Ashforth's Angles: Faster than a speeding bullet

Wesley Ward

Wesley Ward: winners over 4.5f have won up to a mile afterwards

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

 By David Ashforth 6:00PM 19 SEP 2016 

SEVEN years ago it was suggested an experimental series of “bullet” races be staged over four furlongs. William Hill pledged sponsorship, several racecourses were supportive but nothing happened and nothing’s happened since.

In the new world of open minds and willingness to try new things bullet races should be tried.

There’s plenty to be said for an experimental series and precious little to be said against it. Bullet races would be certain to attract interest, runners, sponsors, publicity and betting. It’s hardly a dangerously radical, irreversible step and it’s a mystery to me why it hasn’t happened.

In 2009 opposition was reported to be “on the basis that thoroughbreds have traditionally not run over shorter than five furlongs,” which is like Albert Steptoe’s reaction when Harold suggested a new holiday destination – “But we always go to Bognor.”

Trainer Hughie Morrison was dismissive. “If they don’t get five furlongs they shouldn’t be running,” he said. “What will they want next? Races over three furlongs?”

That is barely an argument at all and running a horse over four furlongs does not mean it does not stay five, any more than running a horse over five furlongs precludes it from staying six. Some sprinters will be better over four furlongs, many won’t.

What is proposed is not going to offer a pot of gold sufficient to tempt breeders to deliberately aim to produce four furlong horses. Welfare concerns have been raised but they need to be properly examined and assessed rather than simply asserted.

This is not about following the American example but it is interesting that all seven of Wesley Ward’s Royal Ascot winners had previously won over 4.5 furlongs at either Keeneland or Churchill Downs. It didn’t mean they were short runners.

No Nay Never and Lady Aurelia went on to win the six furlong Prix Morny while Undrafted, having gone on to win over a mile, won the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Hootenanny subsequently won the one mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and Strike The Tiger finished second in an 8.5 furlong Group 3 race.

In 2009 there were said to be practical problems in running races over four furlongs at some racecourses but it is hard – impossible – to believe that there are not plenty of tracks able to accommodate such races. It’s a matter of wanting to.

British racing will not collapse in ignominy if 20 or 40 of the year’s 840 scheduled five furlong races are reduced by a furlong.

Five of them are scheduled for Tuesday, notably the Eddie and Violet Smith Memorial race at Beverley (3.10), a race that lures horses knocking at the door of Pattern events but struggling to succeed in them.

The much loved veteran Kingsgate Native broke a long losing spell when winning the race two years ago and the well drawn Double Up, recently fourth in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster off a mark of 105, has a good chance of winning for the first time in over a year. 

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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