Last Saturday at Naas the stewards flexed their collective muscles when a mare called Mount Corkish Girl was the medium of an inquiry, after finishing eighth of 25 in the maiden hurdle won by the impressive Free Expression.
The stewards decided that she had not been allowed to run on her merits and so rider, Andrew Lynch, was suspended for seven days, the horse suspended for 60 days and trainer, Gillian Callaghan, fined €1,000.
I would have no real problem with the action the stewards took, if this is simply the start of what is to come.
Watch the performance of Mount Corkish Girl closely and there is no doubt that the stewards had to act.
She was given kid-glove treatment by Lynch up the straight, was nearest at the finish and seemed to come home in his hands.
But was this the worst case we have seen in Ireland this year? You have got to be kidding and there is now a growing notion - perhaps it has been there for a long time - that we have one law for the small man, or woman in this case, and another for the big man.
Mount Corkish Girl was a 66-1 shot at Naas and arrived with not a whole lot to recommend her.
She did hint at possessing ability in two moderate bumpers, but there was nothing to like about her outing prior to Naas, her first over flights.
At Punchestown last month, Mount Corkish Girl finished fourth of eight behind Princely Conn, beaten a total of forty-four and a half lengths.
The stewards saw no reason to ask any questions after that race and so her massive odds at Naas were no surprise.
We have seen instances on the flat this season and, indeed every other season as well, when horses, often in the care of major trainers, are treated to an educational run or two and nothing is said.
Look at that Naas race again and tell me there isn’t at least one other participant that should have had the stewards jumping up and down.
And have a look as well at the beginners chase at Naas, won by Real Steel, and see what you make of that.
Mount Corkish Girl reminds me of the sentence handed down to a horse, and his connections, called Ballyronan Boy at Tipperary in 2010. This is a beauty and my favourite of all time.
Trained then by Michael Connell, Ballyronan Boy - he was 66-1 as well - finished 7th 11 in a maiden won by Jembatt.
The stewards took a dim view of the display and decided to suspend the horse for 60 days.
Ronan Whelan did the driving and he incurred a suspension of seven days, while Connell was fined €1,500.
So did the stewards that day map a certain future winner for the public? The answer has to be an especially embarrassing no.
Ballyronan Boy subsequently had two more trainers, Mags Mullins and James Barrett, and ran another eight times.
His form figures for those eights runs are as follows: 13-14-15-13-15-8-9-13, which really makes for sorry reading if you happened to be one of the stewards on that fateful day at Tipperary. The horse was last seen at Dundalk on September 12, 2012, finishing 13th off a paltry mark of 47.
To the best of my knowledge Connell never had his €1,500 returned, but should have, shouldn’t he!
Anyway, we digress and back to Naas. The stewards have now put down a marker and all other cases, as regards the future, will have to be measured against this.
You cannot escape the feeling, however, that if the Naas contest was on the flat, and Mount Corkish Girl was trained by certain people, that a slap on the wrists might have been deemed sufficient.
Likewise, had she carried different colours last Saturday a little tap on the knuckles for all concerned could have been the outcome.
Lynch has decided to appeal, that is no great surprise, nor is it any great surprise Callaghan is also going to appeal.
Considering the mare was found to be coughing after the race, surely that was a near-certain get-out clause, those appeals are going to be more than interesting.
The coming months too are going to be interesting. Perception in racing, as in life, can be hugely important.
Will the stewards be seen to act when some of the major boys are involved and give those cynics, there are many of us, reason to believe that this really is a level playing field? If they do then that will be just grand, but don’t hold your breath.
It was almost sad to be at Limerick last Sunday for a meeting that is typical of what is happening in Irish racing.
The attendance was sparse and there was a distinct lack of atmosphere. Just 22 bookmakers were on site, as they tussled for largely non-existent money.
Racecourses do the best they can and Limerick is no different, with government largesse and the live pictures from the tracks keeping the game going.
One has to comment, however, on the make-up of Sunday’s Limerick programme.
We had three of those awful handicap hurdles in a row and that’s just not good enough.
If you must have three such contests then surely it would make sense to run some non-handicaps in between them.
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