So Binocular, the reigning Champion and ante-post favourite to retain his crown, misses the Champion Hurdle as a result of the fact that had he been required to take a dope test, it is likely that he would have shown traces of a prohibited substance. No-one is suggesting that his trainer has committed any offence like in the Moonlight Path case, but the incident that led us to where we found ourselves on Sunday morning leave us with a sour taste.
It was apparent to the Henderson yard as early as Thursday evening that Binocular was in a state that threatened his participation in the Champion Hurdle. It is the course of action since then that leaves racing fans with cause for complaint. Henderson has a history of being one of the more media-friendly trainers. It is to his credit that he hosted a media open-day weeks ago, and, as most people are aware he writes a column in the Racing Post where he is happy to share his views on his horses. Any reader of that column on Saturday morning must surely feel extremely let down that Henderson chose not to make a statement on the possibility of Binocular not lining up. There seems little point to me in the existence of such column if Henderson isn’t going to share such vital information with Racing Post readers.
Having called in the BHA for assistance, it is to be hoped that the governing body will reflect on their actions and learn from them. Nobody would suggest that BHA’s actions weren’t well intended. As they say in their statement, ‘we wanted to give Binocular every chance to run in the Champion Hurdle’. In instances like this, I can’t help but feel that the more transparency the better for everyone. The BHA and/or Henderson could and probably should have made an announcement much sooner that Binocular’s Champion Hurdle participation was in doubt. That way anyone looking to bet on the Champion Hurdle market would have been able to do so knowing the full facts. That many bookmakers were non-runner no bet is a big red herring. There were still a number who weren’t, and whilst few are sympathetic to bookmakers, it was unfair to leave them in effect with overbroke books given the prices of other horses were longer than they would have been should Binocular not be able to line up.It was a difficult position for the BHA to be in, and perhaps there is something about them being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Their regulation of integrity is probably stronger now than it has been at any other time but on this one, I think they got it wrong.