Fairness and common sense sadly lacking in Gowran case

It really is some mess now. Remember, we wrote here a couple of weeks ago regarding what could be best described as a nothing race at Gowran Park on March 11.
Fairness and common sense sadly lacking in Gowran case

In a four-horse affair, Dicosimo (7-4), fell at the sixth fence, leaving 8-15 shot General Principle to beat the 25-1 no-hopers, Cloudy Morning and Theturnofthesun, by nine lengths and half a length.

The contest wasn’t worth a second thought, until the Gowran stewards flexed their collective muscles and arrived at conclusions that made little or no sense.

Both trainers of the placed horses, Declan Queally (Cloudy Morning) and Matthew Smith (Theturnofthesun), were fined €2,000.

Both jockeys, Barry John Foley (Cloudy Morning) and Andrew Lynch (Theturnofthesun), were suspended for five days and ordered to forfeit their riding fees. The two horses were suspended for 42 days.

I said here on March 18 that it would be a surprise should the somewhat draconian penalties be allowed to stand, on appeal.

Well, the appeals took place at the Turf Club on Monday and the outcome was nothing short of extraordinary.

The appeal panel overturned the findings of the Gowran stewards in relation to Cloudy Morning and it looked as if justice had been served.

But Turf Club chief executive, Denis Egan, was having none of it. He subsequently referred Cloudy Morning’s trainer, Queally, and jockey, Foley, under a different part of what is rapidly becoming the infamous Rule 212, under the section relating to schooling in public, after comments made by Foley during the original process. Seriously?

But wait, there’s more, this time centreing on Theturnofthesun and his connections. The panel also quashed his trainer Matthew Smith’s €2,000 fine, but inexplicably dismissed the appeal of jockey Lynch and upheld the horse’s 42-day ban.

Rule 212 has been rewritten and here’s one who is very much in favour of that. It has the capacity to deal effectively with non-triers, badly needed, and to bolster the confidence of punters in Irish racing.

But a rule is only as good as the people charged with interpreting and administering it, together with interpreting what is happening out on the track in front of them, and has to be utilised fairly and with common sense. To my way of thinking fairness and common sense are sadly lacking in this case.

I looked back at the Gowran race again on Thursday, including the head-on, and, for the life of me, cannot work out how anyone had any questions to answer.

The facts are simple. General Principle is a 140-rated chaser and, once Dicosimo had departed, was entitled to win as far as he wanted. That was precisely what unfolded, as he was requested to do the bare minimum in the straight by Bryan Cooper. At Limerick on Thursday, General Principle strolled to another success, in a modest Grade 3.

Cloudy Morning has a mark over flights of 111, with Theturnofthesun, who was making his chasing debut, rated a paltry 99.

That means Theturnofthesun is 12lbs below Cloudy Morning and, when claims are taken into account, was giving his rival 7lbs at Gowran.

All logic tells us that Theturnofthesun, 19lbs wrong on hurdle figures, couldn’t get anywhere near Cloudy Morning and yet was only beaten half a length.

But instead of asking Lynch as to how he magically managed to get Theturnofthesun to perform way beyond realistic expectations, the rider was “rewarded’’ with a five-day ban and then, amazingly, it was confirmed on appeal.

There is simply no way, you’d imagine, that trainers and, indeed jockeys, can accept this sort of governance. Egan reiterated in the Racing Post on Wednesday his belief that Rule 212 will enhance the integrity of Irish racing.

It certainly could do just that, but the Gowran debacle has had entirely the opposite effect and, you might argue, is bringing racing into disrepute.

The manner in which the Gowran situation has developed is laughable, farcical and nowhere near good enough. The Turf Club should do the decent thing, put an end to this ridiculous controversy once and for all and start again. When in a hole, you really should stop digging.

I HAVE been a fan of the Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester for a while now, ever since he got a moderate drive from James Doyle when a close third behind The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last July.

He then went to on to win a Group 1 at Deauville, before ending the season with a creditable half a length second behind Aidan O’Brien’s Minding in another Group 1 at Ascot in October.

At Meydan last Saturday, Ribchester made his reappearance and it was difficult enough to resist having a few quid on him in a 13-runner Group 1.

Resist we did, but it didn’t look the wisest decision when Ribchester eased into the lead with well over two furlongs to run.

That, however, was too far out in this nine-furlongs contest and he was run down close home by the Japanese horse, Vivlos, and the French horse, Heshem, and beaten half a length and the same into third.

Owned by Godolphin, Ribchester clearly needed to be towed along for much longer and it has since emerged that Toscanini, a five-time winner for Michael Halford, has now been moved to Fahey to do just that in the future. I feel there will be a day or two, at least, when we will want to be with Ribchester over the coming months.

I THOUGHT Gordon Elliott’s Midnight Escape was the makings of a good horse and was more than puzzled, as he trailed home fifth of seven behind long-absent Open Eagle at Thurles last Saturday.

Was a lack of pace in the race against him, did he not like the course, or is this simply a fair reflection of his ability? I’d like to see him again before drawing any conclusions, maybe back on a galloping track such as Naas, where he won his maiden.

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