Friday, April 10, 2015

Sir Humphrey's role in the Baileys Concerto debacle

I think that in the last chapter I questioned one or two things about recent racing administration, but today I have to take my hat off to our overlords.  Aintree has been wonderful so far (after two days) with the highlight being the sight of Arctic Fire getting up after his bad fall at the last in the Aintree Hurdle.  I was thinking that of the less good things one aspect was that The Package hadn't got a run in the National: if he's too low in the weights, he's too low in the weights, but it seems odd that a horse can win a steeplechase at the Cheltenham Festival and then be eliminated from the Grand National the following month.

That's nothing, though, compared to the fact of Baileys Concerto not getting a run.  He was number 41, ie first reserve.  Carlito Brigante apparently went amiss this morning (with the race not being run until tomorrow) so common sense says that Baileys Concerto gets a run.  That's not what happened, though, because apparently the cut-off point for reserves getting in is 9am on the day BEFORE the race.  (I think that Carlito Brigante was found to be wrong at around that time, but was not actually scratched until 11.12 am.)  If that's the rule, that's the rule, and I believe that bookmakers were keen for the rule to be that way.  But you can rest assured that that isn't a trainer's point of view (I seem to recall that when we discussed the matter at an East of England regional meeting of the NTF, the consensus of opinion was that the cut-off point should be reasonably early on the morning of the race) and I can't believe that it would be the owners' point of view either.

Anyway, the BHA statement, presumably prompted by criticism of the fact that Baileys Concerto had not been given a run, was a work of art, a piece of pure genius of which the late Sir Humphrey Appleby would have been proud.  We were told that after "consultation with the industry" the decision not to have day-of-race introduction of reserves was taken "almost unanimously".  That's a lovely phrase: like "almost unique" or "almost pregnant" it can mean anything or nothing, but it sounds good.  But the real masterstroke was the statement that "it was agreed by all that there should be a strict deadline, which is currently 9am the day before the race."

That's wonderful.  If you don't read it carefully, you might think that it says that, "it was agreed by all that there should be a strict deadline of 9am the day before the race."  That, of course, is not what it says, which is just as well because that wouldn't be true.  As it is, though, one can't find any fault at all in the veracity of either part.  The first part (that it was agreed by all that there should be a strict deadline) is (one presumes) completely true (and also so obvious that it should go without saying).  The second part, that the deadline is currently 9am on the day before the races, is also true.  The whole truth, of course, would be that, while the need for a deadline was unanimously agreed, the timing of that deadline was subject to conflicting opinions - but as we know, the truth does not have to be the whole truth for it still to be true.

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