Mike Cattermole: Royal rumble | Royal Ascot needs to be more flexible

Could Royal Ascot be more flexible?

Mike Cattermole feels racing needs to roll with the punches and that includes Royal Ascot being more flexible - and he's got a suggestion to solve the juvenile problem.

Still time for Ascot to show flexibility

That was some U-turn on Tuesday in France.

Without any warning, racing was suddenly suspended in high-risk areas in and around Paris. It immediately ruled out action at Longchamp, Saint-Cloud and Auteuil, to name but three racecourses which had already been staging top-class racing successfully behind closed doors.

To its credit, France-Galop reacted swiftly and meetings were transferred to Deauville, Vichy and Dieppe. The ruling body retains a steely determination to continue.

I think there were some positives to take out of this as it showed that racing can roll with the punches and adapt.

Meanwhile, we hope and pray that racing will resume here on June 1 or sometime closely after. The BHA has already issued a programme for the first week of June and will release further dates later this week.

In this era of great uncertainty, nobody knows what will happen next.

Covid-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, everything has had to change and adapt which is why our 2020 Flat season, running at over a two-month lag presently, will have an identity all its own.

There has to be room for manoeuvre from all participants and the surprise is that Royal Ascot, due to start on June 16, has not been moved or amended at all.

Common sense might have dictated that it be pushed back by a couple of weeks or perhaps by up to a month, like the Guineas and the Derby already have.

Sure, by doing this it will impact on other big Festivals such as the July Meeting, due to run from July 9-11. The Ascot team has already acknowledged that. But other meetings and racecourses will also need to be flexible and be open to being nudged back in the calendar to accommodate the inevitable concertina effect.

Already, Ascot’s position has caused issues with the two-year-olds whose programme has already been badly affected by the delay.

The BHA is bending over backwards to stage plenty of two-year-old races on resumption and help trainers get a run into those youngsters that might be considered up to Royal Ascot standard.

That has been complicated.

It also hints at a scenario of the tail wagging the dog. All of this would not have been necessary if the BHA and Ascot had agreed to either move the meeting back in the calendar or alter its running order.

The on-going issues with the two-year-olds would be eased dramatically if the meeting went ahead without the six two-year-old races.

The Coventry, Queen Mary, Norfolk, Albany, Chesham and Windsor Castle could be saved until later, perhaps at the track’s first July meeting on the 10th or 11th, or the King George meeting on July 24-25th.

Ascot could still stage a five-day meeting next month but with the Royal prefix attached to just four of those days.

On the fifth “non-Royal” day, and in place of those two-year-old pattern races, the track could run an industry-assisting all-juvenile card of novice races between five and seven furlongs for colts and fillies.

All of this would immediately take the pressure off the training fraternity and offer a scenario that would be much more manageable.

Let’s face it, without anybody attending, and especially with the absence of the Royal Family, this “Royal” meeting is already going to be totally different and unusual and there is plenty of scope to adapt and offer some further flexibility.

With no racing at Ascot since last October, the track was described as “like a carpet” last week by communications director Nick Smith. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?

There is a golden opportunity here to solve a problem. The French showed on Tuesday that its racing authorities and tracks can adapt to a last-minute change of plan.

Now, we have the chance to show that we can, too. It is not too late.


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