch of West Indian bred three year old and over.

The gap between Bigman in Town and his closest rival on ratings, Magical Victory, was a whopping 25 points equivalent to 12.5kg.

Due to the conditions of the race, both those horses were racing at level weights. Taking into consideration the winner’s three year old allowance of 3kg, Battle Cry (rated 71) should have been receiving 21.5kg from Bigman, he was only receiving 4.5kg. The fact that he beat the Bigman by 1.5 lengths, despite being 17kg wrong, would suggest that he should be rated in the high 90s at least, maybe even low 100s.

Everyone knows that is ridiculous and so it is hoped that the handicappers don’t take the result too literally.

At the time of writing this article, the revised ratings have not yet been published. This however is not the main story.

The main story of the race is what happened with the Derby runner up Hello, prior to the start of the race. For an unknown reason, Hello uncharacteristically flipped while being led out to the start, dislodging his rider and ending up on the ground. Historically, the stated policy of the track was that once any part of the horse’s body (other than its hoofs) hits the ground in the lead up to a race, the horse is automatically disqualified.

Everyone who witnessed the event, fully expected that Hello would be automatically disqualified.

Everyone was shocked therefore when the horse was allowed to race. That he eventually ran no sort of race had all turfites who had wagered on him fuming over the decision to allow him to race. It was always going to be a no win situation. As such, the emphasis should always be placed on consistency.

There is no doubt that based on the previously advised approach, Hello should have been automatically scratched from the event.

The decision not to do so was flawed and the Arima Race Club (ARC) should consider refunding all turfites who still have evidence of the bet placed on the animal.

For the future, there is the need to revisit this policy of automatically scratching an animal if ANY part of its body other than its hoof hits the ground. Not all “falls” are created equal and while it can never be wrong to err on the side of caution and the wellbeing of the horse and rider are paramount, there must be some discretion provided to the raceday Veterinarian to determine whether an animal remains fit to race.

This is the best approach and is strongly recommended.

The vet may not always get it right, but who does?

It is imperative that the ARC learn from this experience to better the racing experience of its stakeholders and perhaps important as well that the Racing Stewards also have their say.