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Reserves system in Ireland tightened up as part of wide-ranging changes

Denis Egan: IHRB chief executive has already made contact with the Irish Jockeys Association about sponsorship from bookmakers
IHRB chief executive Denis Egan says the rules on team tactics are being implemented to keep in line with best international practiceCredit: Patrick McCann

A tightening up of the reserves system is among the amendments made to Irish racing’s rule book from next Monday, which also includes a new rule that legislates for fair use of pacemakers and the policing of team tactics.

The changes to reserves see the cut-off point being brought forward to 11am on the day of the race, with a 10am winter deadline in November, December and January. The only exception is the Irish Grand National, which already has a 10am deadline on the day before the race.

Otherwise, the latest any reserve can currently gain a slot in a race is 90 minutes before the first race on a given card.

That, however, has led to plenty of controversy, notably when the reserve Carlingford Lough landed a gamble in the 2013 Galway Plate after his fellow JP McManus-owned Like Your Style came out, and then when Ballycasey was a late withdrawal from the same race last year.

As a consequence, his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Patricks Park got a run, prompting Ruby Walsh to switch from his intended mount Saturnas to partner Patricks Park, who was sent off favourite before finishing second.

A provision has also been made to prevent a rider change in those circumstances, with a jockey not allowed to switch horse unless their intended mount is a non-runner.

Clarcam: made all to win the Plate for Gordon Elliott and Mark Enright 12 months ago
Last year's Galway Plate hero Clarcam pulls clear of Patricks Park, who got in as a late reserve after stablemate Ballycasey was withdrawnCredit: Caroline Norris

Next Tuesday’s Gowran Park card will be the first time the new regulations will be applicable, with the recently announced changes to the whip rules likewise due to be implemented on the same day by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

“This will bring more clarity and certainty to the field for betting purposes,” said the regulator’s chief executive Denis Egan of the tweak to reserve procedures.

“Non-runners will still come out after the cut-off point, but we needed to put more certainty into what’s going to run.”

The new rules pertaining to team tactics explicitly refer to pacemakers, noting that they are permitted so long as their riders do not execute a manoeuvre for the benefit of a horse in the same ownership or yard.

It is something that there is provision for in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities guidelines but it is an area that hasn’t been formally addressed in Irish racing before now.

“If a pacemaker pulls off the rail to let his stablemate up the inside, then that will be a breach of the rules,” Egan explained.

“The rider would be in trouble and the trainer may be as well, if the trainer gave instructions to that effect – although proving that is another thing.

"It is just to keep in line with best international practice. The BHA has a similar rule but it hasn’t been used often, and it’s not a rule we’d expect to use often."

As of next week, bringing the wrong horse to the races will also constitute a formal rule breach, where previously a caution was deemed adequate. “We took the view that bringing the wrong horse was penalty enough for a trainer, but we are changing it now because we regard it as more serious,” Egan explained.

He added: "The horses are all scanned before they run in the stable yard and we scan all winners in the winner’s enclosure, because if the wrong horse was brought out to run in a race, we can pick it up before the winner alright call is given."

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Richard ForristalIreland editor

Published on 1 April 2019inNews

Last updated 17:19, 1 April 2019