O'Brien in hot water over Cape Blanco refusal

Chris McGrath,Racing Correspondent
Monday 21 September 2015 12:39

At the time, it must have seemed the most satisfying of races, but Aidan O'Brien must be looking back with increasing exasperation on the success of Cape Blanco in the Dante Stakes at York last month. Never mind that his colt lost his unbeaten record on Sunday, with a lifeless exhibition at Chantilly; or that the runner-up, Workforce, had in the meantime smashed the track record in the Derby itself. Yesterday the British Horseracing Authority confirmed that O'Brien would have to answer charges over a controversy at the York racecourse stables, later that afternoon – and one of those is, in effect, that he had brought the British sport into disrepute. In view of their history together, this would seem a fairly inflammatory flourish of the BHA cutlass.

O'Brien and one of his senior employees, Pat Keating, will be summoned to a hearing in London after refusing to have Cape Blanco trotted up before the BHA veterinary officer and the racecourse veterinary surgeon, back at the stables. The colt had exacerbated a recent heel bruise during the race, and television cameras had already shown him being trotted up immediately afterwards. Keating, as O'Brien's representative on the track, was then ordered to attend a stewards' inquiry, but declined to do so. One of the BHA rules requires licensed individuals to "comply with any instructions given by the Stewards of a meeting". O'Brien will be further charged, not only with "encouraging or causing" Keating to breach that rule, but also with acting in a manner "prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain".

O'Brien knew that charges were in the offing but it seems safe to say that he will be speechless over this one. In 2008, after contentiously charging the stable with "team tactics", the BHA fined O'Brien £5,000 over the riding of a pacemaker at Newmarket, and suspended his principal jockey, Johnny Murtagh, under this same rule relating to "prejudicial" conduct.

Those who have decided to raise the stakes at the BHA only had to read the trade newspaper, the following day, to know how indignant he felt about the request to trot up Cape Blanco. "Everyone could see [the horse] was in discomfort," O'Brien told the Racing Post. "So we got him back down to the yard, got it iced and poulticed, and the lads got him comfortable and ready for home. And what happens next? The vets come down and say they want to see the horse trotting – not for his benefit, but for theirs. It's the most insane thing I've ever heard. Why would you want to trot him again on a bruised heel, and cause him more pain? So the lads called me and I said 'no'. The horse comes first, and under no circumstances was this horse allowed to trot." He also explained that his staff could not attend the stewards' inquiry as they were in danger of missing their flight home to Ireland.

His employers will have hoped that O'Brien could retrieve their investment in the Coolmore Stud Fillies' Stakes, a Group Three prize at Naas yesterday. But Catherineofaragon could never land a blow behind an impressive winner in Radharcnafarraige, who will now try to emulate her trainer's 2008 winner, Cuis Ghaire, in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday week. Jim Bolger reckons that she is not quite as powerful as Cuis Ghaire at the same stage – but that she would be in time. Radharcnafarraige is certainly improving with experience, in the manner of so many of Bolger's tougher fillies over the years.

Richard Hannon Jnr, assistant trainer to his father, said yesterday that there is "still a very small chance" that Paco Boy would drop down to six furlongs at the royal meeting, in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, but indicated that a clash with Goldikova and Rip Van Winkle in the Queen Anne Stakes next Tuesday remained much his most likely target.

Turf account

Nap Valantino Oyster (5.15 Redcar)

Bred for middle distances at least so three sprint maidens never likely to play to his strengths at two, and would only need a little ability to beat this lot off the low rating acquired in the process.

Next best

Lockantanks (2.45 Salisbury)

Took a bit of time to find his feet for his new stable but better effort at Musselburgh last time and has been set a sensible task in this claimer, with the in-form Fallon at the wheel.

One to watch

Run For The Hills (J H M Gosden) met heavy traffic after struggling with the contours at Epsom on Saturday and did well to finish as close as he did in sixth.

Where the money's going

Hawkeyethenoo, fast-finishing second in the big sprint handicap on Derby day, is 8-1 from 9-1 with William Hill for the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot next week.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments