PAT KEANE: Turf Club clearly has lessons to learn from Volume farce

CLOSE CALL: Volume (left) goes down narrowly in the Oaks at the Curragh  having had to be re-shod.

The Irish Oaks at the Curragh last Saturday, or at least the delay in getting the race away, was a bit of a farce.

Matt Chapman, on ATR, is given to saying “we love our Irish racing” and yes we do.

But, by the time the horses had left the gate for the Oaks, a full 21 minutes after the off time, we had almost lost the will to live.

God only knows what the mandarins in RTÉ made of it all. They continue to cover racing as best they can on terrestrial television, knowing full well that, when it comes to viewers, this is a sport that is a fair way down the pecking order.

We know Luca Cumani’s Volume was wearing shoes that were illegal in Ireland and, if she had won, would have been disqualified.

At least the eagle eye that spotted the offenders might well have saved an even more embarrassing situation because Volume was only beaten two necks into third place.

There are plenty who believe the stewards should have prevented Volume from running, thus giving far more consideration to the other runners in the race.

It was certainly a difficult one for the stewards on the day, because they had been handed a scenario that was essentially unprecedented.

I gather there was a limit, time-wise, on efforts to re-shod Volume and have her conform to the law that governs racing in this country. Apparently, she was within a minute of being withdrawn by the stewards.

Anyway, while Volume was off getting more suitable gear, the other nine runners in the Oaks were subjected to a lengthy wait that certainly did some of them no good at all.

So, admittedly in retrospect, would it not have been better to order the withdrawal of Volume for the greater good?

Watching what was going on you wondered just who was in charge of the situation? Indeed, you almost expected Cinderella and the ugly sisters to appear at any moment!

There are clearly lessons to be learned by the Turf Club from this episode and I doubt we will ever see anything like it happening again.

Aidan O'Brien’s Tapestry was surely the biggest sufferer, getting rather wound up, hot and bothered and on her toes.

That she was able to run such a massive race, beaten a neck into second by Bracelet, was just extraordinary.

On top of that, she stumbled badly on leaving the stalls and reportedly went through the contest with a slipped saddle.

Had to smile this week at the British press lauding the connections of Taghrooda for swerving the Irish Oaks and instead aiming the Epsom Oaks heroine at today's King George at Ascot.

In other circumstances, the same people would have been tearing John Gosden and Sheikh Hamdan asunder.

Betting ante-post is for the birds as far as I'm concerned, but not everyone thinks like that.

Here’s one who will never have an ante-post wager, except maybe for Cheltenham and only when the firms guarantee money back should your horse not run.

The simple facts are that Taghrooda, listening to everything John Gosden said, was heading for the Curragh.

There was absolutely no indication whatsoever that she was likely to be re-routed to the King George.

Punters behaved accordingly and one press room colleague had what he describes as a “good bet” on her for the Irish Oaks.

Then at declaration on the Thursday morning, two days before the race, there was, amazingly, no sign of her. And the horrible truth dawned on those, and there were plenty, that they had done their dough. You were entitled to feel almost a victim of the three-card trick.

But sections of the British press thought such behaviour was fine. Well, it wasn't and ante-post racing in this country is just as important as it is across the water.

As a fan of Ger Lyons, both the trainer and the man given to calling a spade a spade, I found his interview with Daragh O’Conchuir in last Saturday's Irish Field simply fascinating.

There were one or two parts of it that really are more than worth repeating and provided music to the ears of this observer.

As someone who simply despises being told where you can and cannot go on the way into the races, and on the racecourse itself, this is what Lyons had to say on the subject.

“Ireland is known for it’s welcome, don’t lose that. You get one chance to make a good impression.

“Don't be so aggressive, get rid of the high-vis jackets, get rid of the shaven-headed guys with earpieces, it’s like getting into a nightclub and that’s not what we should be presenting. It doesn’t reflect the type of clientele we have.”

And, on Roger Varian’s decision to withdraw Kingston Hill from the Irish Derby, Lyons refused to go down the well-worn politically correct road.

Said Lyons: “I, on more than one occasion, defended Roger Varian for not running Kingston Hill (at the Curragh) because of the ground.

“Then he goes and runs the horse on very firm ground in the Eclipse at Sandown. That annoyed me, that was wrong.”

What a breath of fresh air Lyons is.


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