PAT KEANE: Starting stall rules need to be revisited after Ballinrobe farce

BALLINROBE last Monday night created a right bit of controversy.

It centred on the Paul Magnier trained Golan Go in a mile and six handicap for apprentices, a contest which normally would attract no more than a passing glance.

But when the four-year-old was unruly in the stalls and burst out through them, breaking his particular stall in the process, it created a situation which certainly requires further investigation.

The horse was then trotted up and down, to see if any damage had been done to him, was passed fit to run by the vet and reloaded with the permission of the starter.

Both the vet and starter did their jobs and no criticism can be levelled at them. The problem arose, of course, because Golan Go’s original stall was now wrecked and so he had to be put into another stall.

There were a couple of circumstances which made his new allocation absolutely vital. Firstly, he had been backed from 20-1 to 8-1 and that had very much focused attention on to him.

And then there was the fact Golan Go was originally due to emerge from stall 16, the very best draw in the contest.

Then, however, those who had backed the horse had to watch in horror as he was reloaded on the very outside and now had the worst draw of all.

When Golan Go was slowly away, losing many lengths, the gamble was quickly sunk without trace and if you were among those who had joined in then had to feel more than hard done by.

As I understand the system in this country, there is always a spare stall in case the need arises, as it did in Golan Go’s case.

But when it operates the way it did at Ballinrobe, then that brings the game into disrepute and has the capacity to leave a very sour taste in the mouths of at least some punters.

The integrity of racing is simply not in any way served when the system works in this manner.

In England they do not have a spare stall and when a horse behaves as Golan Go did then he is withdrawn, end of story.

Watching on At The Races the whole thing looked really silly and impossible to justify. It wasn’t lost on Matt Chapman, a noted supporter of Irish racing, and he duly went to town. There was little the man said with which you could disagree.

Paul Magnier was very annoyed and called for the rules of racing to protect the punter, describing them as “the most important people to the industry.” Couldn’t agree more.

Turf Club chief executive, Denis Egan, was quoted as saying: “No rules were broken and there are no plans to amend the rules regarding starting procedures.”

We accept no rules were broken but, quite frankly and with all due respect to Mr Egan, that is far too glib a response.

Take the very valuable Topaz Mile EBF Handicap at Galway next Tuesday night, over an extended mile.

Trainers will be on their hands and knees praying for a high draw in that race as it will just offer a big advantage.

Picture a scenario at this massive high-profile meeting, on RTE now as well as ATR, where the favourite is drawn up against the rails and behaves in a similar way to Golan Go.

He is then passed fit by the vet to race, but cannot go back to his intended stall and so is placed on the wide outside.

The jolly fails to get in any sort of a blow, is always fighting a losing battle and all hell breaks loose.

I’ll guarantee one thing here and now and that is that Ted Walsh on RTE would not be found wanting if that was to happen and that it would be the lead on the racing pages of every paper on Wednesday morning.

I don’t know what the right system is, whether it’s the Irish one or the English version.

What I do know for sure is the Ballinrobe system is completely wrong. The law is an ass is an old adage and, in this case, the rules, as adhered to at Ballinrobe, were totally asinine.

It’s not good enough for the Turf Club to conclude, because no rules were broken at Ballinrobe, that everything is fine.

Such an attitude is simply a cop-out and the starting stalls rules should be immediately revisited.


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