Is the French way the right way?

The more you study the manner in which French stewards interpret their rules the more one is inclined to the view that the way they do things is the right way.

Is the French way the right way?

In Britain and Ireland you can never be sure just what might happen when the stewards are required to act and there really is a lack of consistency.

On 'Arc weekend at Longchamp two high-profile horses were disqualified after passing the post in front.

On the Saturday, Cirrus Des Aigles was demoted to fifth, after initially hampering the fourth and then, near the line, the second.

The following day, Aidan O'Brien's Gleneagles won a Group 1, but edged to his right in the closing stages, hampering both the second and third.

If that had happened in Ireland a long and protracted stewards' inquiry would have followed and, more than likely, Gleneagles would have kept the race. In other words the benefit of the doubt would gave been given to the culprit, rather than to the pair of victims.

In France, however, they utterly believe that the jockey has a responsibility first and foremost to do everything to ensure that his mount runs straight and, when they don't, disqualification is inevitable.

Most of the top jockeys are highly intelligent, in the saddle, and suffering a couple of days suspension can often be regarded as no more than a minor irritant, if a major prize has been grabbed. In other words crime really does pay.

But not with the enlightened French, who will dump you out without hesitation. And because everyone understands the rules there was no sense that Gleneagles was in any way hard done by at Longchamp.

Contrast the French with the stewards at Ascot last Saturday, after Forgotten Rules had won a Group 2 over two miles for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen.

When Forgotten Rules challenged early in the straight, he drifted to his right, under a left-hand drive.

In doing so he caused a concertina effect and, in the process, three horses on his inside were hampered.

One of them was Leading Light, the Ascot Gold Cup hero, who suffered injuries that were serious enough to place a major question mark against him ever racing again.

Forgotten Rules was a decisive winner at the line and there is little doubt was the best horse in the contest.

Under British and Irish rules there wasn't the remotest possibility of him losing the race. In France he would have been thrown out in the proverbial jiffy.

At Dundalk recently, Jim Bolger's Chance To Dance got a race in the stewards' room, after being beaten a head into second by Obliterator.

Chance To Dance was hampered on two occasions in the closing stages by the winner, the second incident being the more serious.

Because it is hard to know what Irish stewards are going to do from one day to the next, it was extremely difficult to predict the outcome of their deliberations.

On the exchanges it was 1-2 that Obliterator would keep the prize and 2-1 was available about Chance To Dance getting it.

In the end the stewards nodded in favour of Chance To Dance, the correct conclusion in my opinion, but it would have been no surprise at all had they allowed the result to stand.

Basically then the British and Irish system is all over the place and, essentially, you could almost say the stewards themselves are crippled by rules that are far too open to individual interpretation.

The French have this right, hamper a horse and you go back behind it. If this ever comes in here then you will see the intelligent jockeys riding in a different way entirely.

Of course there will be days when the best horse loses a race, following an inquiry.

But it is just an occupational hazard and the price that should be paid, so that everyone understands the rules under which this game is run.

A very welcome development on At The Races of late has been their decision to show the way the betting on the exchanges is shaping up, without waiting for bookmakers' prices from SIS.

Prior to this ATR would wait for a show and then accompany that with what the exchanges were offering.

One can only guess as to what is going on between SIS and the off-course bookmakers in this country.

The prices seem to arrive very late from SIS, relatively close to the off time of races, and for those who don't bet until a show is produced it has to be most frustrating.

Such betting anyway is just pre-historic and belongs to another era. The only real use betting offices are any more is if the morning price is attractive. Otherwise, betting with the honourable bookmakers, who put their own money at risk on the racecourses, or on the exchanges is the future.

If you are one of those in a betting office, or sitting at home, waiting for a show of betting before placing a wager then you really are going nowhere-fast.

Seriously, just how good is Free Eagle? That third placing behind Noble Mission and Al Kazeem in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last Saturday was a staggering display. He was only having his fourth ever run and was racing on a testing surface for the first time.

But the way Free Eagle stuck to this task up the straight was frighteningly encouraging and, given a bit of luck, he is obviously going to make some four-year-old.

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