SHOULD subjective opinions play any role whatsoever when it comes to the finalisation of fields in Group 1 races?
Mining mogul and prominent racehorse owner Colin Bird believes that the personal, arguably weighted opinion of one Gold Circle Vodacom Durban July Selection panel member, Graeme Hawkins, may have cost his filly Jet Belle her rightful and well-deserved place in the 2013 renewal of South Africa’s greatest race.
Jet Belle, who has a handicapper’s rating of 105, was omitted from the final VDJ field on Tuesday along with Mike de Kock’s 105-rated entry, Rock Cocktail, in favour of six lower-rated entries.
Bird commented on Wednesday evening: “I am distraught because I invest a lot of money into racing and in all fairness I would have thought my rare opportunity to have a Durban July runner would have been as good as secure considering her form and merit rating.”
Bird said that he had placed a call to Hawkins to query Jet Belle’s omission and that the response he received had been very concerning. He quotes Hawkins to have said: “The handicapper does not know what he’s doing. I am not sure your horse is a 105. I’ve proved the handicapper wrong on many occasions. The handicappers have made an absolute mess of rating this season’s three-year-olds.”
Bird added: “Who decides the pecking order here? Shouldn’t it be quite the standard that in a Group 1 race like this, the handicapper’s rating of runners would determine who gets in? The top rated runner would carry top weight, for example Pomodoro with 60kg off his 113 rating in this year’s final order, followed by Hill Fifty Four at 59,5kg off his 112 rating, and lower down until you get to the full field of runners.
“If the handicapper’s assessment was applied for the July like I understand it is duly done for Group races elsewhere in the world, both Jet Belle and Rock Cocktail would have made the line-up! The lowly-rated Gothic, of course, wouldn’t get a look in at all!”
Bird concluded: “I share the comments made by Mike de Kock and other prominent racing personalities about this debacle and I am going public with the sentiments expressed by Graeme Hawkins, which I will stand by.”