75% of runners pull up in today’s Eider – anyone like to take responsibility for the damage to racing’s image?

Today’s Eider Chase over 33 furlongs (6,638 metres) was the equine equivalent of  The Somme. Thankfully there were no fatalities other than racing’s image.

Nine of the twelve who set off through the mud, did not finish; 75% of the field pulled up.  The winner, Companero, and second, Giles Cross, didn’t jump the  last so much as scale it.  The third horse, Morgan Be, 188 lengths behind Giles Cross, actually stopped to rest before being asked to negotiate the final fence – for a prize of £2,760.

Clerk of the course James Armstrong : “I’d have to say, it wasn’t a nice race to watch. It didn’t look good. But what do you do? The Eider is a very tough race every year and this year we’ve got heavy ground, but although it’s heavy, it’s not unsafe ground. Anyone who rang me in the week with runners in the race were told what it would be like and the general response I was getting was that the more testing the better would suit them. Everyone who took part knew what it would be like.”

Italics are mine.  If indeed connections of all these horses knew what lay ahead, then the decision to run ought to be taken from their hands. Racing’s in poor enough shape without offering ammunition to its critics and slow motion horror videos to potential fans.  The Clerk and Stewards cannot simply wash their hands by passing responsibility to owners and trainers.

The racecourse executive have a vested financial interest in meetings going ahead.  To make a decision on the basis that the ground is ‘safe’ isn’t good enough.  Quicksand is deemed safe by many, so long as you don’t stand up in it.

I doubt either party – racecourse or connections – will step forward to take the blame and that crystallises one of racing’s main problems – the quick buck, the short term, the grab-what-you-can and to hell with the future.  Shameful and demoralising.

About Steeplechasing

Writer, horse-racing fan, cyclist, consultant, entrepreneur. Worked at Aintree, SiS, The Tote, Ladbrokes. Created scoop6. Now run Gamtrain Ltd

Posted on February 26, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Joe

    There have been a few comments about the winning time being only a few seconds above the other eider chase on heavy ground, what they have not taken into account is that 4 fences were not jumped, imo any stick reading that low must mean that racing should not take place.

    • Steeplechasing

      Very fair comment Zil. I’ll be doing an article on the run up to the Festival on going reports in general – I know you’ll be back to read that!

      Good luck mate

      Joe

  2. On the morning of the race, I commented to Paul Jones (twitter name: @sporstpunter01) that it would be a case of “last horse standing, wins”; and we both agreed Companero was the most likely to last out the trip on the going.
    That 9 of the 12 (75%) starters did not finish is not a good enough reason to deny the race a start – or are you saying that any race that has a similar percentage of non-finishers (eg, the Grand National) should be outlawed?
    It was very heavy going and, having watched the race live, most jockeys decided to pull-up their horses just after halfway. I doubt that any horse was in danger of injury from the going.
    As you yourself wrote, everyone who’s horse took part knew what it would be like.
    That said, if tracks made it a policy not to race on going with a stick-reading of less than 4.00 then it’s likely that more than 12 horses would have been declared to run.

    • Steeplechasing

      Ian, thanks for taking the time to comment. One of the reasons I set this blog up was to allow me to publish my frustrations about how racing is run and how it’s viewed by the non-racing public. The Eider seemed to split opinion among racing regulars – we know the score, and much of what you say makes sense to ‘us’. But I’m pretty confident that if you showed the footage to prospective racegoers, most would have said ‘I don’t think this is a sport for me’.

      It’s not so much the number of finishers that dismays me, it’s the exhausted fashion the ‘survivors’ come home in. Bear in mind 4 fences were omitted in the Eider. Had they not been, I’m pretty sure nothing would have finished. How would the ‘world outside’ have viewed that?

      All the best

      Joe

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