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No quibble with Lough inclusion


APART from the weather, last week's Galway Festival had few talking points of a negative theme, but one that did cause a bit of controversy was the fact that Carlingford Lough got into Wednesday's Galway Plate as first reserve at the expense of another JP McManus-owned runner.

The process is that entries are made for the races but there is a safety limit for each race depending on the track.

When a race is oversubscribed, ballot numbers are given to horses who have not made the cut. If a horse that has been guaranteed a run isn't declared, then the first reserve in the ballot system moves up into the race.



When the Galway Plate declarations emerged, the long-time ante-post favourite Carlingford Lough was only first reserve despite the general consensus being that he would get a run.

Now, what some people found to be unfair was that shortly before the cut-off point for allowing reserves into the race, the JP McManus-owned Like Your Style was declared a non-runner due to the ground changing to soft after some torrential rain that morning.

If the ground changes from the morning of declaration up until the race itself, the stewards will accept that as a reason for not running on almost every occasion.

However, owing to the fact that Like Your Style had enjoyed some very good runs on soft or heavy ground the stewards held an enquiry into his non-participation with trainer Eddie Harty, before accepting his reasoning that it was the horse's first run in some time and that previous races on soft ground had taken their toll.

That raised a few eyebrows but, for me, it was a lot of fuss about nothing.

The system Horse Racing Ireland use to make declarations the morning before a race shows you exactly what ballot number is getting into a race, so JP McManus and his team would have been fully aware that Carlingford Lough was going to be the first reserve after declarations.

That meant that they had two options. Firstly, they could have cancelled the declaration of Like Your Style there and then thus promoting Carlingford Lough to the field of runners and Paul Gilligan's Churchfield Champ to first reserve.



Alternatively, they could have waited the 30 or so hours until the time limit to see if any other horse dropped out of the race, thereby giving the McManus team the opportunity to run five horses in the race.

What has to be made clear here is that McManus did not prevent any other owner getting a run in the Galway Plate by withdrawing one of his horses to allow Carlingford Lough to run.

Instead, all he did was leave Carlingford Lough as first reserve on the chance that another horse would drop out of the race.

If this had happened, first reserve Carlingford Lough would have taken its place in the field without the need for McManus to withdraw Like Your Style.

But, considering the ground conditions, maybe Like Your Style wouldn't have run anyway and with no other non-runners from the field on the day, no other horses were deprived the chance of running.

As it transpired, it couldn't have worked out any better as Carlingford Lough led home a 1-2-3 for Ireland's most popular owner and you couldn't begrudge such a massive supporter of the game such a massive result.