Belfast Telegraph

The Punter: Starting rule is bad for image of racing

Sariska’s failure to come out of the starting stalls in the Yorkshire Oaks at York, has really put the cry of a ‘fair deal for punters’ very much on racing’s agenda

Should a horse in such a situation be a non-runner or is it better to allow the rule to stand whereby a horse in the starting stalls is deemed to come under orders and therefore declared a runner.

From the non-racing point of view, it seems absurd that a horse which does not come away from the stalls, is seen as having taken part in that race.

And that argument is well made especially in the modern age where Racing For Change is fighting hard to bring more people to the racing table and sample the fruits of excitement, entertainment and dare I say it, the delights of successful betting.

Imagine the perception gained by first-time race-goers dabbling in betting on what was a prestigious race, involving a star performer and having to swallow the current rule?

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the sport or the betting industry and highly unlikely to see newcomers wanting to repeat the experience.

Hardened punters live with the argument that rules are rules, but is this particular one fair and balanced?

The answer has to be no.

Irrespective of the sport or event, where a competitor does not take part, then from a punting point of view, that should result in a void bet and a return of stakes.

Sariska was 85-40 favourite and all who supported her lost their dough unless they were lucky enough to use a firm who decided to break their company rule rules for commercial and PR purposes and did return stakes without penalising those who backed the winner Midday by applying a deduction in winnings of 30p in the pound, as is normal under betting’s Rule 4.

Nothing wrong with that, but it creates added frustration for punters who bet with firms who stood solid by the official ruling that Sariska was a runner in the race.

Arguments have been put up that it would have been unfair to have applied a deduction to Midday which is what would

have happened in any case, if Sariska had not entered the starting stalls or had been withdrawn for whatever reason.

If Sariska was a non-runner, and a new market formed, Midday would have gone off at a much shorter price. So the cry about making unfair deductions, can be seen as somewhat tenuous.

Everyone agrees that there has to be a certain line drawn but to say that a non-starter is the same as a horse running badly or falling at a fence, is fatuous.

Much better to realign the rule to say that a horse must exit from the front of the stalls at some stage during the race, to be deemed a runner.

A similar view should be taken with a greyhound which turns in traps and does not come out.

But if the dog exits, even with the race virtually over, the dog would be a runner.

That line in the sand would surely be fairer and more acceptable all round.

As for the bookmakers, what’s the point in settling according to rule on one occasion but not another?

Belfast Telegraph

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