Sunday, November 04, 2018

Don't ride (or medicate) like a dick

It's the most wonderful time of year for following overseas racing.  Yesterday we had Victoria Derby Day at Flemington and (Day Two of) the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs.  And on Tuesday we shall have Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington, my one sleepless night of the year as Tony Ennis and I steer the ATR ship through the night, with Chris Hayter producing the show in the gallery.  That's the next best thing to being there, and I've done that every year (with two exceptions) since one (possibly the first?) of Makybe Diva's wins, initially with Dave Compton and then with Matt Chapman and latterly with Enzo.

One year I didn't do it as I was at Flemington (when the Jap horses Delta Blues and Pop Rock ran the quinella) and one year (two or three years ago) ATR didn't have the rights to show it as Eurosport held the exclusive contract to broadcast the meeting internationally.  Anyway, that'll be Monday night / Tuesday morning, and I'm looking forward to it very much.  Derby Day was terrific, and Cup Day will be very good too.  The past few months I've been saying that Britain would finally win the race, but that was largely based on the assumption that Withhold would win, and he's now not running (having bled in the Geelong Cup).  The irony is that the Cup could well stay at home (well, in Australia, if not Victoria) thanks to Youngstar - the irony of which, of course, would be Chris Waller, having imported so many European horses, winning it with an Aus-bred.

The Breeders' Cup was also terrific, even if we now have to add the hand-wringing about the whip (thanks to Christophe Soumillon on Thunder Snow) to the hand-wringing of European horses letting the side down by running on Lasix.  The answer to both is simple: I'd extend the principle which I've been advocating for a while about trainers' use of medication to jockeys' use of the whip.  Basically I feel that the BHA should take the lead from the HKJC, which says that if a trainer is training under an HKJC license, if he runs a horse overseas in a jurisdiction which has a more laissez-faire attitude to drug-use than Hong Kong, he is still not permitted to present his horse on raceday treated with a drug which would be barred on raceday in Hong Kong.

This came about when Rich Tapestry was sent from Hong Kong to California to contest the Grade One Santa Anita Sprint Championship in October 2014.  The trainer was going to adopt the 'When in Rome ..' school of expediency and run the horse on Lasix, but the HKJC said that, as he was training under a license issued by the HKJC, he still had to abide by HKJC rules, and HKJC rules say that a horse can't run on Lasix.  The fact that the Californian Jockey Club, or whatever it is called, allows Lasix was not considered relevant, and the HKJC line was that if a trainer operating under its license presented a horse on raceday treated with Lasix, he would be disciplined the same irrespective of whether the race was in Hong Kong or elsewhere.  (Rich Tapestry won the race Lasix-free, incidentally).

The BHA should do the same.  British trainers (or, I should say, some British trainers) think that this would not be a good idea, their reason being that it might discourage international owners from having their horses trained in the UK if they knew that it would mean that the horses couldn't run on Lasix (or bute) if the trainer ran them in the USA.  I think that this is nonsense.  If you send a horse to Andre Fabre, you do so knowing that the horse will run drug-free if he races him/her in America, and Fabre has never found it hard to attract patrons.

I'd actually look at it the other way: it would be a better international selling point for British racing and British trainers if collectively we developed a reputation for being anti-medication (which is the way that the wind is blowing worldwide, albeit more slowly in some places than others) than doing what we have been doing up to now, ie building up a reputation as hypocrites who pretend to be anti-medication but in reality are only anti-medication wherever it is barred, but jump at the chance to use it when it's allowed.  I don't like that at all.

And, besides, it would make life much easier for the trainer if he didn't have to put himself through the agonising over the dilemma about whether or not to use the Lasix on a trip to the USA (knowing that one ought not to use it, but fearing that one might - and this, of course, is unknowable - be reducing one's chance of winning if one sticks to one's principles) if there was no decision to take.  Not that I'm likely to have to face such a dilemma, but for me having to face such a dilemma would be a major disincentive against running a horse in the USA.

So it would help if the BHA (and HRI and France-Galop) followed the lead of the HKJC as regards trainers' use of drugs.  And subsequent to the disquiet which seems to have been generally felt about Soumillon's ride on Thunder Snow, it would be a good idea if they extended that to jockeys' use of the whip, ie by saying, "If you ride on a license which we have issued, you must ride within the guidelines which accompany the issuing of that license.  If you go overseas and ride somewhere else, if you are riding on our license, if we find that you have breached our guidelines, it won't matter how permissive the authorities are over there, we'll discipline you just the same as we would do if you rode like that here.  If you're riding on a British/Irish/French (delete as applicable) license, you're a British/Irish/French (delete as applicable) jockey even when you're over there, so ride like one - don't ride like a dick.  Or else!".

2 comments:

rather rapid said...

Lasix is a medical instead of political Q. easy to be anti when u're running on grass and/or in low humidity environments. Run a few on dirt in Louisiana, USA in summertime and report back on anti-lasix.

neil kearns said...

Totally agree with everything on here except our (presumably American friend's comment) frankly if the horse cant stand training in the regime they are in then he/she should not be running in races - to mask the weaknesses of the animal with a drug is frankly animal cruelty and if it means you cant race in Louisiana in the summertime as suggested then race there in the winter

as for Soumillon dont think he would be on his own in truth (had others be in a position to force one home over the weekend) given the number of times jockeys riding over here break the whip rules to win (particularly pattern class) races it will not stop until the sanction for incorrect use of the whip is disqualification of the horse - however unfair that may be to connections however would totally agree with the article that the licensing authority should be able to apply a retrospective sanction on the jockey