On The Rails

Another Japan Cup, another crazy call

Stewards' decision not to punish Gentildonna made no sense, and sooner their rules are brought into line with rest of world the better

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 1:42am

What can we say about the Japan Cup result? We'll leave out the swear words.

The Japanese stewards were branded by the entire racing world as incompetent after taking down Buena Vista as the winner of the same race two years ago, despite the mare winning by almost two lengths and more than a little bit softly.

At that time, it was highlighted the Japanese rules of racing demanded that any interference inflicted by Buena Vista on runner-up and "ownermate" Rose Kingdom must lead to the demotion of Buena Vista to immediately behind the horse which suffered the interference.

If they were the rules, they were the rules, however stupid.

The Japan Racing Association subsequently undertook a path towards changing those rules to come more into line with other parts of the world, including Hong Kong, where stewards would make a subjective protest decision based on whether the "interferee" might legitimately be argued to have beaten the "interferer" if the interference had not occurred. Hong Kong's chief stipe Kim Kelly has worked closely with the JRA on achieving this via meetings under the aegis of the Asian Racing Federation.

But the wheels of change turn slowly in Japan, where the JRA is a section of a government department and subject to the usual bureaucracy that entails.

As yet the rule there has not been revised to mirror the Hong Kong or Australian process - but that only makes Sunday's decision so much tougher for anyone to comprehend.

Ironically, there is a 99 per cent likelihood that the same home-straight rumpus between winner Gentildonna, who shoved Orfevre out of the way to push out of a legitimate pocket, would have seen her lose the race under the Hong Kong rules. Under the existing Japanese rules, though, it was a 100 per cent certainty that Gentildonna would lose the race. So much for certainty.

We can only assume the Japanese stewards were so traumatised by the criticism that followed the Buena Vista matter in 2010, which involved the same ownership of both horses as Sunday's event, that they secretly resolved to never uphold another Japan Cup protest. There is no other explanation and the only way the decision to let the placings stand could have looked worse is if Jimmy Saville was involved somehow.

And, while it is important to note that protest decisions and careless riding charges arising from the same incident are only partially related, it will have rubbed salt in a few wounds to learn that Gentildonna's rider, Yasunari Iwata, was later suspended for careless riding for pushing Orfevre off a line he was entitled to hold. She was never in a clear run until she and Iwata breached the rule in creating it.

Some might argue it was closer to the more serious charge of improper riding, as it was not careless but deliberate. If you wish to make up your own mind, the patrol footage has been posted on YouTube.

Harmonisation of racing rules, so they are known and understood by fans as being the same all around the world - like other global sports - has been put forward as an essential part of the road to a successful global commingling of betting pools.

Are we really any closer?