Turn it up! Horse let down

I think it is fair to say July will not go down as one of the great months in Otago or Oamaru racing history.

The abandonment and rescheduling of Oamaru Cup day has been followed up by the decision to allow Kansas City Jim to race at Oamaru last weekend.

From talking to harness racing people and seeing the reaction to the scene that played out on Trackside, it has been one of the most contentious incidents in Otago racing in recent years.

Public opinion on the matter seems unanimous that Kansas City Jim appeared lame before his race.

Opinion is much more divided on why this was allowed to happen and who should have stopped it.

The horse pulled up with an injury, so I do not think there is any need to question whether he should have raced.

One thing that is absolutely certain is that Kansas City Jim has been badly let down and the failure to ensure the horse's welfare must be addressed.

I am eagerly awaiting the result of the inquiry into the incident to see the process which was followed to allow the horse to start.

There appear to be two competing theories about how the process broke down.

It has been suggested some failed in their duties as horse people, while officials failed in their duties to police the sport.

Without knowing every detail of the situation and looking from the outside in, it looks to be a case of both.

What I do know for sure is that the situation has brought up many questions about the harness racing climate and what effect that had on the scenario.

Specifically, there is now a racing and handicapping system that rewards horses who run poorly.

Kansas City Jim banked $160 for running 10th in his race.

And he also lost a rating point in the process.

Those two points alone are no incentive for any trainer to line up a horse who is injured.

However, it is widely believed among people I have talked to that it encourages trainers to line horses up when they are not at their absolute peak.

Most good trainers I talk to are totally against this.

They hate the idea of rewarding mediocrity and having rewards for horses who finish further back than fifth.

The question is whether the fallout from Kansas City Jim's injury is enough to cause a shift in mentality within the industry.

The second major point I feel this terrible incident has raised is the culpability of racing officials.

The racing climate places more responsibility than ever on trainers and drivers in the interests of integrity, welfare and perception.

From stable movements, to whip use to gear changes - the list is endless.

The question is what is the point of doing all of that if the officials upholding the need for integrity and the need to protect the perception fail.

I will be highly interested in what led to the decision or lack of decisions made by officials on Sunday when the inquiry into the incident in completed.

Here is hoping for happier trails, next week.


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