On the Rails
with Alan Aitken
While the focus of Monday's inquiry into Darren Beadman's ride on Collection in Sunday's Audemars Piguet QE II Cup was on the jockey's tactics in the race, it did throw up something else that requires some attention.
Whatever the outcome of the stewards' investigation of Beadman's ride, it has to be said that Collection himself was a contributing factor at every stage.
When Beadman might have been expected to maintain a position two wide going out of the straight the first time instead of winding up on the fence - all the better to make a looping move around the field in the middle stages if the most likely scenario of a very slow tempo occurred - Collection was not helping.
Whatever Beadman's intentions at that stage, Collection was racing keenly and causing his rider to be more concentrated on getting him to settle and stay off the heels ahead.
That allowed Brett Prebble (Unique Jewellery) to dictate to Beadman and steer him in towards the rail, which ended any chance of Beadman making a move around the field - not that he was really going to able to anyway because Collection continued to behave like a spoiled brat the whole way and was not really in the mood to be doing anything clever.
Then his antics made it difficult for Beadman as he rode the horse out in the final stages with his left hand not pushing him but busy trying to hold him out off the ones inside him.
No, whatever the stewards conclude of the riding, that is not the concern in the report on Monday.
More interesting was the evidence that Collection had blood in his trachea when subjected to an endoscopic examination, or scope, after what turned out to be his final gallop the previous Saturday.
That he hadn't been given a solid workout in the days between was unusual - not trainer John Moore's style - and people we know who scan the trackwork for winning clues were opposing Collection on that basis alone.
Beadman also told stewards that he had the dirty scope on his mind when he was riding the horse out in the straight.
To those who would say that Moore had a moral obligation to tell the press, or therefore the public, that Collection had blood in his trachea, we would disagree.
Trainers offer what information they do give in interviews as a courtesy, as publicity for the sport and, mostly, they try to be helpful. They are under no obligation to do so and can even find themselves in breach of the rules for giving up information that might be considered the property of the owner.
The situation that Moore may have not wanted to risk, if he disclosed this information publicly, was that Collection may have faced a vet test, perhaps even one that required the horse to be exercised beforehand.
He had a fit horse which he didn't want to push over the edge in the days leading to a major race, so he didn't gallop him.
Had he been forced to put him under pressure for the sake of an examination, and pushed him over the edge into either a full-on bleeding attack or just flattened him, Collection may have missed the race or run worse.
We can understand Moore's point of view and when all is said and done, the horse having had a minor blood-in-trachea episode over a week before the race was something that could be managed.
Yet probably many a punter in the street among those who bet HK$10 million on Collection in the win pool alone on Sunday might have felt some entitlement to information that the odds-on favourite had any sort of issue on the previous Saturday.
When former chief steward John Schreck introduced the post-race scoping of horses into the stewards' reports, it was to explain poor performances by fancied runners and it has clearly been a relevant and valuable addition to the information stream for punters.
Horses with blood in their trachea, even though not full-blown bleeding attacks, have difficulty breathing and cannot perform. With this instance, we enter into the more confusing area of pre-race disclosure.
Not because there is anything murky going on, but because racehorses are athletes and, like your favourite football team, often go into battle with niggling issues or problems about to happen.
If you knew every injury being carried into a game by a top-class football team, well, you might never have a bet on them. You might be amazed they play at all.
Horses can be in a similar situation. Yet, in the contest itself, the adrenaline starts to flow, the affected area warms up and the niggling issue doesn't make a difference.
Should punters be told if runners have been borderline about being passed fit to run?
Or should the fact that they are passed mean we should regard them as in the clear, 100 per cent?
Blood in the trachea is rated on a score out of five - Collection had a low grade, a two out of five, let's call it - so should punters have been concerned about that, eight days out from the race?
Probably not, but would they have revised their thoughts away from betting on the favourite or put their faith in the trainer's judgment and presumed the old axiom of 'fit to run, fit to win'?
It's a tough call but, given that the vets at Sha Tin are working for the Jockey Club, the club is, by extension, in possession of this information.
At other times, stewards do make various pre-race inquiries into the well-being of engaged horses when things are brought to their attention, and make public their results.
Perhaps then, it was the club which had the obligation to inform its customers of the low-level presence of blood in the throat of a horse which would assuredly run as a hot favourite for a high-profile race.
Together with an assurance that the club was on top of this and monitoring the situation, that would have been a better scenario than having the news trickle out after the event, when the majority of punters are already bitter at having lost their money on Collection.