A wind of change?

Wind operations certainly have been a big topic at Cheltenham last week after a couple of horses produced some dramatic improvement of form at the Festival following this type of surgery. Most prominent example was World Hurdle winner Cole Harden, who gamely stormed up the hill at the end of a three mile race, when before he would probably have stopped at the final furlong marker.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Improved performance and well-being of the horse is the intention of such a surgical intervention. However there is a question of how horse racing fans and punters are informed about it. The logic says, since a wind operation can have a drastic effect on a horses performance, it’ll be clearly stated in the race card or at least somewhere in the profile of the horse on the official BHA website.

Guess what, that is not the case. Of course not. We know that. Therefore many people were stunned about one or another performance last week. Right now you have to read carefully through trainer quotes in all the different publications in order to find this kind of information. Sometimes it is more widely known, because it is a bigger race and connections made it public. Sometimes it is not so well known and only becomes public in the aftermath.

Same applies to gelding operations. Not so relevant in jump racing, but very much on the flat. A gelding operation can have a dramatic effect on the performance of a horse. It can influence temperament and attitude. We know that. Many racing jurisdictions worldwide make the date of gelding available in racecards. For example here in South Africa:

gelding

The same sort of detail is not available in British Racing at the moment. And that despite – one would think so at least – racing in the UK is much more advanced if it comes to data and the availability of data. But if it comes to such important things as the gelding date…. well it is just not there.

Now, the recent incidents from the Cheltenham Festival made me curious to find out what the BHA actually has to say about this. Well, judge for yourself – this is what they replied to my questions about the availability of either wind op and gelding date – BHA Response:

[…] “I’m afraid due to a technical fault the sex of the horses on the BHA website is missing, the IT team are working to get his corrected as quickly as possible. However you can see that status on the Racing Post’s profiles (http://www.racingpost.com/ ).
I’m afraid at this stage we are not able to include the date of a gelding on the horse profile page.

I can confirm that the British Horseracing Authority has been considering the proposal to make public wind operations. After initial consultation it is clear this development is not going to be straightforward and wider consultation is required.

We are progressing this with trainers, Weatherbys and BHA’s Veterinary Committee with a view to developing a mechanism for effective and meaningful information sharing on the matter.

I’m afraid at this point we can give no clearer detail or timeframe, until the consultation is further down the line”. […]

Good to hear that they consider changes – but if I’m not completely wrong, then this wasn’t the first time that this kind of thing was brought up. It looks to me though, much more like a lack of willingness to make changes actually happen. In my mind it’s hard to understand why other racing jurisdictions can provide this vital information, but in a powerful racing nation as the UK or even Ireland, it is just not there. Why is it so difficult to import gelding dates to a data base? if you want it, you can do it.

Of course it is understandable that not every racing nation can offer such an enormous data base like Singapore or Hong Kong usually do (check it out, it’s amazing. every workout, every medical treatment, absolutely everything is stated there!) – but key details, like gelding date or wind operation, should simply be part of the standard package.

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