During the three days of racing this week a total of 29 horses were declared non runners on the day of the race, and as the regulations require, their trainers were fiend £140 for each non runner. Richard Hannon was particularly critical of the surface, which he described as “simply not acceptable”, and made it clear he would appeal against his punishment. Others, including John Hills, and Jeremy Noseda followed suit.
In the light of such strong criticism the British Horseracing Authority cancelled the fines, despite the likely going having been well advertised by clerk of the course Barney Clifford. They said that the key factor in their leniency was that declarations for the three meetings closed before the new surface had been tried out under race conditions.
Spokesman for the BHA, Robin Mounsey, said that although they were satisfied that there had been sufficient notice of the going change, “The BHA has decided to waive the penalties imposed on trainers of horses who were withdrawn. We understand that a refurbished artificial surface will at first ride differently to what some horsemen might have expected. In this particular case, where the course staged three consecutive days’ racing, declarations were taken for the Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s meetings prior to anyone having had the opportunity to see how the surface was racing.”
The BHA went on to make it clear there would be no further fines rescinded, and that the in their view, trainers had just as much responsibility for checking the going at all-weather fixtures as at those run on turf. No doubt that is true, but as it’s so rare that all-weather tracks declare the going to be anything other than standard, you can quite understand that this is taken as a given, and not subject to day to day consideration.
But was the BHA genuinely understanding of the situation or did they fear another round of bad publicity at a time when they seem to be operating with more stability than over the last couple of years?