With Aidan O’Brien saddling four horses for the St Leger it was expected that one of these could take the role of pacemaker. This proved to be the case with the Anvil going clear until they reached the turn with the Michael Hussey mount soon beginning to slow even when being pushed along.
The rest of the field with plenty of energy left, soon swept past the Ballydoyle pacemaker. Here comes the issue. With the large field overtaking the slowing pacemaker at such a rate there is obvious dangers and increased risk of contact and injuries. Thankfully in the case of the Leger there were no accidents. But this doesn’t remove the fact that in an already dangerous sport the usage of pacemakers could lead to not only some serious contenders being obstructed but also someone getting seriously injured.
So what are the alternatives?
In Australia, the use of pacemakers is forbidden. To influence this though has it difficulties. Some have argued that perhaps owners shouldn’t be able to have more than one runner in the field. This idea is simply a non-starter, this year’s Epsom Derby was won by Wings of Eagles who certainly wasn’t Coolmore’s first choice of runner before the race.
In fact he wasn’t even their second choice. But this didn’t stop the 40/1 shot winning in spectacular style. This is a result which wouldn’t have occurred if owners were limited to one runner in a race.
Another way in which the use of pacemakers could be monitored would be to adopt the French system whereby horses which run under the same colours have the same odds with the bookies. An example of this could be with Churchill and Lancaster Bomber at Royal Ascot. Aidan certainly used Lancaster Bomber as a front runner to set the pace of the race to suit Churchill. Under the system used in France because Lancaster bomber was owned by the same owners he would have been at the same price as Churchill of ½. This seems to me quite ridiculous as it would fail to recognise Lancaster Bomber has a competitor in his own right. I myself thought before the race that Lancaster Bomber was a great each way prospect at 12/1 and this showed by him finishing second in the race. This would not have been the case had the two Ballydoyle entrants been given the same price. Furthermore, this method would be difficult to implement when concerning Coolmore horses.
Due to the nature of the way in which their business works all of the colours are technically different owners. As a result it would be possible for a horse running in the purple and white to be a pacemaker for their blue and orange colours. Thus with regards to Irish racing the system used in France would be very difficult to implement and probably unsuccessful is so.
It seems to me that if the issue of pacemakers is to be solved it cannot be with a general rule like those mentioned above. But instead with a commitment by stewards to ensuring that all horses which race are ridden in a way which can be recognized as maximizing their chances of finishing to the best of the horses ability. Where, stewards feel that a horse has been used only to improve the prospects of a stablemate bans must be enforced. Not just for the merit of the race in question but also for the safety of jockeys and horses.
Article by @georgebsports