On the Rails

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2010, 12:00am

Whatever else the Good Ba Ba-John Yuen Se-kit-Andreas Schutz situation was, it has made for considerable dinner table discussion over the issue, even the prospect, of trainers' rights to compensation for the performance of horses which leave the stable.

Dare we clich? it - a veritable Pandora's Box has been prised open.

Many regard it as just plain cheeky for Schutz to ask for a payment to welcome a horse - or three - into the stable, but that simplifies the situation too much.

Good Ba Ba was a horse he had developed over more than two years into a world champion. A multiple Group One winner, a history-maker. Yet a horse that was moved on the owner's whim despite that success.

We don't argue with an owner's right to move a horse, nor do the Jockey Club rules. He pays the bills and, reason or no reason, is free to move his horse.

That is a right Schutz himself understands, as no compensation was sought when the move occurred or when Good Ba Ba won the Hong Kong Mile for Derek Cruz.

In another business, perhaps that would have been the moment the lawyers joined in and compensation was sought, but Schutz regarded it as the rub o' the green.

When Yuen sought to return to the yard where he had enjoyed the greatest success, Schutz says he requested compensation for the loss of a significant payday for himself and his staff as his proviso for taking the horse on again.

It is at that point that opinions become diverse.

Whether Yuen did or did not agree to that payment, or when a misunderstanding occurred between owner and trainer, we would argue the scenario itself breached no Jockey Club rule, nor any law of the land.

It was a private treaty between two people which, provided it was properly documented, invoiced and receipted and all appropriate taxes paid, was perfectly sound.

A simple case of offer and acceptance, or refusal. The owner was free to refuse what he believed to be an unfair demand and look for another yard.

And, technically, it wasn't a matter for the Jockey Club's attention and that is why the club was not involved in the Good Ba Ba matter until the misunderstanding went public.

There would be serious concerns if any trainer wanted to charge anyone up front for bringing any horse to the yard, and we have no doubt the Jockey Club would get involved then.

It would even be covered by the existing rules if a trainer with a full house said he would bump another owner to get a horse a place in the stable provided a payment was made.

In the specifics of this case, it was a horse which had significant history with Schutz and which he had lost for no good reason.

He might argue the training techniques he had used successfully were also on the public trackwork record for all to see and thus he had lost his intellectual property.

Still, other trainers might argue for compensation for horses which left the yard only to become successful elsewhere, regardless of grade.

The imported, performed horse, for example, which took the first season here to acclimatise, and to drop from Class Two to Class Four, then came good in the next term after a transfer.

Or a young, immature horse, gently handled by the trainer in its initial campaign, before a stable transfer saw another trainer take the advantages of that patience with a stronger, more mature animal later.

The first trainer could have taken a short-term view and squeezed something from the horse when it was not really ready.

Instead, he took a longer-term approach, with the best interests of horse and owner, and ultimately himself, in mind, but when the fruit was ripe to be picked the horse was already somewhere else.

Time and rating can be as much a factor in such cases as the ability of the next trainer.

Good Ba Ba was an extraordinary situation with a high-profile, high-earning horse, and the fact that he was returning to Schutz was key, but there must be a few hairs standing up on the necks of officials at Sports Road over the underlying potential of it, especially if trainers as a block decided it was right.