Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Investigation into ground conditions - Cork – 28th May 2010

Investigation into ground conditions
Cork – 28th May 2010

Following a request from the Stewards at Cork on 28th May 2010, the Turf Club has now carried out a full investigation into complaints made by a deputation of four N.H. jockeys concerning the state of the hurdle track where the ground was officially described as firm, good to firm in places.  The view of the jockeys on the evening was that there was a lack of sufficient effort to provide safe fast ground without any jar and that in their opinion most of the track was hard.  In addition, they felt that the all jumping card should not have encountered any problem with watering with a river nearby.

Written submissions on the matter were received from Cork Racecourse.  Discussions also took place with P.F. Graffin, Clerk of the Course, T.V. O’Connell, Inspector of Courses, John Powell, Chairman of Stewards at Cork on 28th May and James P. Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association.  The report of the Stewards enquiry and transcript of the original enquiries at Cork was also considered.

In their submission, Michael O’Neill, Manager of Cork Racecourse, outlined the watering programme that was followed in the lead up to the meeting.  He confirmed that watering of both tracks commenced on Sunday, May 23rd and that the tracks were watered each day up to Thursday, May 27th (day before the racemeeting).  In addition, the home straight of the hurdle track from the last bend to past the finishing post was watered a second time on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday prior to the meeting.  In total it was estimated that 50,000 litres of water per furlong was sprayed on the track with an additional 30,000 litres per furlong being sprayed on the finishing straight.  A decision was taken not to water on the morning of the racemeeting because of the threat of creating slippy ground.  This has been the norm in Cork for quite some time when watering for a jumps meeting.

P.F. Graffin gave details of the various communications he had with the Inspector of Courses.  He also spoke to the Cork Racecourse Manager, Michael O’Neill, on the day before the meeting.  On the night Mr. Graffin told the Stewards that Cork Management did the best they could.

T.V. O’Connell outlined details of the inspection he carried out on Tuesday, 26th May.  He said that he agreed with Michael O’Neill (Cork Racecourse Manager) that watering should continue to achieve good to firm ground with no jar.  His instruction to the racecourse management was to continue to water and to monitor the weather. 

John Powell said that his view on the evening was that under the prevailing circumstances the ground was as good as could be reasonably expected and that this fact was confirmed to the Stewards by P.F. Graffin.  He also said that the Stewards received no complaints from trainers on the evening or reports from veterinary surgeons that horses had finished sore.  He confirmed that the jockeys when asked at the enquiry if they wanted the meeting called off were adamant that they did not.

James P. Kavanagh stated that he had received a number of complaints from trainers about the condition of the ground and based on these complaints he suggested that the Turf Club guidelines on watering were not followed.  He also suggested that watering in the straight was inadequate.

Having considered the written submissions, points raised during the subsequent discussions and what happened on the night, the following points are of relevance.

1. The jockeys were adamant that racing should continue despite the concerns they expressed.

2. The majority of trainers were happy to run their horses.  In total there were 10 non runners out of the 87 declarations.  There were no other ground related issues on the night following the complaints.

3. Watering ceased at 4pm on the day prior to racing due to the weather forecast of light showers.  No rain fell and it was dry and windy on the day.

4. Under the watering guidelines published by the Turf Club:-

(i) Racecourse management are responsible for watering racecourses.  They must liaise with the Clerk of the Course on an ongoing basis when watering is taking place.

(ii) Watering should be judicious and not do more than assist in the promotion of good grass growth thereby producing safe, level ground with no jar so as to achieve optimum ground conditions.  For summer national hunt racing ground should be good to firm.

5. Cork racecourse did not water on the morning of the racemeeting due to the possibility of creating slippy patches of ground.

Conclusion
While the ground on the evening was firmer than recommended under the Turf Club Watering Guidelines, there is no evidence to suggest that the ground was dangerous.  Management took the decision to stop watering at 4pm on the day before the meeting on the basis of the weather forecast.

Recommendation
Cork racecourse should work closely with both the Turf Club Inspector of Courses and Clerk of the Course with a view to continuing watering up to the latest time possible to ensure that every effort is made to present ground conditions that are in line with Turf Club guidelines.


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