The British racecourse career of the troubled Phoenix Thoroughbreds racing operation may finally be over after the British Horseracing Authority said on Thursday afternoon that it can “no longer have runners in races in Great Britain until further notice”.
Phoenix announced in mid-August that it intended to end its involvement with the sport in Britain “with immediate effect”, following a series of reports in the Racing Post which highlighted potential links between the Dubai-based operation and a money-laundering scandal in the United States. However, its white and orange silks have since continued to appear on British tracks with some regularity, most recently when John Quinn’s Frankenstella landed a nursery at York on 6 September.
Thursday’s announcement by the BHA confirmed that its ban on Phoenix’s operations had come into effect on 7 September. No horses owned by Phoenix Thoroughbreds that are currently entered in early-closing races – including two in the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday week – can be declared to run unless they have been sold to race for new owners.
Doncaster’s pilot to get some paying spectators back into a racecourse lasted only one day and the remainder of its Leger Festival will unfold in near-silence, but there was slightly more positive news from Jockey Club Racecourses regarding planned trials with limited crowds at Warwick and Newmarket later this month.
Rather than the 5,000 who were due to be at Town Moor for the Leger on Saturday, the jumps card at Warwick on 21 September and the three-day meeting at Newmarket from 24 September are expected to have an attendance limit of 1,000. As things stand, though, both could still go ahead, which seemed unlikely when Doncaster’s trial was called off on Wednesday.
“Following updated government guidance announced today, JCR understands that the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) supports the pilots going ahead with a new capacity limit of 1,000 people on site,” a spokesperson said, “and a range of health and safety measures that are already planned to be in place.
“JCR will now discuss this central government update with the respective local authorities before making a further announcement.”
Newmarket’s Rowley Mile, which is as close as any major Flat course gets to being in the middle of nowhere, has always been an obvious candidate for an early pilot with a socially distanced crowd. Most of its racegoers arrive by car and its location on Newmarket Heath means that there is plenty of space to accommodate them.
It is still likely to carry significant costs for JCR, however, as a facility designed with freedom of movement in mind is adapted to create separate zones for racegoers and participants. This week’s curtailed pilot at Doncaster left the track £250,000 out of pocket and the bill for Warwick and Newmarket is likely to be well into six figures, so it is only natural to make further inquiries about the mood at DCMS before making a firm commitment to proceed.
Thursday’s Doncaster card opens with Logician making a belated four-year-old debut at the scene of his impressive success in last season’s St Leger. It is good news that he is back, but John Gosden’s grey frightened off all but two of his 12 potential opponents at the 48-hour stage, however, and Zaaki is now a non-runner leaving him as a 1-10 shot against Mythical Magic.
The nursery that follows is much more competitive, however, and Meu Amor (nap 1.40) is well worth an interest, albeit at a much shorter price than the 10-1 which was around on Wednesday afternoon.
Ralph Beckett’s filly finished fourth on debut at Glorious Goodwood and then made short work of a novice event at Pontefract, recording an excellent timefigure on both occasions, and looks to have been handed a generous opening mark as she makes her nursery debut off 76.
Zabeel Queen (2.10) showed her inexperience for much of her debut at Ascot in July but still found an abrupt turn of foot when required to win with something to spare and her price for next year’s 1,000 Guineas – currently 25-1 – will shorten significantly if she can follow up in the May Hill Stakes.
The Park Hill lost a major contender when Alpinista was taken out yesterday and that makes things more straightforward for Believe In Love (3.15), while Uncle Jumbo (2.40) can land the sales race earlier on the card. Ethics Approval (1.00) and Lady Celia (3.55) and the pick of the prices at Haydock and Chepstow respectively.