A busy jumps trainer gave me an insight, at the races the other day, into the current unprecedented tension between his fellow trainers and the British Horseracing Authority. The issue he focused on was the ruling body’s decision that all runners at the recent Cheltenham Festival would have to be trotted before its vets and passed as sound before competing. This was always likely to annoy some trainers, because of the imputation that they might want to race unsound horses. “But,” this trainer told me, “if they’d come to us and said, look, we’re under pressure, we have to show everyone out there that we’re doing the right thing by these horses and we need your help, so please work with us,’ that would have been one thing.
“But the attitude we always seem to get from them is, you’re trying to put one over on us. You’re trying to get away with something and we’re going to catch you.’”
I’ve since tried this line out on a couple of other trainers I trust, who readily approved it as an accurate description of how trainers experience BHA action. “Their attitude makes you defensive right away,” said one, who speculated that a more approachable regulator would be getting a much better flow of information from racing professionals, who currently avoid unnecessary contact with the BHA.
I gather that David Sykes, the BHA’s director of equine welfare, has emailed trainers since Cheltenham with gushing praise for their co-operation over the new measures. That’s being interpreted as an olive branch as the BHA now tries to improve its relationship with racing professionals, an effort which is proving as necessary as I predicted in this space two months ago.
For the future, I’m sure it would help all parties if at least some BHA functions were taken out of High Holborn and based in offices much closer to where horses are trained, in Lambourn or Newmarket, Malton or Wincanton. Trainers, jockeys and stable staff should bump into BHA staffers while going about their daily business. It would bring the BHA closer to the sport’s practical realities and help racing professionals to see the ruling body as an essential part of their lives, rather than some remote clunking fist which might squash them one day.
At any rate, something needs to be done to address the alienation felt by trainers. I see that horsemen are sometimes mocked on social media for seeking to kill off the BHA and run the sport themselves but this seems a straw man to me; I haven’t heard it uttered as a serious suggestion. What trainers want is a ruling body that is clear about wanting to work with them rather than boss them around with dubious new rules after little or no consultation. If it takes some personnel changes to get there, they are
increasingly willing to contemplate that.
Today’s jump racing is at Wincanton, where I’ve napped Kimberley Point (4.15) and am pretty chuffed to be getting 7-1. From the in-form Alan King yard (nine winners at a 24% rate in the past fortnight), she won a maiden hurdle, a novice hurdle and came up short by just a head on her handicap debut, all before the turn of the year. She’s been given a break, possibly because she’s not really a horse for winter ground, and appeals more to me than the lightly raced pair of Miranda and Not So Sleepy, who have a bit to prove on their handicap marks.
Michael Scudamore is going well just now and could strike in the opener with Belmont Jewel (2.15). Three miles was too far for her but she has come down to a fair mark and proved it at Huntingdon a fortnight ago when beaten just a neck by a Dan Skelton favourite. She’s 9-2 to go one better. At Wolverhampton on Monday night, Mercury (5.45) is of interest at 100-30. A winner at this track in his Kevin Ryan days, he has been running well enough at Dundalk to command respect in this company and Adam Kirby is booked.
2.15 Belmont Jewel 2.45 Secret Investor 3.15 Deauville Dancer 3.45 Findusatgorcombe 4.15 Kimberley Point (nap) 4.45 Storm Arising
2.30 Soaring Spirits 3.00 First Link 3.30 Atomic Jack 4.00 Gumball 4.30 Monadante 5.00 Don’t Do It
5.15 Nice To Sea 5.45 Mercury (nb) 6.15 Top Breeze 6.45 Griggy 7.15 Peachey Carnehan 7.45 Admiral Rooke