Fairyhouse stewards should have called inquiry

Envoi Allen draws clear to win the ‘Future Champions’ Bumper at Navan last weekend. Gordon Elliott’s charge looks a serious prospect. Picture: Healy Racing

How could the stewards fail to inquire into the performance of Ilikedwayurthinkin, who finished fifth in a modest handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse last Saturday?

Ilikedwayurthinkin, a four-year-old son of Yeats, is owned by JP McManus, trained by Gavin Cromwell, and was ridden by Mark Walsh.

To say he caught the eye of some seasoned observers, behind eventual winner, Clementina, would be an understatement.

Walsh, an excellent rider, had his partner close up in the early stages of this 16-runner two-miler, but by half way Ilikedwayurthinkin had lost his place and had 10 opponents in front of him.

Then the horse made a minor error at the third last, but it really was of no great consequence and he lost a length, or two lengths at most.

Horses often make much worse blunders, and closer to home as well, and still manage to win.

From that point Walsh asked only the bare minimum from his mount, with the pair going wide turning into the straight.

There is a school of thought that he was forced out by Empire Burleque, but, having watched the race back, it seems to me he could have nipped up the inside quite easily.

I was especially interested in Ilikedwayurthinkin at Fairyhouse because he grabbed my attention in his previous outing at Limerick on November 30, when third in a maiden hurdle.

I was a little surprised he didn’t attract the attentions of the stewards that day.

Anyway, a number of the press corps weren’t found wanting in their subsequent commentary on the Fairyhouse contest and I thought Justin O’Hanlon, in particular, in the Racing Post, summed up the inaction by the stewards rather perfectly.

O’Hanlon said plenty and the following is part of it: “From the second last he (Ilikedwayurthinkin) had something considerably less than the kitchen sink thrown at him and it was not difficult to conclude that, with a more vigorous ride, he would certainly have finished second.

“There was no running and riding inquiry and the officials seemed happy to accept that the mistake made at the third last was the principal reason for him not finishing closer than he did.

“That opinion is unlikely to meet with universal agreement and the decision not to have a running and riding inquiry just was not good enough in this instance.’’

O’Hanlon was absolutely right. This is the type of race that often appeals to small staking players, the lifeblood of the game, a wide-open heat and 7-2 the field.

Ilikedwayurthinkin went off favourite at that price and you can be sure there were scores and scores of punters nationwide on the horse. They got a very bad run for their money and the least they were entitled to was an explanation.

It was the stewards’ job to investigate further, but they decided there was nothing to see here. That has to be regarded as a failure on their part. To add insult to injury the chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Denis Egan, was wheeled out by the Racing Post on Monday.

Egan stated he agreed with the stewards at Fairyhouse not to take action and the performance of Ilikedwayurthinkin would not be reviewed.

Egan said: “After the last he (Walsh) hit him one or two times and he stayed on. Maybe Walsh could have been a bit more aggressive, but he wouldn’t have won anyway.’’

Perhaps, Egan is correct in saying the horse wouldn’t have won anyway. But if Walsh was more aggressive, he actually only hit the horse once by the way, would they have finished fourth, or third or second? I mean shouldn’t the stewards have, at the bare minimum, inquired as to whether Ilikedwayurthinkin attained the best possible placing?

The Fairyhouse race was only the fourth of Ilikedwayurthinkin’s life and he has obvious scope for much improvement.

He ran off a mark of 108 and that is a moderate horse’s rating. This week the handicapper raised him by another 2lbs. Anyone think he might prove capable of defying 110 in the not too distant future?

In 2011, Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack won the ‘Future Champions’ Bumper at Navan, but not before giving odds-on punters the fright of their lives.

A horse called Rory O’Moore (25-1) tried to make all of the running that day and, at half-way, was more than half a furlong clear of the 4-6 hotpot.

Nina Carberry was doing the driving on Don Cossack and, for most of the journey, it appeared as if she had got the fractions completely wrong.

Turning for home, Rory O’Moore still held a massive lead, but up the straight the imposing Don Cossack gradually closed down the leader and eventually got on top close home to score by a heart-stopping length and a half.

Don Cossack, of course, went on to win another 14 races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup of 2016.

Anyway, fast forward to the 2018 renewal of the Future Champions’ Bumper at Navan last Sunday, which went to another Elliott inmate, the highly promising Envoi Allen.

Unbeaten now in two races on the track, and one point-to-point, this display by Envoi Allen very much put one in mind of Don Cossack.

The similarities between both of their successes was striking. Patrick Mullins, a dangerous man, set off in front on 16-1 shot, Pakens Rock, an easy winner previously at Thurles.

Pakens Rock was never quite as far in front as Rory O’Moore had been seven years earlier, but did hold a huge advantage for a lot of the trip.

Jamie Codd did the steering on Envoi Allen and at no stage of the two miles did he give the slightest indication there was any need for concern.

Envoi Allen just oozed class and was able to stroll into the lead with a little over two furlongs to cover.

The manner in which he coasted to the front was impressive, but what was even better was what happened afterwards. His main market rival, Joseph O’Brien’s Midnight Run, tried to throw down a challenge, but Envoi Allen bounded up the hill to score with lots in hand.

Whether he will be another Don Cossack remains to be seen, but for now you would have to conclude he’s a highly promising young horse.

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