How did the stewards allow the Aidan O’Brien-trained Homesman keep that maiden at Limerick last Sunday, asks Pat Keane.
Homesman eventually beat Modern Approach by a neck, after behaving like a right brat from just over a furlong down.
The son of War Front had signposted he was far from straightforward on his seasonal debut at Navan a week earlier.
You could have made a solid argument for him being the clear form choice to beat 13 rivals, but he was almost friendless in the market, 11-8 to 11-4, and his antics on the track soon revealed just why that was the case.
Homesman appeared to be decidedly short on enthusiasm, proving a hard ride through the last three furlongs, before trailing in a disappointing fourth behind Jim Bolger’s Chronicles.
As a consequence, here is someone who didn’t want to have anything to do with the horse at Limerick.
Mind you, there were plenty who did and, in contrast to Navan the previous Sunday, Homesman was much stronger in the market, leaving the gate a well-backed 11-8 favourite.
Ana O’Brien was in the plate and everything was going swimmingly until Homesman swerved violently to his left approaching the furlong pole.
He cannoned into Buffalo Blues, who was beginning to struggle anyway, and he in turn banged into Modern Approach.
There is no doubt Modern Approach’s chances were completely compromised and that she was totally knocked out of her stride.
No real blame could be attributed to Ana O’Brien, who had her whip in the correct hand, her left. Maybe, you might argue she would have been better off putting down the whip and attempting to pull Homesman off those on his outside.
But she didn’t have much time to react, seemed to do her best in the circumstances and a one-day ban for careless riding was a trifle harsh.
But that’s to get off the real point. The main issue is how the stewards could conclude that Homesman should not be demoted.
Their conclusion was that he hadn’t improved his placing and that was, well, almost laughable.
Yes, you can argue O’Brien only pushed Homesman out in the closing stages, once he condescended to go forward, rather than sideways, again.
But that was an intelligent decision on her part, because to try and do anything else, such as lifting her whip, was to ask for trouble. And she did actually go for him again near the line, as she sensed the second coming.
The problem with all of this, of course, is one of interpretation of the rule that governs stewards’ inquiries.
Contrast what happened at Limerick with Ex Patriot losing a hurdle race at Fairyhouse on February 25.
He hampered Dinaria Des Obeaux between the last two flights, it was nowhere near as bad as the Limerick incident, and the placings were reversed after a stewards’ inquiry. That was very much the right decision.
The form book says there was a head between them, but I believe that is wrong and, having looked back at the race this week, think the margin was either a short head or a nose.
A neck separated the principals at Limerick, but we’re talking small margins anyway and such trifles shouldn’t be regarded as overly important.
The Turf Club’s rewriting of the famous non-triers Rule 212 is already proving a real success, after initial teething problems, and they now have to move to tighten what governs stewards’ inquiries.
The get-out clause for the stewards is when they conclude a horse hasn’t improved its placing, even though it might have bowled over half of the field.
It’s a bit like a forward in football fouling two of his opponents, prior to scoring a goal. Then the referee decides that even if the player hadn’t fouled he would still have scored and so allows the goal to stand. Wouldn’t that be comical.
No-one, including the stewards, can say with certainty that Homesman’s behaviour did or didn’t cost Modern Approach the race.
But a system that, in such circumstances, favours the perpetrator and not the victim is a flawed system.
What the Limerick stewards effectively told us was that the next occasion something like this arises then all anyone can do is to await the verdict.
Expressing an opinion as to what might happen is simply a waste of time. After all, what would you base it on?
Were you, like me, blown away by Minding at Naas on Monday?
The daughter of Galileo was a brilliant three-year-old, but there is good reason to think she might be even better this season.
We know she only had three inferior opponents to deal, but Minding did her business with real style.
Because none of the others wanted to make the running, Ryan Moore allowed her stride on and the ease with which she won was enormously encouraging.
That Naas meeting was most informative. Watching Jessica Harrington’s newcomer, Alpha Centauri, taking the opening two-year-old fillies maiden reinforced what a multi-talented trainer this lady is.
Alpha Centauri went off a heavily backed 2-1 favourite and absolutely flew home. Indeed, an old punting pal, who is faster out of the blocks than Usain Bolt, helped himself to some 8-1 on Sunday evening.
Michael Halford’s Rehana was impressive in landing the Group 3 Athasi Stakes and it was so refreshing to listen to his interview on Attheraces before the race.
I fancied Rehana, up to a point, but was dithering regarding an investment. But, so open and honest was Halford, that it was enough to wash away all of the doubts.
Immediately the decision was made to pull the trigger and there are occasions when sitting on the couch can have its own rewards.
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