Leicester’s race-meeting went ahead on Tuesday evening, despite the local lockdown being applied in the area, but was in some danger of descending into farce after several trainers withdrew their runners and most of the stalls handlers refused to attend. That meant the nine low-quality races on the card had to be started with a tape, leading to ragged-looking contests for the pair of five-furlong races that opened the card.
It was a surprise to many when the British Horseracing Authority announced at 11.19am that the fixture would go ahead, despite the spike in local coronavirus cases that had prompted governmental action. It appears the team of stalls handlers were among those taken aback by the news.
“When the announcement was made, some of our stalls handlers said they were uncomfortable about working this evening,” said Kate Hills, spokesperson for Racetech, which employs the stalls handlers used at most tracks. “At that stage it was really difficult to find replacements.
“It’s a skilled job and we need 11 people to do it. So, basically, we had to respect their decision.”
The fixture was also undermined by 18 non-runners and five of the trainers who withdrew their horses were prepared to go on record as saying concerns over the local lockdown had prompted them to act. Graeme McPherson, a barrister who has presented cases for the BHA, was particularly scathing as he criticised the regulator’s decision.
He said: “I thought it was a real kick in the teeth to the people of Leicester, to say you can’t open your businesses, you can’t go out of your houses because the government say you shouldn’t travel except for essential reasons, and for the BHA then to say that, well, the local authority says we can go ahead with racing so we will.”
Alan King took a similar view, saying: “We’ve got to look at the big picture here. I genuinely hope it’s not a PR disaster. With what the city’s going through, we should not be driving through it with horse boxes. It’s only my opinion but I feel very strong about.”
But Leicester’s manager, David Maykels, said he felt the track was the safest place to be in Leicester because of the precautions in place at every race-meeting. Permission to race had been obtained from local authorities but had taken time because, he said, “I think everybody wanted somebody else to make the decision that everything was safe”.
The BHA confirmed it would not be fining those trainers who had made a late decision to withdraw, saying: “There are strict protocols in place at all race meetings including health screening and social distancing which ensure that the racecourse is one of the most controlled working environments. However we entirely understand and respect the decisions taken by those individuals.”
Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien hinted at his jockey plans for Saturday’s Derby, saying that William Buick, James Doyle and Adam Kirby were possible riders for his team, along with the retained Ryan Moore. His inclination to use the Godolphin jockeys, Buick and Doyle, is a reminder that Sheikh Mohammed’s team have come up empty in the search for a Derby contender this year.
Tuesday’s best bets
It’s a tricky situation when you stick two young horses in the tracker after their debuts and then they turn up in the same race. I really fancied Roberto Escobarr for a novice contest at Doncaster today but, as he’s become a non-runner, Matthew Flinders (3.30) really ought to be winning.
Both were third in separate divisions of a Haydock maiden three weeks back. Matthew Flinders took part in the marginally quicker of the two races and was travelling quite a bit better than the eventual winner at the three pole.
Unfortunately for Oisin Murphy, racing room evaporated about a furlong later. The Siyouni colt ran on well once in the clear and was a really obvious eye-catcher.
He should know more today and I imagine Murphy will be keen to avoid a repeat. They appeal, even at 11-8, and there might be a bit of 6-4 still hanging around.
12.30 Digital 1.00 She Do 1.30 Mr Wagyu 2.00 Ice Lord 2.30 Giant Steps 3.00 Notforalongtime (nb) 3.30 Roberto Escobarr (nap) 4.00 State Crown 4.30 Verify 5.05 Revolver.
12.45 Chase The Dollar 1.15 Ghathanfar 1.45 Joshua R 2.15 Bal Mal 2.45 Gleniffer 3.15 Flood Defence 3.45 Little Ted 4.15 Robben Rainbow.
4.40 Hot Hot Hot 5.15 Zeebad 5.45 Krazy Paving 6.15 Deconso 6.45 Jeanette May 7.15 Alpine Mistral 7.45 Telekinetic 8.15 Lady Elysia 8.45 Party Potential.
5.00 Myboymax 5.30 Urban Highway 6.00 Spanish Colt 6.30 Eye Smiling 7.00 Astapor 7.30 Sun Festival 8.00 Tomorrow’s Dream 8.30 Cafe Syndney 9.00 Gold Arch
I thought Notforalongtime had strong claims earlier on the card and evidently at least one firm thought so too, as Clive Cox’s runner opened at 7-2. He is now 12-1, which is worrying enough that a watching brief seems the only responsible course.
There’s some 4-1 about Ice Lord (2.00), who has slipped back to what looks a fair mark. His last win, at the end of 2018, was over this course and distance and he’s 5lb lower now.
Tips by Chris Cook
12.00 Nineohtwooneoh (nb) 12.35 Cracking Destiny 1.10 The Greater Good 1.40 Black Anthem 2.10 Piano Stairs 2.40 Ashutor 3.10 Chapmanshype 3.40 Extreme Force 4.10 Magellan
12.15 Amayzing Eyes 12.45 Antagonize 1.20 Infant Hercules 1.50 Eveaaj 2.20 Rux Ruxx 2.50 Fox Kasper 3.20 Circuit 3.50 Donnachies Girl
4.40 Basilicata 5.10 Tommy Rock (nap) 5.40 Katara 6.10 Inherent 6.45 Coltrane 7.15 Good Tidings 7.45 Dargel 8.15 Blame It On Sally 8.45 My Style
Chris Wall’s grey put up a really good effort on his reappearance, faring best of the hold-up horses in a Newmarket race in the first week of resumption, getting tired in the latter stages.