Racing: Rules leave Harwood with Factual foul up: A contender for a leading role in the 2,000 Guineas has forfeited his right to run. Richard Edmondson reports from Newmarket

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER F-factor to the detriment of racing was unveiled here yesterday after So Factual won the European Free Handicap, the card's 2,000 Guineas trial.

In the wake of Aintree's flag debacle, it was revealed that So Factual would not be able to run in the first colts' Classic as he had been taken out at the previous day's forfeit stage.

Guy Harwood's horse was the victim of a Jockey Club rule stating that entries for the Guineas must be confirmed on a Tuesday (cost pounds 935) between 18 and 24 days before the Classic.

That means that owners this year must guess if their horses, still raw from winter inactivity, are capable of running in the Guineas before either the Free Handicap, today's Craven Stakes and the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, all three recognised big-race trials.

So Factual was one of four Khalid Abdullah runners removed on Tuesday when Zafonic and Wharf were left in as the representatives of the Saudi owner. But it would not be stretching credibility too far to suggest the son of Known Fact would have taken a hand in the Guineas.

Mystiko went on to Classic victory after taking this event two years ago, and if So Factual had still been an entry in this year's race bookmakers would have priced him at around 12-1 following yesterday's run.

'We would have been tempted to leave him in and it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to run,' Harwood said.

Nick Lees, the clerk of the course, explained that this was an old Jockey Club ruling. However, as the Grand National fiasco proved, the old way is not necessarily a good way.

'Guy was on the race-planning committee for 10 years and it's been the same rule for some time,' Lees added. 'But he did send me a letter yesterday saying it was a con for owners.'

Lees will voice the trainer's concerns when he meets with the race-planning committee next week, but even if a rule amendment comes, racing's administrators will again be locking up an empty box.

Abdullah, though, may be the owner least in need of sympathy. As well as adding So Factual to his chorus line of classy three-year-olds, he saw his Fluvial make a winning debut in the Wood Ditton Stakes.

There are now a myriad of possibilities for So Factual. He may be supplemented for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas), stay at seven furlongs and go for races such as Royal Ascot's Jersey Stakes or switch to sprint distances, which will be his metier according to his jockey, Pat Eddery.

The Irishman appears to have a bountiful summer ahead as Tenby and Armiger, last season's leading juveniles along with Zafonic, were reported to have worked well at Newmarket on Tuesday. Abdullah's colts will run in Sandown's Classic trial on Saturday week and next month's Dante Stakes at York respectively.

Stella Mystika prompted movement in the other spring Classic, the 1,000 Guineas, after her success in the fillies' maiden, but in various directions. Ladbrokes extended her to 20-1 (from 12-1), William Hill reduced her to 10-1 (from 14-1) while Coral kept the filly at 14-1.

Classic consideration, though, has never been a part of life for the National Hunt trainer Nick Henderson, who posted his first winner of the summer code in Britain yesterday when Thinking Twice won the 12-furlong handicap.

'That's not my first Flat winner ever though,' he said. 'Tony Murray won a race for me at Baden-Baden a few years ago.

'This was a bit of a surprise as it was meant to be his prep race for Punchestown. As you may know, I'm not very well known on the Flat.' Thus came the emergence of another new, and this time more pleasant, F-factor.

Peter Scudamore was yesterday called up by the Jockey Club as it seeks to prevent a repeat of the Grand National shambles. The retired champion jockey was named as one of 14 members of a working group which will review start and recall procedures. Scudamore, fiercely critical of the Jockey Club after the Grand National, is being taken on as independent adviser to the group which meets for the first time today under the chairmanship of Andrew Parker Bowles.

(Photograph omitted)