MUCH TO TAKE OUT OF SUNDAY’S PRIX DU MOULIN
Sunday’s Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at ParisLongchamp created a few talking points in my own mind, not least did the correct horse win the race. The final result will say Circus Maximus defeated Romanised by a nose, but after an unusually short French Stewards’ Inquiry where the first two home came into contact, was that the right result?
In the closing moments of the mile contest, Circus Maximus drifted off a straight line, broadsided Romanised, after carrying him across the track. To be fair to Ryan Moore on the winner, he did everything in his power to make it a fair race (whip in correct hand and tried to steer with his reins) and keep his horse straight, but Circus Maximus didn’t help his rider and he certainly didn’t help the rider of the runner-up, Billy Lee.
Been beaten by a nose having had an interrupted trip, can the connections and punters of Romanised feel aggrieved by the result, especially after a Stewards’ Inquiry? The answer is yes, particularly given the location of Sunday’s contest. If this race took place pre-April 1, 2018 in France, you’d nearly be sure that Romanised would have been promoted to the winner’s podium.
Alas, last year French racing brought in a rules change, from what were Category 1 rules to Category 2, to align themselves with the rules in Great Britain and Ireland in a move that was said to help in promoting an international fanbase. The new rule, to quote Scott Burton of the Racing Post, “considers the first past the post to be the best horse in the race outside of exceptional circumstances”.
One must wonder how “exceptional circumstances” isn’t covered by a horse bringing another off a straight line, bumping him, when going on to win by a nose? It’s hard to know what the French stewards considered in their, by past standards, short inquiry, but as an outside party looking in, it’s hard not to feel for all those associated with Romanised given the small margin of defeat.
However, in other sports, despite what the rules say, I am a big believer in intent. Just because a particular sport has a rule, it doesn’t make it right, it just means the game must be governed by that rule(s), and in my mind, Ryan Moore did everything in his power to make it a fair race. The good intent and skill from Moore was praiseworthy. That is important in my mind.
It’s maybe for this reason that Circus Maximus kept the race? But under the rules, was that the correct decision? I am not sure, as I haven’t seen the full stewards’ report. This bit of information is key, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to later in the week see this race back in the headlines again once all information is made public.
For me, I have no strong opinion either way. Given the interference Romanised had, I would have been perfectly happy if the stewards reversed the placings. On the other side, Ryan Moore did everything he could to make it a fair race, without any dangerous riding.
It’s a tough one, but ultimately the rules, which are now Category 1, must be enforced and under those guidelines, Romanised should have been the race winner.
WOULD CIRCUS MAXIMUS HAVE WON WITHOUT A WHIP?
The frankly silly “whip debate” continues to rear its ugly head, and was again a feature on Sunday’s Racing Debate program on Sky Sports Racing. Yes, I realise I am stupid enough to be adding to it here, but please bear with me.
In Sunday’s Prix du Moulin, we saw a brilliant example in a Group 1 race, the most important type of event in Flat racing, of just how ludicrous it would be to get rid of the whip as a form of encouragement.
There is no doubt in my mind that Circus Maximus wouldn’t have fought back to win if Ryan Moore had no whip to get the max out of his mount. Why? Because the winner is a notoriously lazy and idle competitor and to get the very best out of him, the initiation of his Flight Or Fight response through the whip is needed.
In winning the Dee Stakes at Chester earlier in the season, it could be seen that Circus Maximus was the type of horse to race lazily and not give his jockey absolutely everything. The application of blinkers have in no doubt helped the son of Galileo keep his mind on the job, but the use of a whip is also an important aid to get the best out of him.
At the end of the day, this is sport and at whatever level horses compete, we want to see the best horses win. This is critical for the integrity of the game. When this integrity includes the use of an air-cushioned foam whip that doesn't hurt a horse and isn't a welfare issue, should we be letting a small, vocal minority who know nothing about the horse as an athlete or animal dictate to us?
If the public were voting with their feet and racecourse attendances were significantly in decline, along with betting turnover in free-fall, along with other key performance indicators failing, then let’s have a proper whip debate instead of tying ourselves up in knots with a non-issue in a game that has plenty real problems.
This is horse racing, and we need and want to see the best horses win. The whip as an aid is an important factor in that.