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Cosgrave suspended six months. Does it fit?

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.

7 comments

  1. This is not fair at all. Injustice! Pat you have well explained the subject. I won’t add anymore to it.
    Disappointing decision, particularly in a jurisdiction such as the UAE.

  2. hmmmm…. I really want to believe that there is no cheating going on there, but this was a little bit too obvious????!!!!! I can only see ONE reason for Cosgrave OPENING the rail(which there is no doubt that he is doing)- that reason is maybe that he feels his horse will run on and become more of a fighter if he gets a horse up next to him! If he feels his horse has spit the bit and only gonna start running on again if he gets some pressure!!!!
    I am almost always on the jockeys side since soooooo much changes and happens in these races… but this one….hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….shame on you Cosgrave

  3. Strong break down of the facts, Pat.

    I am curious as to which jurisdictions permit pacemakers (including the subset of those few jurisdictions who actually insist on a pacemakers being declared like a pair of blinkers) and those jurisdictions which forbid the concept completely.

    The debate has been bubbling for years, as this piece by Jim McGrath in 2001 reminds us.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/3013846/Pacemakers-under-scrutiny.html

    Before I take a position on Cosgrave’s punishment, I would want to know what “instructions” he was given by connections. If he rode to instructions, then how he can found guilty. But then this would open up questions about the connections themselves who like those at Coolmore come in various silk shades.

    What also bothers me about this particular incident is that if I were connected to Vercingetorex, I would want the horse to prepare for Dubai World Cup night by actually have to perform whatever manoeuvre was required to get around an obdurate opponent on the rail.

    PS Thanks for your sharing your first class knowledge and making this Winter fun. I haven’t hit the board like last year, but I sense waiting for Balmont Mast to burst through at 16/1 will be worth the wait.

  4. I wonder what jockey Cosgrave actually did, prior to this event, to upset the stewards. And why the announcer found it so noteworthy to point this out? That move interfered with no other entrant.
    I have had more than a few frontrunners, who would fight when challenged inside, but fold (or never see) outer challengers, and vice versa.
    Given the severity, I have to believe there is more to this suspension than that ride. Were it not for the announcer, I wouldn’t have given this ride a second thought.

  5. Not everybody is going to view this in the same light. Although some points have been raised in this article, there are some other points that could also be considered in relation to this incident.
    For example, Anaerobio did have 2 recent races(Feb 2014) at this track prior to this race and he did negotiate the bend very well on the rail, on both occasions and managed to find explosive finishes in both these races to win in fine style, while saving ground on the rail. I would think that recent history is more relevant than older history. With regards to Bullet Train he did not move off his racing line to make a shorter passage for Frankel, But rather Frankel had to come around him to make his run. All the respective parties was interviewed in the inquiry, did Crosgrave plead guilty? Did he admit making way for his stable companion? Well if he did, that can constitute of race fixing, firstly because he did not try his best to beat his stable mate(his mount did come into this race on the back of 2 good wins , 1 in feature race). Secondly he travelled 2 meters extra ground, giving the shorter passage to Vancuvarite who only beat him a head. That definitely cost him second place in the race. Many Punters out there could have burnt their money out there counting on a De Kock 1-2 finish.
    I would have to say that, in my opinion the stewards made the right decision, and I don’t think the suspension is harsh at all. there may be under currents, but they are trying to keep it clean in Dubai. That is one of the benifits of a non gambling nation.

  6. Jonathan da Silva

    Difficult one as I believe we know Cosgrave was not doing this for brown envelopes. However I would argue you’ve argued a strawman here.

    1) Did not affect result
    Rule 69 does not mention the result only that Jockeys are not to ride incompetently and should ride.
    Entirely subjective and when you’re a neck behind the 2nd who you gave the rail to hard to argue rationally? He had no control over being 4th or 5th or beaten a head 2nd. Hard to exonerate someone on grounds that he had no control over – makes it arbitrary if nothing else.
    Opportunity cost of if Cosgrave rode his mount solely to win say by racking and attempting to box the favourite or grabbing first run or holding the rail is not known – point is not any of those scenarios individually but we do not know what happens had he had no thought but winning from 600 out.
    Cosgrave knows if he does something different he might affect the result as why make that move and look otherwise?
    Whilst due to over prosecution some events such as dropping hands are only punished on affecting the result this does not appear to be significant enough to be mentioned by the stewards. Also if we are going to cite UK stewards then inadvertently dropping hands is 28 days. Clearly little inadvertent about Cosgrave’s actions here.

    Any other points are minor and covered above. Only minor point I watched this sound off and was amazed without the commentator’s aide-mémoire.

    I hope the stewards reduce the ban but not sure it’s is in of itself egregious. However this is a man’s livelihood here and he is a jockey of proven good character. Not sure anyone should be so heavily punished for a brain cramp but again that is my subjective view and not reflective of local stewards and their rules.

  7. This was to obvious to ignore. Even I could see what he(Cosgrave) was doing for crying out loud. Six months may be steep but punishment was definitely warranted.

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