Story and Photos courtesy of Graham Potter and www.horseracingonly.com.auBy Robert Heathcote | Thursday, February 24, 2011
Robert Heathcote is the leading racehorse trainer in Brisbane. 'Rob's Shout' - the personal blog of the premiership winning trainer will appear every Thursday on HRO.We are currently under a trial period regarding the early acceptances for Saturday metropolitan racing in Brisbane. The acceptances for the Saturday metropolitan races previously had to be done by 9am on Thursday morning and jockeys had to be declared by noon on the Thursday.The new trial period requires trainers of all runners to now accept by 9 am on Wednesday morning and jockeys to be declared by noon on the Wednesday.The main reason we are informed for this change has been primarily to give the media more time to get the fields out to the racing public! I can see no other valid reason for the change!There are of course pros and cons to both sides of the discussion about the changes!The public and the media certainly do get access to the all important Saturday fields a day earlier but, from a trainers perspective, it can inhibit the trainer’s ability to make a full and accurate assessment of the particular horse … especially as there are a lot of trainers who like to work their horse on the Thursday morning before making the final decision as to whether it races on the Saturday and, at times, in which race. In most cases a stable has generally determined which runners will be lining up on the Saturday with perhaps barrier draws being a major determining factor as to whether the horse eventually takes its place or not.
Along with this we also have the weather to consider, especially with the strange occurrences this past four or five months weather wise. Things can change so drastically and in a short time.The forecast can say fine weather and an expected good or dead track for the weekend and it can rain heavily on a Wednesday night which makes it twenty-four hours less for the track to dry out?This creates further indecision for the connections of a particular horse and if the horse is a possible multi-venue acceptor, further expense!These factors are all important to help the trainer and owner make the decision whether to accept for the Saturday race or not.I believe some compromise or concessions should be introduced regarding the new acceptance rule and jockeys only declared twenty-four hours after the acceptance closure.This still will give the 'racing/betting public' two full days notice as to who will be riding the horses on the Saturday! There are a number of jockeys who have weight issues in Brisbane so the extra twenty-four hours will benefit them.Perhaps accepting a full day earlier should also allow a period in which to scratch from the race with a lesser scratching fee, but this can then impact on the jockeys livelihood.Maybe the introduction of allowing duel acceptances could work as a compromise? It works well in Sydney so why wouldn't it work up here? Personally, I do not see major problems with the concept of the new rule because of the way my stable operation is run, but there will of course be times when it will not suit! Just recently it was a bit of a rush arranging jockeys prior to the noon deadline on the Wednesday.It was a big field with a lot of horses on the minimum weight which always makes it tougher to get the owner's preferred jockeys.I didn't make the required (new) time although we believed we had made the appropriate bookings with the Racing Office (a possible clerical error) and when it was discovered the jock wasn't down the following morning the jockey's name was then lodged prior to noon on the Thursday and yet a subsequent fine / penalty was still levied on me! I have no doubt that every person who backed my horse (Funtantes) for that particular race recently knew who the jockey on top was (Wiggins) and I was still fined! It's a culture within my industry which I will never fully understand, this need to impose monetary penalties for just about every breech of a rule in racing and at levels which are at times, in my opinion, incomprehensible!In our industry, errors will and do occur which is why there are back up systems in place to safeguard against many of these occurrences! Maybe this is an entirely different issue worthy of a blog in itself? Mmmmm!A system of deterrents has to be in place, but it's the … as one racing steward once said to me … "we have to fine you", that I have difficulty with.It could be argued, I guess … 'don't make a mistake and there's no issue’.If it were only that simple!All said and done though, am I in favour of the new acceptance rule change, but I would like to see the concessions I have suggested earlier brought into play … in possibly bringing in duel acceptances and certainly allowing another twenty-four hours to finalise the jockey acceptances.To be honest, most jockeys are booked for their rides on the Monday at the time of nominations but, in some circumstances, it’s often the case that we have to wait until after acceptances to see who is available, particularly if it's a low weighted horse!With today's electronic media, there are more than enough opportunities for the betting public to be made aware of the facts such as jockeys and racing gear and track conditions prior to placing their bets!Changes will often bring dissent within our industry and there will always be dissenters no matter what the change, but once again we see a situation where the owner is generally the ones who are disadvantaged as it can create further costs!It maybe brings us right back to the crux of the whole matter.Who are the most important in racing? The owners who provide the horses or the betting public who provide the revenue to make it all work?There are plenty of opinions in the racing game and everybody will have an opinion on that issue. The bottom line is … finding the right mix in keeping both parties happy is the test we face and working out the right acceptances protocol is just part of the puzzle.
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