Davy Russell and Charles Byrnes celebrate their treble at Roscommon
By Richard Forristal 12:15PM 4 AUG 2016
Our Ireland editor on some of the wider issues raised by the Charles Byrnes Roscommon coup
EVERYBODY loves an old-fashioned gamble, but nobody likes to be fooled. If everybody is in on the coup, though, it isn’t really a coup any more. This is one of racing’s curious contradictions.
Charles Byrnes produced three horses to peak at the same meeting, defying their recent levels of form and initial market expectations. It elevated an otherwise mundane Roscommon card into another stratosphere – it also polarised opinion.
Many admired the flawless execution of such a well-orchestrated gamble comprising so many different strands. Byrnes and Davy Russell, an old firm well versed in this regard, ultimately combined to devastating effect to put one over the bookmakers, yet there is also a school of thought that despairs at the image projected by such a plot.
An aspiration to land a touch has always been an inherent part of racing’s fabric. To deny that would be extremely naive. However, there are rules in place to discourage manipulation and everyone should be compelled to adhere to them without fear or favour.
Byrnes made absolutely no bones about what he had achieved on Tuesday. Audacious gambles are his forte, but the elaborate Barney Curley-esque nature of this three-string symphony caught everyone’s attention.
War Anthem, Mr Smith and Top Of The Town clearly performed to a higher level than they had been doing of late.
The stewards inquired into the apparent improvement in both War Anthem and Mr Smith’s form and accepted Byrnes’s explanations.
Individually, the rationale provided was credible. On another day, had it simply been a one-horse plunge, the world would have kept spinning. We would have been in ‘dog bites man’ territory.
The fact there were three of them enhanced the audacity of it all, as did the fact it was carried off with such aplomb. Still, there isn’t much point in taking offence after the event simply because it all worked out so well.
The horses in question had not come on the radar of any stewards beforehand. Does that suggest complacent stewarding? Hindsight is a fine thing, but let’s not kid ourselves either.
Irish racing has an image problem in terms of integrity, and the sooner the Turf Club finds a way to effectively police the sport and implement its own running and riding rules the better.
We have a system that encourages and rewards well-executed plots, a point illustrated by the country’s two most valuable jump races – the Galway Hurdle and Irish Grand National – being handicaps.
However, you can’t on one hand eulogise about shrewd trainers taking the bookies to the cleaners, yet then be up in arms when one of them executes a carefully orchestrated coup on such a grand scale.
Like it or loathe it, this is the nature of our game and part of its appeal. The question of whether the Turf Club currently enjoys the autonomy required to regulate the game properly is a question for another day.