After the furore caused by the state of the Greyville turf track on Daisy Guineas evening recently, events at Longchamp in France on Sunday have shown that these things happen in other parts of the world as well.
Races due to be run on Longchamp’s Moyenne Piste (middle track) are to be switched to the Grande Piste (outer course) as a precautionary measure for the next two meetings.
The state of the ground at the newly reopened track had already been the subject of criticism before the Guineas meeting on Sunday, when the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches was delayed after US Navy Flag had slipped in the Poulains, and jockeys expressed their concern over safety.
France Galop issued a statement on Monday which read: “Following the incident which occurred in the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Poulains on the Moyenne Piste [in the area where it intersects with the sprint course], it has been decided, as a precaution, to transfer those races scheduled for the Moyenne Piste to the Grande Piste during the next two meetings on May 17 and 24.
“An expert analysis of the affected area is under way and a plan of action will be put in place in order to allow the Moyenne Piste to be put back in use as soon as possible.”
The Moyenne Piste has been in use this spring for the first time since the 1980s following Longchamp’s major redevelopment, but Christophe Soumillon had been highly critical of the surface the previous Sunday, and was incensed he had not been listened to after the Ryan Moore-ridden US Navy Flag lost his footing when leading the field in the Poulains.
Having on Sunday described the track as “dangerous”, and added that it was “scandalous” that nobody was listening to him or other riders, Soumillon clearly felt every bit as strongly having slept on it.
Taking to social media on Monday, he tweeted: “I don’t want to pour oil on the fire, rather I am seeking to put it out so let’s be courageous and speak the truth as one. US Navy Flag really did slip yesterday!”
A further tweet, accompanied by photographs, read: “These are the marks in the track on Monday morning at the point where he slipped. As jockeys we have no problem with the trainers, breeders or owners, but we certainly do with the stewards who were on duty yesterday who would neither listen to us nor check the track.”
The pressure from jockeys that led to officials reluctantly switching the Pouliches to the outer track at short notice did not go down well in some quarters, and the decision possibly disadvantaged the second and third, who both finished well after racing from the widest draws on a track with a much shorter run to the first bend.
James Doyle, who rode runner-up Hey Gaman in the colts’ race but did not have a ride in the Pouliches, believes Longchamp and France Galop officials were wise to heed jockeys’ concerns.
He said: “I was actually fine, but I was next to Ryan [Moore, on US Navy Flag] and so saw him slip. The ground just seemed to be very patchy. One minute it was nice lush grass, then half a furlong later it was all torn up. It was just very rough and uneven. That was the problem.
“When a horse slips like that it’s worrying. It shouldn’t matter what speed you are going and we had actually steadied it up when Ryan slipped. It definitely needs investigating thoroughly.”