Sunday 25 March 2018

Trainers and jockeys seek 'clarity' on non-triers saga

Trainer Aidan O'Brien was fined after was fined after Music Box's run at Dundalk. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien was fined after was fined after Music Box's run at Dundalk. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Trainers' Association chief Michael Grassick says a meeting will be arranged with the Irish Jockeys Association to discuss their concerns over how the controversial Rule 212 is playing out.

A spate of jockeys, horses and trainers have been punished since the rule was revised in January, most notably the Aidan O'Brien-trained Music Box, the run of which at Dundalk saw Wayne Lordan get a five-day ban and O'Brien a fine.

The Music Box team, without any legal representation, appealed the finding at a Turf Club Referrals Committee hearing on Monday but ultimately failed, which was seen as something of a watershed moment, considering O'Brien's legendary status and that the filly is owned by Coolmore.

Grassick has expressed reservations about the new rules, as have some riders, though it was notable that Johnny Murtagh - one of the first trainers punished after the eye-catching run of Tobacco Bay at Dundalk earlier this year - refused to criticise the new rules after she won at Tipperary yesterday.

"We'll be organising a meeting with the Jockeys Association to see what might be done to clarify what is a very grey area," Grassick told the Racing Post. "It's all about interpretation, but all horses are different. Some can take a vigorous ride and others cannot and this would certainly apply to a filly having her first race."

Music Box, which finished third, did not obtain her best possible placing after being touched off for second, according to the Turf Club, though the fact that she was having her first start means that the finding has major ramifications.

Leading Flat trainer Ger Lyons said that the controversy over the judgements in 2017 that have been a major talking point in racing has been over the top.

"As long as stewards are consistent then most rules should work. There is too much being made of this in my opinion," he said.


Denis Egan, Turf Club CEO, believes that the number of Rule 212 cases will ease off once trainers and riders become more familiar with the rules.

Meanwhile, Willie Mullins is to target Sunday's Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup with Yorkhill, his brilliant JLT Novice Chase winner at Cheltenham, as he attempts to eat into Gordon Elliott's €362,230 lead in the trainers' championship.

Mullins has spoken of Yorkhill as a potential Gold Cup horse next season and, reportedly having come out of the Festival well, he is to tackle the Grade One over two-and-a-half miles, the feature event on day one of the Fairyhouse Easter festival which has first-place prize-money of €59,000.

A total of 11 horses are left in following the forfeit stage. Race sponsor Michael O'Leary owns six of those, including the Noel Meade-trained duo of Road To Respect and Disko. The Gordon Elliott-trained pair, A Toi Phil and Ball D'Arc, and the Henry de Bromhead-trained duo, Attribution and Balko Des Flos, could also run for Gigginstown.

Meanwhile, Elliott is considering a go at the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle with Cheltenham hero Labaik. The grey has planted himself at the start several times this season but won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham at 25/1 and could now take on the seniors. He has the option of sticking to novice company in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.

"We never made a secret about how good we thought the horse was before Cheltenham, he just wasn't brilliant at jumping off (at the start) sometimes," said Elliott.

"We've put him in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown and that's a possibility.

"He's definitely running at Punchestown so if he doesn't go for that race he'll line up in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day.

"He's in great form. He just does what he has to do at home and I'm looking forward to his next run."

Staying chaser Outlander, high-class novice hurdler Death Duty and the juvenile Mega Fortune are to form part of a strong Elliott team at Punchestown, at which he will likely seal his first trainers' championship title.

Rookie trainer Fozzy Stack, meanwhile, struck at Tipperary when favourite Onenightidreamed won the feature event on yesterday's card under Chris Hayes at odds of 4/7.

Irish Independent

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