The dual Oaks winner had been due to race in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday, but having seen that the ground on the opening day of the meeting was riding far too soft for her, Dunlop had withdrawn her from the race on Wednesday evening. His intention had been to re-route Snow Fairy to Deauville for the Prix Jean Romanet, but an obscure and rarely used rule prevented him doing so.
Rule 130 of the French book states that any horse that has been declared for a race and then failed to take part cannot be declared within the next eight days. Dunlop was furious when he was notified by France Galop. â€œMore fool me for breaking the rule, but I didn't know it existed and France Galop never advised me that it did. What is also very frustrating is that I'm led to believe that on numerous occasions, things have been done differently. Montjeu won the Prix Niel in 1999 the day after he had been declared to run in Ireland."
It is thought that the rule was invoked when one of the French trainers with runners in the race brought it to the attention of officials. Andre Fabre, who trained the eventual winner Announce said, "I think it's a very stupid rule and I've said many times that I don't think we should have it, but, having said that, while it is the rule it obviously has to be applied."
Other leading French trainers have called for the rule to be scrapped, including Criquette Head, president of the French Trainers Association, who has been pressing for consistency of rules throughout Europe. She's absolutely right.
It is likely now that the rule will be re-examined, and an unnamed official from France Galop acknowledged as much when he said, "There have been a lot of discussions about this rule since this incident and the people responsible will be reviewing it in the near future."