Why wind ops should be made public knowledge
Commentator and Weekender columnists reacts to Ascot shock
FLAT racing often throws up surprise results in the autumn when the ground eases and hitherto in-form horses begin to train off, but you would have needed a crystal ball – and maybe some inside information – to have predicted the 33-1 success of Just Glamorous at Ascot just under a fortnight ago.
Ron Harris’s speedy four-year-old, a massive improver in 2016 when outpointing none other than Marsha in the Group 3 Prix du Petit Couvert at Chantilly, had struggled in five previous outings this season, beating just three horses home.
As such, the stunning return to form in the Listed Rous Stakes at Ascot, in which he rediscovered his trademark early pace to make all the running, was a revelation and a mystery until Harris reported afterwards that the horse had benefited from a wind operation.
The trainer explained: “His breathing has been troubling him ever since he won his Group 3 and we found out his larynx had collapsed. He was getting only 30 per cent airway.”
Just Glamorous had been operated on six weeks earlier but showed no noticeable improvement in a race at Newbury a month later when, according to Harris, he needed the run.
The obvious question arising from these circumstances, and one that has been the subject of much discussion after two of my colleagues raised the issue last week, is whether wind ops should now be in the public domain.
Twitters users favour declaring ops
In a Weekender Twitter poll, 83 per cent of nearly 400 responders were in favour of compulsory declaration, whereas some dissenters wondered where the line should be drawn in terms of informing punters about all sorts of other procedures.
One tweeter felt it is the racehorse owner’s business and nothing to do with punters, even wondering whether trainers might one day be required to report changes of feed, but with regard to wind issues the majority favoured transparency and choice whereby punters can use the information if they want to.
Over jumps in particular, there have been many examples of horses who have made successful comebacks as a result of being able to breathe properly, but on most occasions punters are only informed of the physical correction after they have won.
All trainers would be quick to point out that wind operations – and there are several different ones to correct various abnormalities – do not always work, but the same could be said of other information available to the public like the fitting of headgear for the first time or news that a horse has been gelded.
A few years ago, it became compulsory to declare tongue-straps, so it might be considered inconsistent if wind operations were not also included.
Some trainers will, perhaps understandably, bridle at just one more piece of administration which, if not made public, could result in a fine, but an organised stable office should be able to cope and wind issues have long been declared in sales catalogues.
So why not in racecards? Backing horses who have had an operation may not always lead to 33-1 winners but, like the majority, I also believe punters should be given as much potentially useful information as is possible.
What you said on Twitter
Billy Blakeman @five2tenracing: Declaring breathing ops? No, because it would remove an angle for the savvy punter and benefit only the bookies. The signs are there; a seven-week break or a ten-week break after weakening. And where do you draw the line; what about other procedures and medications?
Alan Paige @AlanPaige1: Transparency is a prerequisite for a serious national sport where betting is central to its appeal.
genehunt @Mclaren0101: I’ve had three horses who have had wind ops after running poorly. All three won first time out.
Dave McManus @dave_jmcmanus: Everything should be declared inc wind ops. If punters don’t want to use the info, they don’t have to.
Mick Doonan @TheMicktorious: You’re making something between owner and trainer into punters vs bookies. It’s up to the owner paying the bills to give the info or not. Owners don’t owe it to punters, it’s that simple. When punters pay for wind ops they can get the information. What next – declare every change of feed?
This article was originally published in the Racing Post Weekender, out every Wednesday
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