The Navan stewards were firmly in the spotlight last week, with leading trainer Gordon Elliott and former Champion Jockey turned Racing TV pundit Ruby Walsh both speaking out against the decision not to reverse the placings after a very tight finish to the maiden hurdle last Friday, which saw Elliott’s Folcano carried across the track by the winner Brazos before missing out by a nose at the line.
Watching the replay, it is hard not to have some sympathy for connections of the runner-up, but there have been worse cases of interference ignored by stewards’ enquiries in the past and by the letter of the law, a strong case could be made for Brazos to keep the race. Walsh, however, was adamant the race should have been awarded to the runner-up.
He commented “Is there any other sport in the world where the fouled doesn’t get the free [kick]? “
To answer his question; there is no sport in which the rules are without fault, in which pundit and fan alike share every view in common and in which there is never any controversy to be debated and explored. The near-constant condemnation of VAR in football of late is clear proof, if it were needed, that a panel of experts in any sphere can make decisions that do no meet with universal agreement.
Similarly, World Rugby have openly admitted to many mistakes being made by their TMO (Third Match Official) in recent seasons, despite having the benefit of a multitude of camera angles, while the very fact there is such a thing as an umpire’s call in cricket is further evidence of the ambiguity that exists in decision-making in sport, with or without the benefit of video replays.
It therefore feels unnecessarily harsh for the mainstream racing press to have used the incident to further stoke the fires of conflict between racing professionals and officials in recent days, given it occurred just 48 hours before a farcical start to a handicap hurdle at Naas last Sunday, the aftermath of which has seen widespread condemnation of the starter for the race, and the IHRB as a whole.
Perhaps Elliott is right. After all, there was interference, and the winning margin was just a nose. However, the suggestion that a disputed decision from a stewards’ enquiry into a minor contest on a foggy Friday at Navan makes racing a laughing stock in the eyes of the public, is some distance wide of the mark.