Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

T.J. Doran (Owner) Objection - Galway, 31st July 2016

The Referrals Committee, Justice Tony Hunt, (in the chair), Sean Barry and Mrs. T.K. Cooper met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Monday, 5th September 2016 to consider the objection of T.J. Doran, Owner, Ondamoura, which finished second in the JPK Fencing Handicap at Galway on 31st July 2016 against Tarazani, winner of the race.

The grounds for the objection, which was lodged under the provisions of Rule 262(v)(d), were that Tarazani was not qualified to run, as the race was confined to horses rated 50-75 while Tarazani was rated 78 at the time of the race which was outside the rating band.

Evidence was heard from Garry O’Gorman, Senior Rules of Racing Handicapper. The Committee also considered a number of submissions from Kevin Power on behalf of T.J. Doran.

Having considered the evidence the Committee reserved its decision which was subsequently issued to the parties concerned on 17th October 2016.

Decision

This is an objection by Mr. Doran, the owner of Ondamoura, under Rule 262(v)(d) of the Rules of Racing to Tarazani, the winner of the JPK Fencing Handicap held at Galway on 31st July, 2016.

1. Rule 101(iv) of the Turf Club Rules of Racing provides as follows:-
“The qualifying ratings for handicaps shall be calculated on each Monday at 12 noon. The qualifying rating for each horse shall be equivalent to the horse’s current rating at that time.”

2. The standard conditions of the Irish Race Programme as published in the Irish Racing Calendar each week specify that “the rating qualification will take into account all performances up to and including the Sunday previous to the rating qualification date”. This publication sets out the qualification rating date and the date for the calculation for each individual handicap race.

3. In practice, the handicappers review performances and update handicap ratings in time for publication at noon on Monday, at which point the qualification rating for each horse on the handicap file is set. The qualification rating applicable on any given Monday will determine the eligibility of a horse to run in any handicaps closing from the following day until the next Monday, both days inclusive. The purpose of stipulating a qualification date is to permit the connections of horses to know with certainty which future handicaps they are qualified for based on that qualification rating, even if the handicap rating of the horse subsequently changes between the date upon which the rating is set and the date of any subsequent handicap race for which it is entered.

4. In relation to the handicap in question, the Racing Calendar specified that the handicap calculation date and the rating qualification date was 26th July, with declarations to run to be made by 10am on 29th July. Tarazani ran for a third time at Cork on 26th March, 2016, following which he received a handicap rating of 74 on 27th March. The horse did not run again after the Cork race, his handicap mark was not reviewed and his qualifying rating for the Galway race was set at 74 on Monday 25th July. Both Tarazani and Ondamoura were entered in the Galway race on 26th July, and the weights for the race were calculated on the basis of Tarazani having a rating of 74.

5. The weights for the Galway race were published on Wednesday, 27th July, by which time Tarazani’s rating had been amended to 78 by the handicapper. The background to the subsequent amendment was that the handicapper had belatedly realised that the original handicap mark of 74 was inadequate in the light of the subsequent or collateral form of various runners in the Cork maiden, including Harzand (first), Sword Fighter (second) and Qatari Hunter (fourth).

6. The conditions of the Galway handicap prescribed that it was confined to horses with a rating of up to 75. Accordingly, Tarazani had an appropriate rating for this race on the qualification date, but had risen above this limit following the raise of four pounds after the qualification date, but before the date of race in question. It should be noted that Tarazani carried a weight appropriate to a rating of 78 in the Galway race. Tarazani finished first in the Galway handicap and Ondamoura finished second. The basis of the objection by the owner of the second to the winner is that the winner was not qualified to run in the race by reason of having a rating in excess of 75 on the day of the race.

7. On behalf of Mr. Doran, Mr. Power relied principally upon the provisions of r. 101(iii) of 2015 Rules. This provides as follows:-
“In any race where there shall be any particular conditions required as a qualification to start such conditions shall extend to the time of starting unless otherwise specified in the conditions of the race.”

In effect, the argument was that for the purposes of the Galway race, a rating below 75 was a “particular condition required as a qualification to start” and that this condition extended to the time of starting unless otherwise specified in the conditions of the race. On the assumption that a handicap qualification rating can be regarded as a starting condition for a race, the Committee is of the opinion that the interpretation of any of the sub-rules of Rule 101 must have regard to the other provisions of that rule. Sub-rule (4) specifically provides that the qualifying ratings for handicap shall be calculated on each Monday at 12 noon, and the qualifying rating for each horse shall be equivalent to the horse’s current rating at that time. In the light of this rule, and the specific provisions thereof, a condition relating to handicap qualification is not assessed at the time of the starting of the race, but is specifically fixed and calculated on the relevant Monday at 12 noon. The conditions of each individual handicap race need not provide otherwise, as this position is set out by a general Rule of Racing. Accordingly, the eligibility of Tarazani to run in the Galway race was not affected by the interim revision of his handicap mark. The Committee finds that he was eligible to run at Galway on the basis of his rating qualification on Monday, 25th July, which was the relevant qualification date for the purposes of the handicap held on July 31st.

8. In the course of the hearing, Mr. Power very properly conceded that had the handicapper not taken any steps to revise Tarazani’s handicap mark upwards until after the Galway race, he could have had no complaint had Tarazani run off a mark of 74 and carried a weight appropriate to that rating. If an objection such as this can only be made where the handicapper intervenes after the closing date, it is doubtful if he would ever intervene to revise an inadequate mark upwards where an anomaly is noticed only after the handicap is calculated. In the opinion of the Committee, a belated intervention in relation to a mark that is perceived as being too low is better than none at all. In this case, the intervention of the handicapper at least ensured that Tarazani carried four pounds more than if there had been no change to his rating and, although with the benefit of hindsight the extra weight was clearly insufficient to stop him winning the race, this situation was clearly fairer to all other competitors in the race than if there was no review at all.


9. Mr. Power also referred to the handicapping distance protocol approved by the Stewards of the Turf Club on 31st March, 2015. This protocol does not have the status of a Rule of Racing, but gives discretion to handicappers to preclude horses running in a handicap where the distance of some or all of its qualifying runs for a handicap mark are considerably different from the distance of the proposed handicap. Mr. Power suggested that this protocol ought to have been applied to Tarazani to prevent him running in this race, and that if it had been properly applied to Tarazani he would not have been eligible to run in this race.

10. Firstly, the Committee considers that it has no power to review whether a discretionary power such as this ought to have been applied when considering an objection to qualification or eligibility. Secondly, even if this protocol could be considered by the Committee, it would not avail the objector in this case. Each of Tarazani’s handicapping runs was over the maximum trip for a 2yo or 3yo maiden available at the time of each run. Accordingly, the handicapper could not have properly excluded Tarazani from a 14f race at Galway on the basis that it had previously run over inadequate distances, bearing in mind the operation of the protocol as explained by Mr. O’Gorman in evidence. The mischief addressed by this protocol is a deliberate attempt to achieve a lower handicap rating by using qualifying runs over unsuitable distances. Tarazani obtained his mark over the longest distances available to a horse of his age at the time. There is no basis upon which it could be said that this was an issue calling for the exercise of the handicapper’s discretion in this case.

11. Accordingly, the objection by the owner of Ondamoura to Tarazani is not upheld and costs of €250 are awarded against the objector.

The case was presented by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club. T.J. Doran was represented by Kevin Power, Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick.


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