Monday, May 03, 2010

When is a pound not a pound?

Well, our trip to Doncaster was very pleasant. First Pressing wasn't quite up to being competitive, but it seemed a very hot maiden and she was far from disgraced. She behaved well, seemed to enjoy the experience, and all in all it was a thoroughly pleasing start to her racing career. She conducted herself impeccably throughout, the only time she put a foot wrong coming in the parade ring when she found Doncaster's abundant flowers rather spooky - which means that my sole mounting yard shot is even less good than my usual standard. I didn't get a second chance either as she only walked around the parade ring once because she'd arrived late in there - not, I hasten to add, because I'd fallen asleep while saddling her, but because it transpired that the girth which Micky Fenton had sent out with the saddle was too long for her, and my having to return to the weighing room for a replacement meant that the jockeys were in the parade ring before the filly and I appeared.

The above photograph probably doesn't do Saturday justice, which was a day of lovely weather, even if the skies did begin to darken and the temperature to fall at Doncaster during the evening. It had been a beautiful morning in Newmarket - as this photograph of two of Jane Chapple-Hyam's team galloping in the sunshine on the Al Bahathri just before 9am shows - and was also I believe a beautiful afternoon here, which was nice as the town is always very full for the Guineas. There were, of course, two very memorable races for the Classics, with an Arab cast-off, sold for 25,000 gns at last year's Horses In Training Sale, winning the 2,000 Guineas and the stewards having to intervene to make sure that justice prevailed in the following afternoon's 1,000 Guineas. As was the case three or four years ago, the 2,000 Guineas was run on fast ground and under sunny skies, while the following day's 1,000 Guineas was run on a wet track on a cold, damp, grey day. The weather made it an easy decision for me to enjoy Racing UK's coverage on Sunday afternoon rather than cycle up to the Rowley Mile, and I found the only surprise in the aftermath of the race was that the RUK presenters talked about the race as if the stewards had been faced with a difficult decision: I'd have thought that the demotion of Jacqueline Quest and the promotion of Special Duty (pictured here on a more clement day last autumn in the parade ring before her Cheveley Park Stakes victory) was as inevitable as night following day. However, there has already been more than enough written and said on the subject, so I'll make today's hobby horse one of a different nature.

Today's topic is maiden auction races. Looking ahead for suitable races for First Pressing and her mate Silken Thoughts (seen here galloping on Railway Land on Saturday morning under Micky Fenton), my eye was taken by a maiden auction race at Newbury for two-year-olds who were sold as yearlings for 30,000 pounds or less. Formerly, this race would have been for those sold for 30,000 guineas or less, but pounds are now the quoted currency so Silken Thoughts, who fetched 30,000 guineas (ie 31,500 pounds) as a yearling is clearly ineligible. However, I suspect that, had she been bought at Doncaster ostensibly for 30,000 pounds, she would be eligible, which would be wrong. For this confusion, I blame the Racing Post, a few of whose misguided journalists formerly mounted a campaign to persuade sales companies to abandon the practice of selling horses in units of a guinea (1.05 pounds), a campaign which was flawed from the outset because there was never any chance of horses being sold in pounds, which I think was what the Post's men were advocating: by selling in pounds instead of guineas, all a sales company would have achieved would have been to reduce its turnover by 1/21, because in the vast majority of cases people would have still bid the same amount of units. Tattersalls rightly resisted this pressure, but Doncaster used it as an excuse to start selling horses in units of 1.06 pounds, under the pretence that they were selling them in pounds. So now if you bid 1,000 at Tattersalls, you receive a bill for 1,050 pounds, as you always have done - but if you bid 1,000 at Doncaster, you receive a bill for 1,060 pounds, which means that the change has simply made things more complicated, as the calculation of 105% is simpler than the calculation of 106%. And to think that the Racing Post had been naive enough to believe that it was campaigning on the basis of trying to make the sales easier to understand! Anyway, that's fine: if Doncaster wishes to take bids in units of 1.06 pounds rather than 1.05 pounds, and if patrons are happy with this system (which appears to be the case), then that all works fine. The conditions of sale are there in the catalogue in small print, so more fool anyone who believes that by bidding 30,000 at Doncaster he would be bidding 30,000 pounds (rather than 31,800 pounds). However, and this is where the injustice kicks in, I rather suspect that the BHA has been duped, and that horses sold at Doncaster ostensibly for 30,000 pounds (ie for 31,800 pounds) will be eligible for this maiden auction race at Newbury while horses sold at Tattersalls for 30,000 guineas (ie 31,500 pounds, which is obviously 300 pounds less than a bid of the same figure would have cost at Doncaster) will be declared ineligible for having been too expensive. I could be wrong and it could be the case that a horse sold for 30,000 at Doncaster won't be eligible, but I think that I'm right. If so, this is something at which the BHA should look forthwith. If I trained a horse to finish second in that race behind a horse who had been knocked down at Doncaster to a bid of 30,000 (ie 31,800 pounds), I would lodge an objection against the winner, and I would expect that the decision to disqualify that winner would be as clear-cut as was the decision to demote Jacqueline Quest.

3 comments:

tidmarshmichael said...

Wath

From what I have seen, you have a couple of real nice two year old fillies in your stable. The photo of Silken Thoughts galloping shows me she is a switched on,well educated filly.All the best with them both and I will be following their progress with interest(and a few bob.)

John Berry said...

Thank you, Michael. Fingers crossed.

Nathan said...

Interesting point about the sales figures with regard to maiden auction races John. Will be interesting to watch that one pan out, if indeed you are correct...