To run or not to run

By Peter Tyrell

Saturday, February 23, 2013

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Walking the tightrope is usually a very difficult task reserved for experts who train day after day in order to master it.

Walking the tightrope seems to be the constant task facing officials at Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), the sole promoters of horse racing in the land. And never is walking the tightrope more visible than the decisions these officials have to make almost weekly regarding which race to run or which race to abandon.

This particular decision making process is fraught with criticisms from trainers and owners whose race is abandoned while there is usually relief and the accompanying smile from those whose race is run. Such was probably the case last Wednesday when the promoting officials had to make the choice between running the Sir Howard Stakes, a non-winners of two event with five horses entered and the Eileen Cliggott Memorial Cup, the first Grade One race of the year with six horses entered.

The Sir Howard Stakes run over six furlongs is one of the primary preparation races for three-year-old colts and geldings along the journey of participating in the upcoming Classic races.

Already this year, the erstwhile gentlemen at the racetrack have abandoned the Mercury Sprint, another of the races earmarked as part of the Classic development process.

Now we have the unfortunate situation where the first two races for three-year-old colts and geldings eyeing the Classics have been abandoned, ostensibly for a lack of entries. No doubt the decision to abandon these races has affected those trainers who at the start of the year have planned their programmes to include the Sir Howard Stakes.

Conversely, it must be stated that there are not many races written in the condition book for horses in the rank of Grade One. The perennial cry by those who own and train horses with Grade One status is that their is a lack of racing opportunities available for their charges.

In the 2013 scenario, the Overnight programme listed five starters for the Sir Howard Stakes — Royal Vibes, Devil's Child, Rock Union, Goodwill Boy and The Tactician, the last four trained by Anthony Nunes.

The Eileen Cliggott Memorial Cup had six starters entered — St Cecelia, The Guv, Typewriter, Go Go Yvonne, Palace Gold and St Theresa, with the first four trained by Spencer Chung.

The main difference, therefore, is one runner less in the Sir Howard with both races based on the Overnight having one trainer with four runners, which is an obvious move designed to fill the race. Nothing is wrong with that at all.

Both races have the more than 95 per cent chance of having big odds on favourites. In the Sir Howard, Rock Union, after his scintillating debut run, was sure to carry the bulk of the betting come raceday, while in the Eileen Cliggott the same position is replicated with the participation of St Cecelia, the reigning Horse-of-the-Year, who is seeking to equal the record of 12 consecutive wins currently owned by War Zone.

In effect, the running of any of these races means a loss for the already financially beleaguered promoting company.

The arguments are raging as to the final decision by CTL to run the Eileen Cliggott instead of the Sir Howard. Detractors of the final decision claim that the three-year-olds should be given priority over horses which have already earned millions and in addition detractors say that the preparation has already been altered with the non-running of the Mercury.

The supporters claim that racing always needs a hero or in this case a heroine, and it would not be fitting with six starters to abandon a race which includes St Cecelia seeking a long standing record, in other words, since both races will lose money it is better for CTL to choose the race with six runners and the one which can at least provide a greater promotional effect for the company.

It must have been a difficult choice and one which will always drive different opinions. Readers as always the choice is yours.




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