This summer the Football World Cup will take place in Germany. Teams from Africa may play teams from South America. It is unlikely they'll talk the same language and the games may well be refereed by Asians who speak neither French nor Spanish! But, they all know the rules they are playing by.
You see, wherever international football, rugby, cricket, basketball or golf (to name but a few sports) uniform rules of sport are in place. Not like racing! In 2005, I raced horses in no less than fifteen different nations. Hand on heart, I needed to memorise rules that differ from country to country. Horse Racing is now a global business, it really needs to adopt an international rule book, thought out properly by professionals so that wherever we race we are racing under the guidelines of the same rulebook.
The European All Weather Series is a great idea and offers owners and trainers the opportunity to race for a valuable pot of money from February to May. However, through no fault of the courses that are running the series, the whole concept of bringing together the European All Weather nations is nearly halted by the varying rules from country to country.
Lets try and run a "mythical" horse in each of the races. Here are just a few of the problems we might face:
We enter the horse to run on the date given for entry deadlines. But, wait for it, the horse entry is voided because we didn't enter the horse eight days earlier than stated. The horse we entered is not based in France! So, we enter at the forfeit stage and now have to pay a premium to run. On raceday it is only by chance, we find out that we have to declare the horse to run. We declare the horse to run and with earplugs.
We make it into the parade ring where we are told that we are not allowed to run with cotton wool earplugs. The stewards are also not going to let us run as the horse has no hind shoes on. We are scratching our heads - this wasn't even an issue in France! England Like France we remember to declare the horse on raceday. But, we didn't have to do this in Germany! The horse runs without hind shoes and no one has asked anyway.
We present the necessary customs health papers at the border and are allowed into the country. Nothing unusual about this, the papers are needed whenever you ship horses into a country outside your home country. Our papers get lost between the border and racecourse but we aren’t concerned, as they were only for border officials when we travelled in France or England. On arrival at the course we aren't allowed into the stable area as we can't find the customs health papers. Why does the racecourse need them? They were only valid at customs and have nothing to do with the racecourse!
We win the race! However our celebrations are short lived as the jockey used his whip inside the final furlong! This is not allowed in Sweden.
Now as I've said this is purely a "mythical" situation but it does show how diverse the rulebook is across Europe. I'm sure that any trainer who races overseas will sympathise with the idiosyncrasies I've highlighted. But how do we go about getting an international rulebook set up?
Under the auspices of which authority would this be introduced? Should racing have a world governing body, just like in other major sports? Perhaps the answer is staring us in the face! Each October the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities meet in Paris. Their website states that one of the main objectives of the federation is to coordinate and harmonize the rules of the member-countries regarding breeding, racing & wagering.
As trainers, we should lobby our own country representatives to help bring about the harmonization. We must have voice heard and it’s obvious that the governing organisations need to ask our opinion on such an important matter.