Himmah should not have been allowed to run after pre-race antics

If you backed the Kevin Prendergast-trained Himmah to win a five furlongs two-year-old maiden at Navan last Saturday then you were more than entitled to feel especially piddled-off with Irish racing.

Himmah should not have been allowed to run after pre-race antics

A modest five-runner affair, all logic indicated it was set to be a straight match between Himmah and Johnny Murtagh’s Guessthebill.

The only other that could have been considered as a possible winner was Joseph O’Brien’s newcomer, Dowhatisay, and the word on him was negative.

I fancied Guessthebill, having been impressed with the manner he saw out his debut run when beaten a head into second by the gambled-on T For Tango at Naas 41 days earlier.

When he became available at marginally better than even-money on Betfair well before the off, I duly pulled the trigger and invested.

I felt the price represented value, while fully aware of the danger posed by Himmah. She had her first start at Navan on April 23 and was backed from 10-1 to 11-2.

It just didn’t work out for her on the day, from the worst of the draw, but Himmah did make late progress to finish seventh of 15 behind another Murtagh inmate, Too Familiar.

When I backed Guessthebill, Himmah was on offer at just under 2-1 on the exchanges. Soon, however, the entire picture dramatically changed.

As Himmah emerged from the parade ring, she behaved like a bucking bronco for a hundred yards, or more, and soon tossed her rider, Chris Hayes, to the ground.

Then she dashed across the track, flattened a rail, attempting to jump it, before crashing into another of the runners, Big Bad Sal, whose pilot, Shane Foley, was sent spinning to the turf.

That left the two rider-less horses to career off down to the start and, one assumed, that both would be quickly declared as non-runners.

I sat watching what was unfolding and had little doubt the wager I’d struck earlier had essentially been rendered worthless.

But nothing could have been further from the truth and it was soon apparent that both horses were actually going to run.

In the meantime, buckets of those on the exchanges were reacting, with those who wanted to lay Himmah battering her out to a price that was unimaginable a short few minute earlier.

By the time the five horses left the starting gate, the second favourite had gone from under 2-1 to well over 4-1 and what the layers were basically saying was that this cannot now win.

As Himmah flew one way, Guessthebill was travelling just as fast in the opposite direction. After being freely on offer in excess of evens, he was now being taken at any price and was less than 1-2 on the exchanges at the off.

Looking at it with one’s purely selfish hat on, I was delighted the way the situation had unfolded and even more delighted as Guessthebill beat Himmah comfortably.

But, of course, that’s not the point. The real point is that surely Himmah, whatever about Big Bad Sal, returned at 20-1 and much bigger on the exchanges, should not have been allowed to run.

There were lots of punters that backed Himmah in good faith and who couldn’t possibly have anticipated the way she would behave subsequently.

Her behaviour completely compromised her prospects and, if you were one of those who were on, then had to be praying she would not take part.

The fact she was allowed to do so was a bit of a joke, although I doubt those who backed the filly, prior to her antics, saw the funny side.

SO, Churchill turns up for this afternoon’s 2000 Guineas at the Curragh, which means the Ballydoyle brigade will number many come Epsom next Saturday.

Realistically, Churchill should enjoy little more than a stroll in the Curragh sun and then it will be a case of heading to Royal Ascot and the St James’ Palace Stakes.

There is so much to like about Michael Halford’s twice-raced Irishcorrespondent, who has been deeply impressive in winning both his races, but taking on Churchill is a totally different test.

Mind you, as a spectacle, this is one classic that doesn’t promise much, unless, of course, Churchill gets turned over!

In the meantime, it has become popular to start shoving Cliffs Of Moher forward as the leading Ballydoyle Epsom Derby contender.

It will obviously be significant if he is the final choice of Ryan Moore, or if Aidan O’Brien tells Moore to ride him but, to my eyes, he has a lot to prove, having produced only an adequate display when landing the Dee Stakes on his reappearance at Chester.

THE handicapper could not have been more explicit, his opinion was that the Aidan O’Brien-trained Belgravia was not good enough to land a mile and five Listed race at Navan last Saturday.

But punters thought they knew better and the Galileo colt was hammered in the market and, at the off, was a tight 11-10 favourite to beat six rivals.

Only eventual winner, Naughty Or Nice, didn’t have a rating, but four of the other five runners were on a mark higher than Belgravia, in some cases substantially so.

Belgravia tried to make all, but was already beaten when hampered under two furlongs from home, finally trailing in fourth.

The handicapper essentially indicated that he had no chance at the weights and had Belgravia 10lbs behind the second, Grandee, and 13lbs shy of the third, Finn McCool.

The lesson to be learned is that people can scream and shout all they want regarding a particular handicapper’s ability to do his job, but you take them on at your peril.

For instance it is not so long ago that BHA handicapper Phil Smith, arguably the most maligned of the species, enjoyed the last laugh when the dust had settled on the Cheltenham festival.

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