Blight on racing will not be allowed: Kelly
Chief steward Kim Kelly says the Jockey Club will not consider the issue of pacemakers in the wake of Sunday's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby, calling their use in other jurisdictions 'as a blight on racing'.
Kelly was responding to comments by champion trainer John Moore regarding the farcically slow pace, which ruined the chances of many fancied runners and several returned from the race with injuries after being galloped on by horses racing behind them.
David Ferraris' beaten favourite, Sweet Orange, was also galloped on from behind by one of Moore's runners and was hampered by the slow pace before finishing a close third.
The use of pacemakers to ensure a proper tempo for a better-fancied stablemate in races like the Derby is a legitimate tactic in Europe.
The tactic usually involves announcing pre-race that a lesser light from the same yard as one of the favourites will be used to ensure the early speed is solid, then virtually retire from the race as his trainer's more serious chances overtake him, although they have been known in some cases to keep going and win. Kelly quickly dismissed the idea the Jockey Club should even investigate the idea.
'Our rules don't allow for pacemakers - we expect all runners in any race to employ tactics with the intention of winning or obtaining the best possible place in the field and that isn't going to change,' Kelly said.
'And, if you are asking me for a personal opinion, the use of pacemakers in other jurisdictions is a blight on racing. Once you cross the line into allowing a horse to be ridden as a pacemaker for a better-fancied stablemate, you are allowing that horse to be run in a manner which may not be in its own best interests, and then I think you cross into very dangerous territory.'
Moore said he would like to seek out natural front runners 'like others I've bought in the past, Mighty High and Viva Macau' for major races to ensure there is no repeat of Sunday's Derby farce.
'The stewards have no problem with horses being front runners, if that is their style, and setting a good speed. But we would have a problem with a natural front runner that goes too fast in the lead to assist another runner, then puts up a white flag without ever being given his chance,' Kelly said.
'I'd like someone to explain to me why the horse who settles back in the field is entitled to the right tempo to suit him but the horse that races forward isn't? Tactics are an important part of racing and we want to see every horse ridden to his own best advantage.
'What about the owner of Bullish Champion, who was a huge doubt about getting the Derby distance but Matthew Chadwick rode him as slowly as possible in front because that was his best chance to still be there at the finish? Isn't that owner entitled to employ whatever legitimate tactics he can to try to win the race, without some designated no-hoper leader making it impossible for him?'
Kelly said horses which come home from their races with 'battle scars' are part and parcel of the competitive racing and didn't only happen in the Derby.
'We would prefer that no horse or rider was ever injured, but that is wishful thinking. Position here is vital in every race, the fields are usually compact and several times each meeting, the stewards' report will note these kinds of injuries,' he said.
Trainer John Moore had a record number of horses in the race and nearly all of them suffered injuries