Dirty Dancing?

The Dancing Away saga

Top Dog. NHRA CEO Rob De Kock needs to crack the whip.

Should the National Horseracing Authority be utilising a more proactive and involved approach in their policing function? And are they, for instance, adopting a convenient fence sitting stance when they draw trainers’ attention to ‘in and out running’, as one example?

Rob De Kock is the current longstanding CEO of the body that is tasked with upholding the integrity of the sport of horseracing. Frankly, nobody we know would want his job but are he and his personnel asking enough of the right questions?

We are not picking on trainer Corne Spies or any particular individual for the purposes of this debate, but there is a recent topical incident that comes to mind to illustrate our point and fuel the debate.

Punters may want to exercise a measure of caution when studying form for the Durbanville meeting this coming Saturday. Dancing Away runs in the fourth race and jackpot opener, an MR72 Handicap over 2000m. Why is this of any significance, and why does his name ring a bell, you are no doubt wondering?

This three year old gelding was the villain of the peace in a recent Hiroshima moment at Flamingo Park. On 3 October we reported on the unbelievable run of the Spies trained Dancing Away, who won the fifth race in Kimberley on the same afternoon. The MR66 Handicap was run over 2200m and the  Alami gelding blew the hopes of most jackpot and Pick 6 punters out of the water when accounting for a fair field of hardknocking sand handicappers.

Confusing? Trainer Corne Spies sends the villain to Durbanville on Saturday.

Dancing Away’s previous three runs, all on the sand, were particularly shocking efforts and his winning effort came out of the blue. Even the most inexperienced punter would have worked out that he was the least fancied horse in the race. Not surprisingly, the National Horseracing Authority questioned the trainer regarding the improved run, and Mr Spies  could apparently offer no explanation. According to the official Stipes Report, his attention was then drawn to the rules pertaining to ‘in and out running.’ Matter closed, so it seems anyway.

Surely ‘in and out running’ indicates inconsistency but some measure of balance between poor runs and his better  runs? Statistics will show that he has run nineteen times for two wins and two places. That means he has fifteen blank efforts to his credit. His two wins were both at Flamingo Park – one over 1000m and the latest over 2200m. His two seconds were achieved at Flamingo Park and the Vaal over 1000m and 1800m respectively. He is nothing,  if not freakishly versatile!

It is the connections’ constitutional right to race their horse wherever they choose, but his sudden switch back to the turf this weekend  is most puzzling. There are also still plenty of Flamingo Park meetings available this year, so that cannot be their motivation. And if they have found the right recipe – 2200m on the sand, why tempt fate with a long haul to Durbanville?

And his form on the green stuff is well,plain awful! He has previously run five times on the grass and finished an aggregate of 104 lengths back in those five outings. One of those efforts also saw him being considered good enough to take his place, as a lightly raced maiden,  in the Listed Storm Bird Stakes run over 1000m in Turffontein during March. Seven months later, we sit with the poser of attempting to make a semblance of sense of his ability – clouded by the fact that he has just won a race over double that distance on sand!

Maybe a more appropriate action than a wave in the trainer’s face with the rules book by the Stipendiary Stewards would have been to restrict the gelding to sand surfaces? And that possibly only for a limited period and at least until he has proven that he can string three reasonable efforts together. The NHRA should always be acting in the best interests of the game – and that includes limiting the downside for the punting public.

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