Wind ops plan pleases punters not horsemen

Concern over new information being made available to the public

As this magazine went to press, news came through that the BHA would implement a directive to make it public knowledge when a horse has had a wind operation. From January 19, racecards will carry a ‘ws’ to indicate the first run after such surgery, without indicating which type of procedure has been performed.

The move to alert punters to wind surgery follows consultation with racing’s stakeholders and the Horseracing Bettors Forum, which was set up by the BHA in 2015 to represent the views of those who bet on racing. As wind surgery has the ability to improve a horse’s performance on the track, many who like to bet on racing feel it should be one of the variables taken into consideration – along with trip, ground, jockey etc – when race selections are being made.

A potential benefit would be identifying weak links in the breed and removing them from the breeding cycle, yet there is no guarantee this would happen

I don’t object to punters now having access to this information, yet it’s unlikely to prove a licence to print money, as some may believe. Firstly, wind surgery might improve a horse’s performance – but then it might not. There’s no guarantee. Secondly, the bookmakers will also now be in the loop, so expect any beast with a ‘ws’ next to his name to be priced accordingly, especially when attached to a respected stable.

Betting matters aside, there are bigger issues to contend with for racing and breeding following the BHA’s action, which we must hope is respected by trainers and policed appropriately. The BHA will start to collate statistics, including of which horses have had operations and, of more importance, which stallions and pedigrees are producing runners that require surgery. It would only seem right if this information is made public, too.

What will it mean for the breeding industry? It’s too early to say but studs, stallion masters and sales houses won’t want to be associated with vulnerable thoroughbreds. A potential benefit would be identifying weak links in the breed and removing them from the breeding cycle, yet there is no certainty this would happen. At this stage, we are just guessing.

There’s no guesswork needed to identify Harry Whittington as a trainer going places. Despite the cruel loss of his Grade 1 winner Arzal, Whittington remains on an upward curve, having assembled a team of promising young horses at his Oxfordshire stable.

Yet, as many people have found trying to start a business in these times, it takes plenty of courage and resolve to get things off the ground – with no little amount of stress involved, either.

“It was extremely tough,” Whittington tells Tim Richards (Talking To, pages 60-66). “I had run a satellite yard and pre-trained for various people, so I wasn’t going to the races and getting exposure to prospective owners.

“I had to go to the sales and buy cheap horses. I lost about two stone doing the job on my own, mucking out five, riding them out, feeding and doing the entries. It was stressful, but I never stopped believing.

“I paid £2,800 for Dubai Kiss, syndicated half of him and owned the rest myself. I quickly realised he was my get-out-of-jail card and when I took him to Newbury for his bumper I was very much in debt. I was aware that if he didn’t win I would probably have had to hand in my licence.

“I managed to rustle up £60 to put on him at 100-1 and after he won sold my half into a new syndicate. As a result of that I got three horses and people started to come in and ride out.”

If Whittington continues to climb the ladder, perhaps he’ll be lucky enough to be sent a horse by Max McNeill. McNeill’s focus is on quality horses, of the calibre of Walkon, Grumeti and new star The Worlds End. Tom Peacock finds out about the owner’s passion and enthusiasm for the sport in a superb interview.

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