Yes, it’s about the Turf Club – again. But don’t worry. It’s for the last time – probably. After all, the Turf Club isn’t going to be around for much longer – probably. That’s 212 years disappearing over the horizon, baby. And it seems no one is going to particularly miss it either. Which is a pity.
Everyone loves kicking the policeman. For one thing it’s good fun. And quite often the policeman deserves it. If police stupidity – of whatever shade and variety – was a renewable resource the world would have an inexhaustible fuel supply.
In racing terms though the principle of independent regulation remains important: just not important enough to preserve apparently.
No one it appears believes that Minister Simon Coveney’s independent review group will recommend anything else but the Turf Club’s effective amalgamation into Horse Racing Ireland. Financially it’s a no-brainer and the bottom-line always concentrates government minds, even when things are good, which they most certainly are not now.
But it also appears like the Turf Club has accepted its lot. A struggle might be futile, especially considering the depth of powerful forces within Irish racing intent on merging the two bodies, but there looks to be a distinct lack of fight amongst the regulatory body’s brass.
That will probably provoke a few “d’oh’s” amongst more sceptical observers considering the ties that bind that same brass to some of the game’s most powerful outfits, not to mention the plain ridiculousness of the industry’s police owing money to many of those same powerful outfits they are technically there to police.
And the real sad part is that an amalgamation will probably make little or no difference to anything, bar a few letter-heads and addresses.
In many ways much of the Turf Club’s credibility as an independent entity dissolved long ago. The perception of a group of “untouchables” at the heart of the game may be dismissed as optics by Turf Club apologists but the fact the perception exists so strongly is a powerful indictment in itself.
All that remains now it seems is for the mechanics of the new regime to be worked out. In itself that provides a window of opportunity, a blank canvas if you like, to start afresh and implement an integrity service that works, who knows, maybe even starting with professionals policing professionals.
But that would involve rocking a boat that is sailing along quite smoothly for those who’re really in charge on the bridge. So nothing much to change beyond the optics? – Probably.
If we needed another example of why stewarding so badly needs to be tightened up in this country – and we didn’t – then it came at the Curragh with the decision to allow Cnocn Diva keep the mile handicap over the runnerup Susiescot.
Cnocan Diva drifted markedly left on to her rival in the closing stages, carrying Susiescot off a straight line under a right-hand whip drive from jockey Shane Gray. At the end just a short head separated them.
After a prolonged enquiry the result stood, a decision that beggared belief among many observers considering the tiny margin of victory and the fact that Gray was handed a two day ban for careless riding. The stewards decided they couldn’t be certain the interference affected the result.
That’s the classic cop-out in such circumstances, the “common sense” alley down which stewards are allowed wander far too often.
Nobody can be certain of anything in something like this. But neither can anyone be certain Susiescot wasn’t affected. What we do know is that Gray broke the rules, but was allowed keep the race. And that’s just dumb.
Finally, some pretty interesting questions are going to come up at Punchestown.
Like just how good is Felix Yonger. Dismissed as a lesser light among Willie Mullins’s novice hurdle squad, he ran a blinding race in the Neptune, coming from well off the pace to finish second to Simonsig but clear of everything else. He isn’t going to get good ground later in the week but it will be fascinating to see if that Cheltenham performance was a one-off or is he the real deal.
And there’s the Quevega-Voler La Vedette duel in the World Series Hurdle. Not to mention Hurricane Fly’s attempt to bounce back from Cheltenham defeat. No doubt each of you has any number of other issues to ponder for the week.
Enjoy finding out the answers.