Thursday 14 May 2020

Oh My! The Race is on for Royal Ascot 2020

I'd normally be excited about Royal Ascot. 

With Coronavirus delaying the return to Flat turf racing (all racing) we are at the mercy of both an invisible killer and the Government who are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. 

The BHA is literally chomping at the bit for thoroughbred racing to be given the green light. Hopes of a return this month have been dashed and it now seems the earliest opportunity to resume is 1st of June. 

The racing industry is ready for the off. Horse trainers are reliant on the goodwill of their owners to continue to pay the bills which isn't a given in this economic time as many will be struggling with financial uncertainties if not burden. 

It is a truly difficult time. 

I'm seriously worried about the racing industry because the last thing anyone wants is this leading to irreparable damage. 

To be fair, I think many trainers are frustrated by the situation because horse racing, along with all sport, is being tarred with the same brush. Richard Hughes detailed his disappointment that racing hasn't resumed. Clearly, most stables are working as per usual normal withing the realms of safety and social distancing. There are many who would consider the return to racing no more dangerous than stable work on a daily basis. 

In a world of no sport, horse racing would be a welcome return and some release for the populous who are appreciative of all those things taken for granted. 

I have serious concerns about this delay and the difference between the resumption in mid-May to the 1st of June (if it happens) is a long two weeks with serious implications. 

The Racing Post report that the return could be spectacular with pattern races galore. 

I know all these things are provisional but I'm getting more and more uneasy with everything I read. 

The Provisional Pattern Plan 

This details a fast and furious return which in many respects is a good thing. However, with each delay, the number of high-profile races are waiting like black cabs outside a central station. It's understandable why racing is clinging onto these big-money races because they are the hopes and dreams of all within racing. Without these, the carrot that's dangled in front of the horse, owner, and trainer's eyes are stolen by Roger Rabbit. 

What should be a good thing is turning, potentially, bad as all these pattern races could be coming thick and fast.

June 3-4th 

Classic Trial 

June 5th

Lingfield Oaks Trial 
Lingfield Derby Trial 
Coronation Cup 

June 6th 

2000 Guineas

June 7th 

1000 Guineas

It looks like a bonanza of pattern races. This may be ok for older horses but it is far from ideal for other age groups.

As my niche is two-year-old racing, it is even more concerning if not bordering on illogical. 

This is no one's fault and a truly difficult position for all. But if the resumption of races starts on the 1st of June, there's talk of Royal Ascot on the 16th - 20th June. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the pomp and ceremony as much as anyone else, even if racing behind closed doors. 

But how is this all going to happen?

No two-year-olds will have any racecourse experience but in two weeks, give or take a day, trainers are meant to have their best juveniles penciled in for the following races:

Coventry Stakes (Group 2)
Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)
Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)
Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
Albany Stakes (Group 3)
Chesham Stakes (Listed)

Just over two weeks to get two-year-olds ready for racing at the highest level. 

I'm sure trainers are pulling their hair out because the start date keeps bouncing around like a rubber ball. 

How can a horse be trained to the day when no one really knows which day we are talking about!

We all know horses aren't machines so the chance of there being any structure to the two-year-old racing, in particular, is about five-furlongs up in the air. 

So what should we expect? 

I would say all we can expect is the unexpected. The two-year-olds more than any age group need time to learn the ropes and for trainers to take care in how they are prepared for those big days. 

The BHA says they will be scheduling plenty of two-year-old races in preparation for Royal Ascot. 

However, before the latest postponement of racing, they detailed 12 two-year-old races for the first week of racing. With a limited field size of 11 or 12 horses that means less than 300 horses will have race experience before Royal Ascot. How many of those two-year-olds will have more than one races? 

Very few. 

How with those entered for debut races be selected? I can imagine a huge number of trainers entering their juveniles for these limited number of races. And if these are balloted then we are dealing with a selection process of pure luck. So the opportunity for trainers to make any judgment call will be haphazard at best. 

This is the nature of the beast but you can see the concerns. 

The general selection process which trainers work by has gone out of the window. 

We all look forward to the return of racing and protecting the racing industry is paramount and goes beyond a bet here and there. 

However, I am concerned that the hope and need for high-profile races and prize money will turn the two-year-old racing into an illogical stampede of hopes and dreams. 

I hope there can be a touch of sanity too in making the most of a difficult situation. 

Good luck to all.