Here’s a question: in other racing jurisdictions around the world, what would the penalties be for the trainer of a horse that is a blatant no-try and then fails a dope test into the bargain?
In Ireland the answer is the €2,000 that Gavin Cromwell got fined on the day at Punchestown last April, and the subsequent €5,000 penalty he picked up at Galway last week when the Turf Club’s Appeals & Referrals Committee confirmed that Crossdresser’s sample contained lasix.
The first thing that should be said is that the fines handed out to Cromwell – and to Philip Fenton for Dunguib’s positive test for a wormer – were greater and more meaningful than has often been the case.
Indeed the Crossdresser case makes some of the paltry penalties that have been handed out for other lasix incidents in recent years look even more inconsequential. But whether or not they are substantial enough to provide any sort of future deterrent is debatable.
Perhaps the most significant comment in the aftermath of the Galway enquiries though was Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan’s reminder that whereas the substances were given to the horses by stable employees, each individual trainer is responsible for the actions of his staff.
No doubt some trainers will argue that this is an impossible task and that there will always be rogue elements bent on their own course of actions. However from a policing point of view, it’s hard to see how the Turf Club policy can be anything else. Potentially much more interesting however is the extent of that responsibility.
Could it for instance extend to apprentice jockeys? Given the licensing situation, there is no way that fully-fledged professional jockeys can be the responsibility of the trainers that employ them but apprentices are technically in the care of their ‘master.’
Even if they are loaned to ride for someone else, should that responsibility be temporarily switched to whoever is employing them in whatever race, especially if they are subsequently involved in a non-trier case.
It’s a theoretical poser that might in practise curtail to some extent the escape clause that currently applies to trainers when non-trier incidents do arise.
Sadly we have been made all too aware recently of how the prospect of a quick buck can make a jockey go rogue when it comes to stopping horses.
But the reality is that in the vast majority of cases, a jockey giving a horse an ‘easy’ is doing so on the instructions of a trainer or an owner. The sub-text is all too obvious: play ball or you can whistle for any future rides. Maybe a top professional at the summit of the sport can ignore such considerations but most can’t, and certainly not any ambitious apprentice.
Of course what happens when the stewards get involved is that the trainer only has express dissatisfaction with the ride and there’s little or nothing that can be done. The world is still waiting for a jockey to turn around and inform the stewards that said trainer is lying through his teeth: do that and the rider may as well write a career suicide note.
The nature of responsibility has exercised some wonderful minds down the ages but it’s amazing how much wriggle-room people can accumulate when any responsibility comes to their own doorstep.
After all, no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
On another topic, and on the back of the Galway festival where there was an eighteen per cent drop in attendance figures, there are reports that Horse Racing Ireland is meeting racecourse managers around the country with a view to reversing a continual decline in crowds.
However an examination of admission prices is believed to be unlikely as the tracks argue that potential losses would be too great.
So everything is on the table then!