Turf Club’s new ‘running and riding’ rules causing concern
Trainers’ CEO Michael Grassick worried ‘best possible position’ regulation is ‘vague’”
Michael Grassick with trainer John Oxx: “A lot of lads ease up on a horse so they can actually finish, particularly on deep ground,” said Grassick. Photograph Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The Turf Club’s radical new ‘running and riding’ regulations come into force for the first time at Dundalk on Friday evening but it is any potential impact on jump racing in particular which appears to be a concern for the country’s trainers.
The chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, Michael Grassick, believes any sticking points in relation to the new Rule 212 – which includes regulations on ‘non-triers’ – could centre on its interpretation rather than the actual rule itself.
Significant changes to Rule 212 were announced by racing’s integrity body last week with the Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan describing them as the most extensive and comprehensive ‘running and riding’ regulations anywhere in the world.
Underpinning them is an emphasis on “the importance of each horse competing in each race being seen to have been given a full opportunity of obtaining the best possible place”.
The Turf Club has stressed the importance of all horses, including those having their first run, being ridden to attain the best possible place and they “must not be deliberately eased before passing the winning post without good reason”.
A possible short-term jump in enquiries hasn’t been ruled out and there will be a focus on what happens at Dundalk on Friday.
However it is any potential impact on the National Hunt sphere that Grassick is immediately concerned with.
“It’s the implementation of the rules rather than the rules themselves which is the issue, we have always found,” said the former Group One- winning trainer and now chief executive of the IRTA.
“The one thing I would worry about is in relation to National Hunt and the rule that jockeys are to be seen to try and obtain the best possible position; what do jockeys do when their horse gets tired? Are they supposed to keep on pushing and driving?
“A lot of lads ease up on a horse so they can actually finish, particularly on deep ground. Are jockeys now going to be in trouble if they finish ninth but if they’d kept riding they might have finished eighth? It’s all a bit vague at the moment,” he added.
Separately Grassick confirmed that former trainer Sharon Dunphy has not been in contact with the IRTA.
Dunphy, along with owner and well-known point to point vendor, Joseph Logan, were each disqualified from racing for two years when the Turf Club’s referrals committee delivered its verdict on the Like A Diamond controversy on Monday.
The unraced Like A Diamond was backed from 50-1 to 9-4 at Ballinrobe in July of 2013 but was withdrawn after the stewards expressed concern that the horse was not in the care of its registered trainer who was Dunphy.
The referrals committee decided it was probable the horse was never trained by her and was instead trained by Fabian Burke who was handed a suspended two-year disqualification. It said it was a plan “hatched to pull the wool over the eyes of the Turf Club, bookmakers and the public”.
In its investigation the Turf Club said Dunphy was unable to produce documentation she trained Like A Diamond other than Logan paid €425 in respect of a flat trainer’s licence on her behalf.
Both Dunphy and Logan are expected to have appeals heard by racing’s appeals body within the next few weeks but Logan, a prominent vendor of point to point horses, has heavily criticised the penalties and says he is prepared to take this case to the High Court if necessary.
Dunphy is no longer a member of the trainers association and Michael Grassick said he was in the dark as to how common it might be for horses not be in the care of their registered handlers.
“Why would any trainer take the chance and take the responsibility if something goes wrong and they’re not actually training it?” he queried. “It’s a huge risk and I don’t understand it.”