Controversy reigned at Naas on Sunday following a unsatisfactory start to the Celebrating The 2020 ITBA Award Winners Handicap Hurdle.
The two-mile contest was significantly delayed as Melly And Me got loose on the track for several minutes before eventually being caught – but that was only half of the story.
As the remaining runners walked in to face the starter, Shakeytry dived left and unseated jockey Phillip Enright and badly hampered both Sean Says and, more notably, Aarons Day.
A dramatic few minutes and a very controversial start at Naas.— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 31, 2021
Strong words here from Kevin O'Ryan and Ruby Walsh live at the track pic.twitter.com/Ms4lM5a4db
Despite the incident, starter Derek Cullen allowed the race to get under way, instead of calling a false start, leaving Aarons Day to go in pursuit from a long way behind.
Remarkably, the Oliver McKiernan-trained 9/1 shot managed to get himself back into contention and was beaten just over four lengths into second by Conor O’Dwyer’s 9/2 favourite Capilano Bridge.
Winning jockey Ricky Doyle said afterwards: “I hadn’t a clue (what had happened) – I think I was nearly the first one out the gate.
“It was only when we pulled up that Liam McKenna (rider of Aarons Day) told me he got left 30 lengths. I thought his horse must have stood still, but watching it back now – it didn’t look great.”
The stewards inevitably called an enquiry before referring the matter to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
An unsurprisingly displeased McKiernan said: “They were hanging around for nearly half an hour at the start, and then that happens. It’s beyond belief that it could happen.”
Former jockey Ruby Walsh was reporting on-course for Racing TV, and did not mince his words.
Walsh said: “That should have been a false start – absolutely no doubt. There is no way on earth Derek Cullen can start that race – that is shambolic.
“I feel sorry for Oliver McKiernan. How that horse finishes second, is beyond me.
“Let’s be fair, everybody is human – and everybody makes mistake. But it is frustrating that an owner, a trainer and a jockey can be sanctioned for mistakes they make, but nobody else seems to be.
“That is what is really frustrating from a professionals’ point of view – that the officials aren’t held to the accountability of the participants.”
After a very eventful afternoon at Naas, Ruby and Kevin sum up - with extended thoughts on that controversial start to the handicap hurdle at 2.45 won by Capilano Bridge pic.twitter.com/Fz3VsTNF0N— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 31, 2021