So the Ballydoyle three finally paid the price for their crimes and that should be the end of the matter, for now at least. The reality though is that this was a total open and shut case – the rules are worded clearly and Johnny Murtagh had admitted the breach in the papers. The BHA had no choice but to bring the enquiry and no choice but to return a guilty verdict – O’Donoghue pleaded guilty in any case.
The fines (7 days for the jocks and £5k for O’Brien) were nothing more than a slap on the wrists, but this was all that was ever going to happen as the fines are covered in the rules. Fair enough, although a fine of £5k is hardly a disincentive in a race with over £240k in prize money.
Before the enquiry Paul Struthers (BHA spokesman) said in a statement;
‘We are satisfied that there has been no other race where an enquiry should have been held.’
Really?? What about the Queen Anne – a carbon copy from a pacemaker perspective. The jockey looks around before pulling out to give his man the perfect run. According to Spotlight in the Racing Post Haradasun was ‘waved through’, and I’ve yet to speak to anyone in racing who didn’t see it as blatant team tactics. In Murtagh’s comments to the Sunday Times he admits that team tactics are the norm. The BHA are easily satisfied.
Of course there’s no point in crying over spilt milk and the Queen Anne and others like it should be left well alone. I don’t like the inference of the statement though – the only real difference between the two rides was that Murtagh fessed up after the Juddmonte. Are the BHA unwilling to judge on the basis of what they see? Blatant though the Juddmonte tactics were I don’t believe the BHA would have done anything if Murtagh hadn’t have come clean in the press.
In a statement today Struthers said;
‘ … I would like to stress that in reaching their conclusions the Panel made clear that there was no attempt to cheat, simply that the breaches occurred due to ignorance of the details of the rule in question.‘
Grovel grovel. The question of team tactics has been raised many times before, in interviews with O’Brien and in the industry papers, quoting the rule – it’s surprising that neither O’Brien nor any member of his senior team had spotted this detail. Do they not read the papers? In any case ignorance is no defence, so why comment?
Throughout this affair the BHA seemingly did everything it could not to upset the powerful Ballydoyle operation. The BHA are on the one hand the governing and regulatory body for horse racing, and on the other promoters of horse racing. Ballydoyle are an extremely important customer. There’s a problem when your policeman is the same man as your marketing man – you have serious conflicts of interest.
Anyway enough of that… Bea Menace comes out tomorrow at Haydock, and I’ve heard that she goes well on the gallops. Probably not well enough to win, but with a squeak. More importantly Winker comes out on Saturday, and he’ll be looking to spoil the party for the big guns in the QE11. He’s not been the same horse this season, but his work is improving steadily and he might surprise a few people. Bring it on.