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Vincent Finegan

Vincent Finegan

Farewell Frankie

Frankie Dettori pictured after winning the Ebor on the Willie Mullins-trained Absurde at YorkFrankie Dettori pictured after winning the Ebor on the Willie Mullins-trained Absurde at York
© Photo Healy Racing

Like most people I watched a lot of rugby over the last few weeks and while I do know the basic rules (I wasn’t previously aware that a player can charge down a conversion, but not a penalty) and would be familiar with many of the stars of the game, I’m probably what would be described as a casual fan of the sport.

I can happily watch and enjoy a match without needing to know or understand every facet of the game. For the life of me I cannot understand the logic of giving the ball away to the opposition with long punts down field and I get a little frustrated with scrums, but otherwise it’s an exciting and skillful sport and I particularly enjoy hearing the referees explaining their decisions.

The running commentary from the referee in Rugby really adds to my enjoyment of watching the games.

I presume casual racing fans that dip in and out for the big occasions are similar in the sense that they may not understand or even know about things like the weight-for-age scale or anything about the bloodlines, but overall they can still enjoy horse racing as an exciting spectacle.

Perhaps one area where racing falls down a little is by not being as forthcoming with explanations around decisions made by the stewards. Often a stewards enquiry will be announced and several minutes later it is followed by a further announcement that the ‘result stands’ and that is as much as the on-track racegoers will ever know.

The IHRB has improved its communications massively in recent years with nightly emails providing more details about these enquiries and also comprehensive morning updates regarding weather and going conditions, but more could certainly be done regarding how they arrive at their decisions when it comes to stewards enquiries, particularly for those in attendance at the races.

It often seems as if the ordinary punters that make the effort to attend race meetings are well down the pecking order for the sport, so it was nice to see Punchestown buck that trend with the changes they announced to next season’s Festival on foot of feedback received from their customers.

The racecourse is doing away with their Reserved Enclosure and also reducing the ticket price for the first three days of the Festival by €10. It will now cost €30 to attend on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and €40 on Friday and Saturday.

Punchestown says their market research shows that 70% of their paying customers would like to see the racing start and finish earlier and in response to this they have changed the first two days from 3.40pm starts to 2.30pm.

I can understand the earlier start times suiting many people, but I would have thought that it would make more sense to keep the late start on the opening day. Racegoers travelling from the UK or long distances within Ireland to get to the Festival will be inconvenienced by the 2.30pm first race.

While I was away on vacation the IHRB revealed that one of their longest running cases, the enquiry into a Claiming race at Dundalk back in March 2020, is finally coming to a conclusion and a referral hearing into the matter will be heard on the 11th and 12th of November.

This case involves two horses, Tony The Gent and Yuften, which at the time were in the same ownership and both trained by Denis Hogan. There were irregular betting trends on the race which saw Yuften drift from 2/5 to 6/4 while his stablemate Tony The Gent shortened from 5/2 into 11/10 favourite and went on to win the race.

Tony The Gent ran a further 29 times without success and Yuften also never managed to win again.

It will be fascinating to finally hear what this three and a half year long investigation has uncovered.

Lastly, Frankie Dettori will be sorely missed when he heads to California via another stint on a Reality TV show. While his long goodbye felt irritating at times during the season, there can be no doubt that he still retains all of his considerable talent and has done a massive amount to raise the profile of the sport over the last three decades.

It would be nice to think that he will turn up again for some of the big races on these shores next season and even nicer if he continues his association with the Barney Curley charity day at Bellewstown each year.