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48 hours can only be a good thing

More moans in today's Racing Post from people complaining about a stack of non-runners this week, naturally blaming the 48hr declarations rule for Flat racing. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact it pissed down rain overnight or throughout those days!

48hrs gives punters and bookmakers time to do the form properly, rather than just a mad rush on race morning. The Racing Post published historical letters of complaint from when the rule went from 48 to 24hrs a few decades ago - people complained then too!

Also in today's Racing Post, on the same page in fact was a piece about how some trainers have been abusing self-certification (being able to declare a horse unfit themselves rather than paying for a vet) and how the BHA is trying to crack down on it. This is a significant factor which clouds any data about 48hr decs and the number of non-runners.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with 48hr decs is that it doesn't go far enough. It's like having a player draft but not having a salary cap - you must have other rules in place to go with it, namely a withdrawal deadline on race morning. I find it ridiculous that trainers can pull their horses out at any time, particularly because they 'have to inspect the ground'. That's the clerk of the course's job, once the official going is announced, that should be end of story.

The Australian system of a scratching deadline of 8.30am, with later withdrawals only permitted on the basis of change in the official going or a vet's certificate, works perfectly well. Everyone knows a deadline is in place; trainers, bookies, punters, jockeys etc, so markets and bets can be adjusted, you can change your travel plans if the horse you were going to watch is out etc. If owners/trainers want to pull out at that stage, no penalty (other than loss of any entry fee). Make the non-runners list available to all online immediately after the deadline.

I'd even go one step further, stretching declarations to 72hrs for Group I races. The field for the $1m Golden Rose in Sydney this weekend was declared on Tuesday. Plenty of time for exposure, promotion, form study etc. Sure there will be scratchings if the weather turns - but that would happen at 24 and 48hr deadlines as well...
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