What deals were done? Was it simply a case of a “you scratch my back” type agreement that would ensure Sunnyhill Boy did not take his place in the Gold Cup?
I ask these questions only because it seems few others are prepared to. At least in public. I am more dismayed than surprised that no sports journalist, working for any serious newspaper, has written an article querying the chain of events that unfolded last Friday morning.
Whatever became of investigative sports journalism?
I understand that those who have to retain good contacts in the racing industry are not in a hurry to upset big names at the heart of the sport.
Annoy the big names in the world of racing and you may as well go back to working for the local rag, reporting on who had the biggest marrow at the summer fayre.
But there used to be campaigning sports journalists. People who would dig and dig until they found the answers to the questions those who watch the sport were asking last Friday.
People like those punters who had ante post bets on Sunnyhill Boy to win the Gold Cup.
That does not include me, I hasten to add.
But there were many punters who, under ante-post rules, lost their stake money when Sunnyhill Boy was withdrawn on the morning of the race. The reason being, according to the stables of trainer Jonjo O’Neill, the horse had an “unsatisfactory scope.”
So, ala-ka-boom! Tony McCoy is suddenly available to ride the second favourite in the race.
Sir Des Champs is owned by the infamous owner of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary.On Thursday it became clear that the regular jockey Davy Russell could not ride Sir Des Champs. Russell was taken to hospital with a lung problem that would rule him out of the remainder of the festival.
From Thursday afternoon it was rumoured in racing circles that AP McCoy would get the leg up on Sir Des Champs.
But how can this be? said many in the sport. He cannot. He is declared to ride Sunnyhill Boy so he can’t switch – that breaks the rules.
And so it would have.
Take Sunnyhill Boy out of the race. Problem solved.
And, what do you know? Come Friday morning Sunnyhill Boy is declared unfit to race.
I won’t point fingers. I shall simply say this.
Until those who claim to manage the good name of the sport act upon such shenanigans, many of the people they seek to attract to the sport will stay away.
Worse. Some of those punters who lost their stake money on Sunnyhill Boy will not come back to the sport.
Perhaps the British Horseracing Authority would like to consider the understandable backlash from racing fans. They had every reason to be cynical about what happened overnight Thursday and on the morning of Friday.Did the BHA send a vet to the stables of Jonjo O’Neill to verify the “unsatisfactory scope” that was declared only 6 hours before the race?
Robin Mounsey of the British Horseracing Authority said any suggestion of a link between the jockey vacancy on Sir Des Champs, and the withdrawal of Sunnyhill Boy, was speculative and without foundation.
“No wrongdoing has taken place,” he said.
What a load of bollocks!
Rearrange this sentence. Carpet under the swept!
Perhaps if Tony McCoy had won the Gold Cup on Sir Des Champs more racing people would have spoken out.
Then again, probably not.
I do not blame McCoy for one moment. If he nagged Michael O’Leary to get the ride, it is understandable. Sir Des Champs trainer Willie Mullins asked a BHA official on Thursday if he could employ McCoy and was told he could not.
At that stage of proceedings McCoy had fired blanks. He was yearning for a winner at the Cheltenham festival. I am sure that most people in his place would have been saying: “Me please Sir” to the trainer and owner of Sir Des Champs.
I think Sunnyhill Boy trainer Jonjo O’Neill and Sir Des Champs owner Michael O’Leary have penetrating questions to answer.
It’s just a pity that nobody has the nerve to ask them.[symple_divider style=”solid” margin_top=”5px” margin_bottom=”2px”]
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