Gordon hits out after going change leads to raft of non-runners at Worcester
Trainer Chris Gordon said episodes that led to Worcester's card on Thursday being left with a brace of two-runner races and a three-runner heat were not a good advert for racing and meant faith in racecourses could be eroded.
Gordon had been due to field runners in each division of the bumper, but withdrew them because of the ground, described as good, good to firm in places before being changed to good to firm after the opener.
A host of non-runners followed – 30 of the 33 withdrew because of the conditions – leaving Gordon, who is based near Winchester, frustrated.
He said: "I've got two lots of owners who have come for a day out and it's costly. It took me two seconds when I got here [to work out it was quick] and it was rough as well as being quick. The whole day is a hell of an expense for owners and you lose trust with the racecourse.
"You get up here and there's no good ground. I thought we might find the odd patch of good, which we could live with, but no.
"Mine are winter horses, but I'd have been happy to run them on good ground, but not this. I'd imagine it's a £500-round trip for the horses. It's not a good advert for racing and you do lose faith with the track, but luckily this is a bit of a rarity, an extreme."
Clerk of the course Libby O'Flaherty responded by saying: "We were forecast 3-4mm yesterday and didn't get it, so I wouldn't have watered because the ground was genuinely good. Yesterday we had a lovely, drying day. Today was supposed to be cloudy, but this morning it was sunshine and breezy and it's dried out."
Asked if there were good areas in the morning, O'Flaherty added: "There were. There was a big dew on the track and I did change it [to good, good to firm in places from good this morning]. After the jockeys rode they said it had quickened up. If I'd watered and we had got the rain we'd have had good to soft. It's tricky."
Charlie Longsdon, who withdrew three of his four runners, had sympathy for O'Flaherty.
"I feel sorry for the clerk – it's a horrible job and I'd say she hasn't slept all night," he said.
"It is quick, too quick for my summer horse who did run, but I'm not apportioning blame."
'It's frustrating but these things happen'
That view was echoed by Seamus Mullins, 2017 president of the National Trainers' Federation.
He said: "The forecast was for rain, it didn't materialise and they haven't watered because of that. The ground has dried and it's frustrating, but these things happen; it's nobody's fault."
Champion jockey Richard Johnson described the ground as fast, but added it was in great condition, while on-course layer Stephen Rea said: "As a bookmaker it's desperate. It's killed our turnover. This race [the two-runner novice hurdle] I've taken £3 on, normally it'd be £600-£700, maybe even £1,000. You've only got to look and see people leaving; there's nobody here."
No dream start for Barber
Champion point-to-point trainer Jack Barber had no joy with his first runner with a full licence as Doctor Tiger finished last of the three runners in division one of the bumper.
Shoal Bay's success in the second division of the bumper was a 99th victory for owner Roger Skan, who was enjoying his first winner trained by Colin Tizzard.
Thought for the day
Two races on the card were divided and while the ground was rapid, it does beg the question generally if trainers have too many options to run.
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