This comes in the wake of the apparent uncertainty in the minds of jockeys Andrew Lynch and Barry Geraghty in last week’s Queen Mother Champion Chase as they approached the final fence. The two came very close as Geraghty, on Finian’s Rainbow, seemed to steer towards the fence for a stride or two just as Lynch and his mount Sizing Europe, who were on the inside, began to move out to go round the fence.
Immediately after the race there was some harsh questioning of the BHA, which rightly insisted that the rules had been followed. The jockeys were unable to see what we were shown on television – that the position of the bypass markers was changed during the course of the race – which did allow for an interpretation of indecision and uncertainty.
But the position has been unchanged since the 1995/96 season, with the rules saying that the presence of any markers on a fence mean it must not be jumped, so it’s hard to understand quite why Geraghty should say that by putting all the markers on the inside of the track the safety officials were suggesting that riders should “jump the other half”.
In a letter to the Racing Post today, Jamie Stier, director of raceday operation and regulation reiterates that the rules were applied correctly before adding, “If there are any improvements to be made, then we will look at ways to do so.” What he has in mind is the solution suggested here immediately after the race, the use of additional markers where the fences are wide. “It may be possible to allow a degree of flexibility. But the fact is that not many racecourses need more than three [markers]. However, as in the case of Cheltenham, which is a very wide course, there are unique features, (he mentions the width of the fences, closeness of the crowd, and the size of the field) and these need to be taken into account.”
Stier says, “In the light of last week’s case, we will be discussing with all racecourses the option of using additional direction markers at particularly wide fences to alleviate any concern or confusion for riders.” What is there to discuss? Is it the definition of a wide fence? Or the marker to width ration?
What’s needed is a simple change in the wording of the rule, which currently requires tracks to have exactly three markers at each obstacle. It simply needs to say sufficient markers to doll off the whole jump. Come on Jamie, as we used to say when the solution to a problem was clear, but the delivery a bit slow…. JFDI