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  • Writer's pictureAlan Aitken

Punters who backed Harry Angel would have got refunds in Hong Kong says chief stipe

Top British sprinter Harry Angel’s controversial start in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot would “would certainly have made him a non-runner in Hong Kong” according to chief steward Kim Kelly, who has long championed the global harmonization of racing rules.

Harry Angel blew the start, and his winning chance as the favourite in the Group One, when he came out lengths behind the field after having one leg caught up on a running board when the start was effected – a situation that should have seen him declared a non-runner.

“I can say that Harry Angel would have been a non-runner in Hong Kong and, from discussions I’ve had with people in Australia, it certainly would have been the same there,” Kelly said. “I recall a very similar incident here with a horse called Pretty One some years ago, who was a heavy favourite and the club refunded around $46 million in bets when he was declared a non-runner post-race. That was almost identical – three feet on the ground and one on the running board when the start was made and we didn’t feel there was any option in that case. Harry Angel’s leg was up for a reasonable amount of time and it would be difficult to see how, if he was not called a non-runner, that any horse could ever be a non-runner unless he was facing the wrong direction in the gates.”

The principle of global harmonization is to establish a single asset of rules for horseracing, wherever it is conducted, with an eye on the growing simulcast and commingling markets and to bring it into line with other major sports which have a single rule book (although you might be surprised to read that if you’ve been watching the World Cup soccer).

And the situation with Harry Angel (seen left winning the July Cup in 2017) should have been covered by a new rule adoption emerging from the last International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) conference last October.

“At the same time that we proposed a new model interference rule, we also proposed a model non-runner rule in Article 32,” Kelly said. “I’m not 100 per cent sure that all jurisdictions are yet signatories to that agreement but I think it would have covered the situation.”

According to an October 3, 2017 release from IFHA, the relevant section, Article 32 says:

“If Great Britain is signed up to that agreement then I would have thought he would have been a non-runner,” Kelly said. “However, you have to remember that you can make standardised rules but then those rules are applied at the point of the incident and sometimes the outcome is about the application rather than the rule.”

Kelly said that Hong Kong punters, who bet $619 million on the four Royal Ascot simulcasts and sent off Harry Angel a clear favourite in local pools on Saturday, and are not usually quiet about voicing their disapproval, had not lodged complaints with the Hong Kong Jockey Club about losing their money cold.

“We do normally receive complaints from the public about decisions that we have made but we haven’t seen any from Hong Kong punters in this case – I think they probably accept that this is in another jurisdiction and out of our hands,” he said.

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