Worces­ter left ‘a joke’ after dry ground causes 33 non-run­ners

The Guardian - Sport - - Rugby Union European Champions Cup - Chris Cook

Worces­ter race­course was sub­jected to sting­ing crit­i­cism yes­ter­day after the em­bar­rass­ment of a day’s rac­ing blighted by non-run­ners. The rac­ing sur­face proved to be drier and quicker than ex­pected, lead­ing to 33 non-run­ners, al­most as many as the 41 horses who ac­tu­ally turned up, with two races be­ing re­duced to just two run­ners apiece.

“Really dis­ap­point­ing” and “shoddy” were words used by one race­goer, who added: “We should be bet­ting on who will be left for the last race.”

There were also strong words Peter Scu­d­amore, an eight-times cham­pion jockey who was born just up the road in Here­ford­shire and was re­turn­ing to the track for the first time in years. “I don’t know the pol­i­tics be­hind the run­ning of the track but, in a mod­ern so­ci­ety, I can’t see what the at­trac­tion is for some­one to go there on a day like that,” Scu­d­amore said. “I found it de­press­ing.

“It’s like go­ing to see a play and the theatre’s not ready and the ac­tors don’t turn up. Maybe the public are quite happy to stand there and be kicked in the balls. I thought it was bloody quick ground. Maybe I’m just used to north­ern ground.”

Scu­d­amore, who now lives near Perth with his part­ner, the trainer Lucinda Rus­sell, added: “There’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for that many non-run­ners. It al­most be­comes a joke. Ev­ery­thing’s a non-run­ner, there’s no in­ter­est in be­ing there. What was ac­cept­able in my time and my fa­ther’s time is not ac­cept­able now.”

Worces­ter’s go­ing was de­scribed in the morn­ing pa­pers as “good”, be­came “good to firm in places” yes­ter­day morn­ing and was “good to firm” all round after the first race. That prompted 23 go­ing-re­lated with­drawals after the rac­ing had be­gun, a level of ab­sen­teeism that at­tracted the in­ter­est of the Bri­tish Horserac­ing Au­thor­ity.

Alan King sent three horses to the track but with­drew two after his first run­ner, who gen­er­ally likes a sound sur­face, raced as though the ground was too dry even for her. “It’s very dis­ap­point­ing,” King said, “although that’s not the big­gest prob­lem I have with Worces­ter. The fa­cil­i­ties for own­ers and train­ers are just aw­ful, the worst of any course I go to. In this day and age, it’s not ac­cept­able and some­thing needs to be done.”

But there was some sup­port for Worces­ter, in­clud­ing from the cham­pion jockey Richard John­son, who rode two win­ners. “They’ve done a great job, the track’s in good con­di­tion. It’s just the weather the last few days; the track’s dried out and it’s fast.” John­son reck­oned the prob­lem was largely to do with train­ers be­ing re­luc­tant to risk “win­ter horses” with six months of ac­tion ahead of them. Had the same con­di­tions arisen two months ago, there would have been plenty of sum­mer­ground horses to take part, he sug­gested.

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