Many were mystified when the British Horseracing Authority chose this, of all weeks, as the right one to introduce riders to the culture shock of its new whip rules. But while John Gosden could conceivably see his stable jockey forfeit his share of the biggest prize offered on the British Turf, should William Buick happen to miscalculate at Ascot on Saturday, as ever he is reserving his gravest concern for the bigger picture.
The trainer who hopes to win the Qipco Champion Stakes with Nathaniel stressed that his anger has nothing to do with radical changes in the definition and punishment of whip offences. But he is incandescent about their timing, believing that the industry's news agenda has been unnecessarily perverted in the days leading up to its new showcase.
Since Monday, the trade press has been full of the disquiet inevitable among jockeys struggling to adjust. "I am mortified," Gosden said yesterday. "For the presentation of horseracing, we require Qipco Champions' Day to be hitting all the headlines this week. To introduce the new regulations on Monday reminds me of the way the BHA released news of a ban for Harry Findlay [the gambler and owner] on the Saturday before Royal Ascot last year.
"Yet again, it's gross ill timing – unless it's deliberately intended, through a 'police' mentality of bringing maximum exposure. To my mind, it does nothing but damage racing, and paint it in a negative light when we're trying to exhibit the new Champions' Day at Ascot. End of story."
Certainly it seems unfathomable why the new regime could not have been delayed a month, enabling riders to test the water discreetly on the all-weather circuit. "I'd have thought it highly intelligent to introduce the new regulations during the winter – let everyone absorb it, and try and work with it," Gosden said. "But to launch it at the start of this week smacks of sensationalism. I'm not talking about what the new regulations are – but the timing is beyond appalling."
As it happens, Gosden is among those with reservations about the timing of the new meeting itself. He would prefer a date in September, but is gratified that the October experiment has not backfired in another respect – even if Nathaniel himself would appreciate easy ground. "I'm pleased for the meeting, because one of the big worries about staging it now would have been a day of driving wind and rain," he said. "I hope they get lovely weather and good to firm ground."
Incidentally, any tempted by odds as short as 8-1 against Elusive Kate for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas must heed the possibility that the filly will remain in the United States after the Breeders' Cup next month. Gosden confirmed that the Prix Marcel Boussac winner, out of a half-sister to a Breeders' Cup Classic winner in Pleasantly Perfect, is likely to be offered at an auction in Kentucky two days after the Juvenile Fillies' Turf.
The new whip rules were the last thing on the minds of jockeys at Wetherby yesterday, when a yellow flag (denoting a void race) was waved after a horse had broken down on the first circuit. Nine jockeys persevered, including Tony McCoy – and all were given a 10-day suspension. Many bookmakers none the less agreed to pay out on the "winner", Cunning Clarets.
It was a worse day still for Cathy Gannon, who fractured a femur when unseated on her way to the start at Carlisle.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Samarkand (8.20 Kempton) Has found some tough competition on an otherwise plain day, but something purposeful about his return to the course and distance of a very impressive success in June. Significantly, has been given a break since disappointing the next time.
Light Well (2.30 Brighton) After shaping nicely on his debut, this well-bred gelding contrived to get turned over at 1-2 at Wolverhampton last time, but pulled clear of the rest and retains a more progressive profile than these rivals.
One to watch
Rainforest Magic (Dermot Weld) was the only one to make inroads from off the pace when fifth in the Cesare-witch. Has barely explored his potential given a test of stamina.
Where the money's going
Dubai Prince is 8-1 from 10-1 with Coral for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, while Midday is 6-1 from 7-1 and Cirrus Des Aigles 13-2 from 8-1.Reuse content