Thursday, 5 May 2016

New Race Conditions Set in Stone

Laurie Brannan, my old boss at the Sportsguide PR agency, regularly used to tell me: ‘Jonathan, my friend, there’s nothing new under the sun’. No matter how many whacky ideas I came up with, I inevitably discovered that Laurie had been there before - got the branded T-shirt, the goodie bag and the photo of himself alongside the page 3 model, supercar or brightly-clad-acrobatic-SAS-parachute-display-team-on-horseback. 

So imagine how disappointed I was this week, when we published our latest race programming innovation in the Racing Calendar, only to discover that we’d been beaten to it by a 2,000-year-old Roman living in Turkey. 

Cartmel’s first race-day of the season (when, in case you hadn't heard, Simply Red are playing after racing) will feature a new type of hurdle race: one that is restricted to horses that have run in at least four hurdle races during the past year – but without winning any races during the same period. The Swan Hotel & Spa ‘Confined’ Handicap Hurdle will carry £10,000 in prize money and is open to horses with an official rating of 130 – so it could attract some very nice horses who have won races prior to May 2015.  

The principle behind the new conditions is an attempt at fairness: the race will present an opportunity for the connections of horses which have been running really well - but without quite getting their noses in front. It can be frustrating to own a decent horse which is just a little too high in the handicap or one that keeps getting touched off by an improving youngster. We’re giving these horses a chance. 

The new class of race was officially sanctioned by the British Horseracing Authority fairly recently – so it was quite a shock to find that a 2,000-year-old stone tablet, discovered amongst the ruins of an ancient sport stadium in Turkey, bares an inscription for a similar set of race conditions: ‘A horse can not compete in another race if it finishes first in any given race. An owner can not have another horse compete in one race if he or she owns a previous runner.’  

At first I thought it might be a hoax: the tablet is dedicated to a Roman jockey called Lukuyanus, which may (or may not) roughly translate as, ‘He with the fortunate backside’. However, having read the story in Wednesday's Racing Post, I noticed similar details appearing on The Mail Online website – so it must be true.

Apparently Professor Hasan Bahar, who works in the history department at Sel├žuk University in Turkey, feels the inscriptions signify the ‘gentlemanly conduct’ of the sport – which seems an appropriate endorsement of the forthcoming activities at Cartmel this summer.
Vosne Romanee, a previous winner at Cartmel, won’t be eligible for the new race because he’s recently won at Chepstow. I'm nominating him as this week's selection, in the hope that he can add to his tally in Haydock's Swinton Hurdle on Saturday.

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