ONE has to conclude that the Tipperary stewards did Irish racing a big favour last Sunday, writes Pat Keane.
The contest in question was a Group 3 over seven and a half furlongs, won by Dermot Weld’s Tested by a short head from Dandy Nicholls’ British invader, Sovereign Debt.
Tested was the likely winner for most of the straight and there would have been no need for the stewards to spring into action had she managed to navigate a reasonably direct course.
But, unfortunately, for her connections, and many backers as well, at least those not on double-result, she didn’t.
Throughout the final 50 yards or so the daughter of Selkirk gradually edged away to her right, clearly hampering the challenging Sovereign Debt.
And that was in spite of Tested’s partner, Leigh Roche, having his whip in his correct hand, his right, at all stages and doing everything to keep the mare straight.
In America or France it would have taken about a minute for Tested to be demoted, while in Britain she would almost certainly have kept the race.
It is a measure of the growing maturity of stewards in Ireland, the culture change has been apparent for a while, that most observers seemed to believe the result would be altered.
It is safe to say that not so long ago such was certainly not the case. At best the impending decision on the part of the stewards would have been regarded as 50-50.
We have written here many times in the past that in calls as close as this the stewards should always nod in favour of the sinned, rather than the sinner. I have not heard about any rule change and it still appears to be the situation that the stewards have to be convinced that a horse improved its position if it is to be demoted.
Would Sovereign Debt have won if she didn’t suffer interference? I simply don’t know and neither does anyone else, including the stewards.
But the balance of probability is that she would have and, thankfully, even though it’s not written in stone, that now seems to be good enough for the stewards in this country.
Compare that with the farcical thinking across channel and there is no need for us to revisit races such as the Voltigeur at York or the Leger at Doncaster. No, let’s confine ourselves to saying that neither verdict, nor several others as well, did anything for the image of racing in Britain.
In contrast Tested, even though she is in the care of one of the most popular trainers in the country, Dermot Weld, and was disqualified in favour of a horse trained in England, the decision arrived at by the stewards hardly raised an eyebrow. That’s a good news story.
Frankie Dettori, rightly, has been lauded for a quite brilliant display aboard Golden Horn in the Arc at Longchamp last Sunday.
His tactics were quite extraordinary and it took real balls to do what he did, race wide for the first two furlongs or so, from a very bad draw.
But, of course, if it hadn’t worked then many of the same people roaring from the rooftops about how good he was would have been the first to tear into him. Let’s be honest, I might even have been near the head of the charge! But that’s what makes the likes of Dettori so good, the ability to take the ultimate risk and to hell with the consequences.
The indications this week are that Golden Horn is not regarded as a superstar, at least in some quarters, and not really a Frankel or a Sea The Stars.
Don’t you just find such comparisons overly tedious? Whenever I read such as that I find myself wanting to scream “who cares?’’ Golden Horn has literally taken on every challenge through an amazing campaign and there is every chance will now head to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland at the end of the month. He’s a superstar, at least to my way of thinking.
Take a little break from the rugby this afternoon and zone in on the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
This is the clash for which we have been waiting, with Ballydoyle’s Air Force Blue taking on Godolphin’s Emotionless.
The Godolphin boys, I’m told, think that Emotionless is their best juvenile and I have little doubt that Air Force Blue is the number one at Ballydoyle.
Emotionless was very impressive at Newmarket and subsequently even more so on his second outing in a Group 2 at Doncaster.
But I love Air Force Blue and was hugely impressed at the way he kicked Herald The Dawn out of the way in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh last time.
You could argue that Herald The Dawn let the form down at Longchamp last Sunday, but that particular race was a typical French affair, with a muddling pace, and too much shouldn’t be read into that.
Anyway, something has to give today and if Air Force Blue doesn’t blow away his rival then queue a restless night!
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