Tuesday, February 26, 2019

It's how you tell 'em

Our three runners are down to two, in rather annoying circumstances.  The first annoying circumstance of the week actually concerns one of the two horses who will be running.  The fact that winners are now allowed to run in maiden races does rather irritate me.  (Well, I know that that's not technically true - winners are not allowed to run in maiden races, but it is just that maiden races are no longer maiden races but are now 'novice' races in which previous winners can run, but effectively when you're running a maiden in them because he/she has to run in such races before he/she is eligible for handicaps, in your mind the race still is, or rather should be, a maiden race).

Anyway, Sacred Star runs in a novice race tomorrow against a Melbourne Cup hopeful.  Strange but true.  Verdana Blue, easy winner of a maiden race in the autumn and then runner-up in a listed race before beating Buveur D'Air in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, should start at around 1/10 in this 'novice' race and win with her head in her chest.  Mind you, it would still be a very strong race even without her.  Gumball, runner-up in a Grade One hurdle race at Aintree last April, makes his Flat debut; while we also have a maiden who finished second in a Class Two handicap at Chester last time.  I'm expecting her to run creditably, but as you can probably work out, I'm not expecting her to win.

So that's one rule change that slightly sticks in the throat.  I can understand why two-year-old maiden races became novice races and agree with the theory, primarily because we had reached the stage where there weren't many conditions races, and there are no two-year-old handicaps in the first half of the season.  But all the while this was being discussed, it never crossed my mind that this would be applied to older horses' maiden races too.  The previous system of maiden races worked very well, and all that has been achieved by allowing winners to run in them has been to make them even more uncompetitive than they already were, because the winners all too often dominate both the betting and the race.

Rule change number two was bringing forward declaration time from 10.00 to 9.30, and then re-offering every race until 10.00.  I don't like the idea of re-offering races because my literal mind sees it that when a race has closed, it has closed.  But what is really irritating is that the BHA don't paint the new situation as it is: they say that the race still closes at 10.00, but you can see the other declarations from 9.30 onwards, which was as it used to be after 10.00 if a race was being re-offered.  It annoys me that they misleading portray it thus.

The real give-away that the race closes at 9.30 is that one can't cancel a declaration after that time.  If the race was still open, as the BHA maintains, you would be able to cancel the declaration.  I was reminded of this this morning.  Roy cantered up Long Hill third lot this morning just after 9.40.  He wasn't quite as exuberant as usual cantering and I wasn't totally happy with him afterwards.  He was 100% sound, but he wasn't the Roy who had galloped really well with Sacred Sprite on Sunday.  I was relieved that I had my phone on me and it wasn't yet 10.00, so I went on-line while riding home at 9.55 to cancel the declaration - only to find that I didn't have that option.

So that was annoying.  I ended up making Roy a non-runner at around 10.30, about fifty-five and a half hours before the race and about half an hour after what is officially (but isn't actually) declaration time.  It was so silly.  He should never have appeared among the declarations.  I hate having non-runners, but I'll have one on Thursday (as 'self-certificate: off colour').  If we'd been told that declaration time was being brought forward to 9.30 and that every race was being re-offered, that would have been fair enough. if very annoying.  But being told that declaration time is still 10.00 and no races will be re-offered, when that's plainly not true, wasn't very funny.  As I was reminded this morning and as I will be reminded on Thursday when Roy is a non-runner from a race in which he shouldn't have appeared among the declarations in the first place.

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