By Simon Jackson.
Newmarket has announced changes to the layout of the Rowley Mile course for the QIPCO Guineas Festival in May in an attempt to avoid fields splitting into separate groups.
After consultation with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), racecourse departments and other horsemen, the stalls – which were previously positioned in the centre of the course – will now move to the stand side rail.
A false rail will also be introduced three metres off the permanent stand side rail and will cut in at the three furlong pole. This is expected to increase the chances of fields staying in one group for this year’s first two Classic races of the season, the QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas, on May 2 and 3.
Michael Prosser, head of racing for Jockey Club Racecourses east region, said: “Following consultation with certain horsemen, it was agreed that the stalls would be positioned in the centre of the course for the 2004 Classics which has remained the same ever since.
“This has been a successful move and the best horse in the race has invariably won. However, tactics can lead to the field splitting which was the case in the 2014 QIPCO 2000 Guineas, and this is unsatisfactory.
“By positioning the stalls against the stand side rail and introducing a false rail at the three furlong pole, we are encouraging the field to stay together with the false rail helping to eliminate any hard luck stories.”
Newmarket trainer John Gosden, handler of Kingman who finished second to Night Of Thunder in last year’s 2000 Guineas, was amongst the local trainers to welcome the news.
“With big fields over a straight mile, you are always going to come across two possible problems – the field splitting or being boxed in, as was the case with Six Perfections in the 1000 Guineas,” Gosden said.
“Stalls on the stand side rail and opening up the field at the three furlong mark may be the solution to these on-going issues.”
Fellow Newmarket trainer Roger Varian agreed. “I think it’s a good thing that Michael Prosser and his team are thinking of ways that the showcase event gets run as fairly as possible as nobody likes seeing the race split,” he said.
“There is a strong argument for having the stalls against the stand side rail to encourage the field to race as one. The false rail at the three furlong marker should eliminate any hard luck stories which are inevitable when large field’s race against one rail.
“Truth will be in the running but I think it’s certainly a positive development.”
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