Nothing said now is going to have an impact on the six-month ban given to Patrick Cosgrave. The stewards perform a necessary task, and it’s been done. We wish to respectfully share our opinion on the matter, in stark contrast to their decision.
A six-month ban in a race where the accused rider’s mount finished third in a Group 1 race, beaten two lengths total, and barely seen off for second. Can anyone recall any situation similar to this anywhere in the world? If so, please share them in the comments.
Here was the decision, courtesy of a media release on Tuesday from the Emirates Racing Authority:
“Jockey Patrick Cosgrave was found guilty to a charge of improper riding pursuant to ERA 69 (i). The particulars of the charge being that when riding ANAEROBIO (ARG) in Race 8 the Jebel Hatta (Group 1) (1800 metres) at Meydan on 8 March 2014, passing the 600 metres until approaching the 400 metres Jockey Cosgrave looked back to his inside on at least 3 occasions and at the turn into the home straight he intentionally allowed his mount to shift out approximately three horses thereby allowing stablemate VERCINGETORIX (SAF) a clear inside run.”
Here is the video of the race.
Jebel Hatta – March 8, 2014
Anaerobio, trained by Mike de Kock, was 20-1 in the UK and 45-1 on the international commingled tote. This was his first try at the Group 1 level since moving to the UAE. He was a three-time winner at the Grade 1 mark in Argentina in 2010 before being purchased to race in Dubai.
Did Cosgrave look back three times? Yes.
Is looking back at the competition, on its own, a violation of the rules of racing?
Not that we could find.
We were heartily reminded of Ian Mongan’s exploits aboard Bullet Train when used as a pacemaker for the mighty Frankel. How mighty Frankel actually was given that he needed the table set for him by a suicidal Bullet Train is a topic for another day. Mongan “looked back” six times in the Sussex Stakes (a four horse field, no less, with video below), four times in the Lockinge, and four times in the Queen Anne.
The difference between the two is that Mongan was setting a solid pace for Frankel to enable his quick turn of foot. Cosgrave was doing no such thing on Anaerobio.
The lead sectionals of this year’s Jebel Hatta, as set by Anaerobio, were as follows:
:27.31 (par at the beginning of the season was 26.61)
:51.58 (par was :50.51)
1:15.24 (par was 1:14.84)
All of them slower than the par set in the history of 1,800m turf races at Meydan. The 800-metre split alone was roughly the equivalent of five lengths slower than par.
In a Group 1 race, when riding a 20-1/45-1 longshot, Cosgrave was doling out slower than par sectionals, surely in attempt to extract as much from his mount as possible. A suicide mission or table-setter this was not. The data simply does not suggest Anaerobio was ridden to give the race to Vercingetorix.
Realistically, Cosgrave was emulating Kevin Shea, who made all from gate 14 in the 2012 Jebel Hatta on Master of Hounds, also trained by Mike de Kock. There have been seven Group 1 races run over the 1,800m distance at Meydan, all of them either the Dubai Duty Free or Jebel Hatta. Of those, Shea set the slowest 800 and 1200-metre sectionals (52.22, 1:15.75), although Cosgrave’s first sectional on Anaerobio was slower. Master of Hounds went on to a big win as a longshot (he was 16-1 in the UK).
That’s what intelligent riders do when they are on less-regarded horses in big races and actually want a chance to win. If given the opportunity to back the pace down given the dynamics race circumstances permit, that is the best way to improve your chances compared to the public’s sentiment on those chances.
Cosgrave is particularly attentive to pace conditions, and earned a win with one of the smartest rides of the year at Meydan – a local non-Carnival handicap on February 1, 2014. In that race, Ghaamer under Paul Hanagan ran off to an impossibly fast 800-metre split in 46.98 seconds, the fastest 800-metre split time ever recorded at Meydan. Cosgrave allowed the pace to blaze away in front of him while racing last on Filfil. Nature ran its course and Filfil came over the top to swallow the tired runners. Ghaamer finished eleventh. Video of that race is below.
Back to Anaerobio.
Did Anaerobio shift off the rail? Yes.
Was that outside of his normal behaviour? Not really. This is not the first time Anaerobio has shifted off the rail in the stretch. If anything, he seems to try and get out when he does not have cover keeping him boxed-in. Take a look back at some of his previous races.
Anaerobio – March 3, 2012 (Mirco Demuro rode)
Notice in this next video how Cosgrave seems to fight to keep Anaerobio inside to cut the corner. Perhaps he has decided that tactic does not work well given his getting swallowed by Trade Storm.
Anaerobio – February 13, 2013 (Cosgrave up)
Anaerobio – February 28, 2013 (Cosgrave up)
In this year’s Jebel Hatta, Anaerobio covered two metres more than Vercingetorix, a margin that equates to roughly ¾-length. Could Anaerobio have won if he was kept inside? That’s a tough inference to make. Vercingetorix is unbeaten, classy, and basically hacked-up in this race. Can one infer that if Anaerobio was left inside that Vercingetorix doesn’t simply come outside and around him en route to the win? At the same time Anaerobio was shifting out, so too was Ahmad Ajtebi on Quick Wit – does the gap not open between those two allowing Vercingetorix a fairly equal dream run?
If Anaerobio set a 47-second 800-metre split and finished tailed off last while Vercingetorix went on to an 8-length victory – maybe there would be a case team tactics. As it was, Cosgrave slowed the pace to give his mount the best chance of winning while not fighting him turning for home as has happened in the past when he has no cover. Those actions yielded Anaerobio his first Group 1 placing since 2010, and his connections a $30,000 check. Is that worthy of a six-month ban? Was anyone else beating Vercingetorix? Was anyone else interfered with? Was racing done harm by this performance?
Answering “no” to all three questions suggests there was no impropriety of significance. The stewards disagreed, well within their right. Perhaps Cosgrave’s method of riding is being used as an example for the future, or to highlight the wild variance in stewarding techniques across jurisdictions. If there was a “crime” committed by Cosgrave, which the various data from the race, the par times, and the history of the horse’s actions refute, the punishment does not seem to fit.