Is the British Horseracing Authority out of touch and insensitive? That was the claim of racehorse owner Michael Kerr-Dineen yesterday, after racing’s controllers had carried out a 48-hour about turn on his application to name one of his unraced two year old fillies.
New Approach, sired the horse out of the mare Doctrine, and Kerr-Dineen submitted the name Gay Marriage to the BHA. The naming team turned that down, spokesman Robin Mounsey saying this was “based on an understanding of ongoing political sensitivities.”
Come on! It’s true that gay marriage has not been formalised yet, but it is in the programme of legislation, and although that will not all be done dusted by the time the horse is ready to run, it’s hardly a phrase that has not made it into common knowledge and understanding.
Kerr-Dineen labelled the BHA as outdated and petty, saying, “It’s ridiculous. It’s the law of the land, so how can they say it’s in poor taste? It’s a clever name and we think it’s topical. How can it possibly be offensive to anyone? If a politician called it offensive he’d be mullered.”
The owner launched an appeal against the decision, including emails to the BHA chairman Paul Roy and chief executive Paul Bittar. 48 hours later Gay Marriage was approved. The BHA denied that those exchanges played no part in the change of heart, and claimed the rethink demonstrated that its appeals process was operating effectively. Mounsey said, “This is what the appeal process is in place for. It allows for an escalation and further explanation of the thought process and reasoning behind a name. On appeal it was decided the name should be approved.”
That phrase “thought process and reasoning” is particularly interesting when it’s applied to Kerr-Dineen. He has acknowledged an element of successfully trying it on in the past, although he claims many people do just the same. He says the BHA has written to him before saying he is trying to bring the sport into disrepute. For example, he says, “I’ve got a few through, the best being a Royal Applause filly out of a mare called Devastated whom we called Clap – but we weren’t trying to be risqué here.”
Maybe. You could really only draw a risqué link if you looked at the breeding I suppose. Whatever the thinking, Gay Marriage will hopefully be stepping out sometime this season. As Kerr-Dineen says, “In the end common sense prevails. But I had to bully them into it and it portrays everything the BHA stands for. The only reason they have come back with this decision is because I’m one of the few people who went to them to say how stupid this all was. I think I might call the horse Backtrack instead.”
He won’t, of course, for to do so would be to fall into exactly the trap he claims the BHA found themselves in.