Dar Re Mi verdict deferred
Drawn-out hearing over demoted filly highlights need to harmonise rules
Friday 25 September 2009
The French like to digest things properly, and that predilection seemingly extends to food for thought. Yesterday the owner, trainer and jockey of Dar Re Mi returned to Paris to make an indignant appeal against her relegation from first to fifth in the Prix Vermeille 11 days previously. But they were advised not to expect a verdict until Tuesday, and accordingly postponed their own decision on whether their filly will go back to the scene of the crime on Sunday week, for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe itself.
Win, lose or draw, the episode has confirmed that when it comes to horses, the law really is an ass. And, conveniently enough, the onus for reform rests with the French.
Not that the facts in this instance justified the more chauvinistic tantrums this side of the Channel, perceiving some beastly prejudice against les rosbifs. After all, if the rules are crazy, that is hardly the fault of the stewards charged with ensuring that those rules are observed.
On the other hand, the strict liability applied to Jimmy Fortune was in weird contrast with the equivalent panel's indulgence to Kieren Fallon, when he won the 2007 Arc on Dylan Thomas. The interference suffered by Youmzain that day was far more blatant, and they ended up sharing a photo finish. All that proves, however, is that mortal inconsistency is inevitable wherever you go.
But there is undoubtedly a more fundamental, cultural distinction here: a perfect example of the perils of statutory literalism, in contrast with the habits of pragmatism that tend to be learnt by "common law" jurists.
By any objective measure the British rules seem less likely to generate inequitable results. If a horse is deemed to have been denied prize-money through interference, the French require that the perpetrator be placed behind its perceived victim, in this instance a German filly named Soberania, who finished fifth after a manoeuvre by Fortune that might well have been overlooked altogether on these shores. In Britain, stewards only alter the placings – assuming they discover no extreme offence, such as dangerous riding – should they decide that interference has improved the position of the transgressor in relation to the hampered animal.
Naturally, the connections of Dar Re Mi must base their appeal on the French rules. They are understood to have argued that the traffic problems in the Vermeille could be traced to the rider of Stacelita's pacemaker, in appearing to make way for the favourite. On that basis, they propose that Stacelita, far from being promoted, should herself be disqualified.
Whatever the outcome, lasting damage has been done to sporting entente cordiale. Racing has been made to look ridiculous for its failure to harmonise rules like any other major sport. Instead, even matters integral to its good name, such as doping regulations, vary from one nation to another. And, so far as interference is concerned, the British authorities evidently feel that universal rules are being fatally retarded only by France and Japan.
How fitting, then, that the connections of Stacelita were unable to attend yesterday's hearing because their plane was grounded by mist in Pau. No doubt they were grateful to be spared further embarrassment in their good fortune. Admirable as their filly is, her "unbeaten" record is now tainted by a result most other jurisdictions would consider specious and unenlightened. This, surely, is one occasion when the old headline has a legitimate message for the French: Fog in Channel; Continent cut off.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Nap Enact (2.35 Ascot) Has repeatedly looked capable of better, and success at Nottingham last month suggested everything was falling into place. Just caught out by extra furlong on testing ground next time, but everything is in place today.
Shamandar (3.10 Ascot) Clear pick of the weights after her Listed success at Salisbury and her strong finish in the conditions seemed to answer stamina reservations about an extra half-furlong today.
One to watch
Sing Sweetly (G A Butler) is bred to stay well next year so it was encouraging to see so much dash on her debut over 7f at Kempton on Monday.
Where the money's going
With favourable conditions reported in Paris, Sea The Stars is 4-5 with Ladbrokes from evens, for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
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