The first Classics of the Flat season are imminent, but it is not just the jump racing weather that is proving hard to shake off. A sport still smarting from its ghastly experience at Aintree last month must defer judgement on alterations that might yet be made, but for now the British Horseracing Authority has decided that neither of the fatalities that tarnished the John Smith's Grand National could have been anticipated. A review of veterinary and television evidence yesterday concluded that the loss of both Synchronised and According To Pete was attributable to "factors one could neither have foreseen nor prevented".
In the case of Synchronised, the BHA is also satisfied that his two-minute canter after getting loose before the start did not contribute to the tragedy. The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner's heart and respiration were both found to be barely above resting rate when checked before he lined up. As for his fall at Becher's Brook, "he appeared to have a clear sight of the fence and did not make a significant error but became unbalanced prior to landing and fell sideways", dislodging Tony McCoy. He appeared to be perfectly sound as he continued loose, jumping the next four fences without mishap, but for some reason decelerated into the 11th fence and dragged his rear end through the obstacle. Vets promptly on the scene found untreatable injury to a hind leg.
According To Pete was still going strongly in seventh at Becher's Brook on the second circuit. He had clear space in front, and jumped the fence well – only to find he had nowhere to go on landing. He collided with On His Own, who had fallen, and was brought down; as he got to his feet, Weird Al collided with his left side. The BHA could not determine which of these impacts caused the fracture to his foreleg.
The BHA also reviewed the chaos at the start, where the field had to be lined up three times, and deemed all 40 riders at some stage to have been in breach of the guidelines. All have received a written reprimand but none will be charged, taking into account the delay caused by Synchronised and problems restoring the starting tape.
The starting procedure, along with the size of the field and the fences, will remain under review by the BHA. For now its director of regulation, Jamie Stier, said: "It remains too early to speculate as to whether any changes will be made. We will be liaising closely with Aintree in collating and examining all relevant evidence from this year."
A more gratifying exercise has meanwhile seen the transfer to Kempton today of the excellent card scheduled for the waterlogged course at Ascot; entry, moreover, is free. Top of the bill is Red Cadeaux, who went so close in the Melbourne Cup last year, though he cannot afford any rustiness in the Sagaro Stakes against a recent scorer here in Thimaar.
Frankel's public gallop at Newmarket has been brought forward 24 hours and will now take place before Saturday's 2,000 Guineas card.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Uncle Fred (4.55 Kempton) Resumed off a fair mark at Windsor but was trapped in traffic while travelling strongly. Has won here and has good rails draw.
Burwaaz (4.20 Kempton) This may prove the limit of his stamina but is the type to take to the surface. On physique, could build on a rock-solid first campaign in Group sprints.
One to watch
Saratoga Slew (Marco Botti) Narrowly failed to land a gamble on debut for new stable yesterday at Lingfield, beaten by one that had gained first run, but should soon find compensation.