Should Trainers Be Allowed To Dominate Racing Fields?

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Should Trainers Be Allowed To Saddle More Than Half The Field in Group Ones?

It's a hot question on everyone's lips after a domination of another trainer in a major Group One - not for the first time, so should they be allowed to saddle more than half the field in major racing affairs, or any contest for that matter.

Ballydoyle master Aidan O'Brien was directly responsible for seven runners in the Investec Derby on Saturday, which saw thirteen go to post in total.

In the end, it was a demolition job from the 49-year-old who not only had the winner in the shape of Anthony Van Dyck, but had the third, fourth, fifth and sixth for good additional measure.

Of course his chances of success are extended and exceeded when he has more runners in the field than the rest, but is it deemed unfair or immoral on the remainder of the challengers?

First and foremost, sport in the modern world is about money - whether you like it or not.

The best football teams from this season have spent the most amount of cash in the last twelve months; such as Manchester City winning the domestic treble with an abundance of big-money signings, whilst Liverpool claimed a sixth Champions League after the investments £130million duo Allison and Virgil Van Dijk.

Coolmore trio John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith have thrown ridiculous sums of money at our sport to ensure their continual status of success.

Both Sir Dragonet and Telecaster were supplemented for the Epsom Derby over a week ago, and £80,000 would have felt far less and insignificant to the Irish team than the owners of Telecaster, who effectively had to hand back their Dante winning prize money at a shot of Classic glory.

Varying punters could relate to this scenario as winning £100 on a sport's bet.

The Coolmore team would be your average punter not seeking money growth because they need the income - they could bank say £80 and put back in the remaining £20 to gamble, with money bags to fall back on.

Whereas the Telecaster crew reused the whole sum of £100 in this example, to throw in the bucket once again perhaps due to being desperate of wanting to win more.

Ballydoyle had six chances before the impressive Chester Vase winner was added, so the five-figure fee would have been like scraps of metal for messers Magnier, Tabor and Smith, who made everything back and more when the result came through on Saturday afternoon.

Sadly for Telecaster and his associates, the gamble was just a step-too far and the emphasis on winning was prioritised too much and just too far beyond reach and belief.

O'Brien and his team can dominate the fields through money, but it does not come down to just the trainers.

Owners buy the horses in the first place from the sales and choose who trains their horses respectively, something we have seen in Ireland in the National Hunt sphere with Ryanair owner Michael O'Leary, who sends the majority of his purchases to Gordon Elliott, in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.

In the same way O'Brien depicted the Derby field, Elliott controlled matters in the Aintree Grand National with a record amount of runners back in April forming essentially one third of the field.

He got the winner in the shape of Tiger Roll, but he always declared beforehand that he would saddle as many runners as possible, as long as they had a chance of victory given that they were placed in the top 40 of the official ratings.

That cannot be considered Elliott's fault, neither-so for O'Brien on Classic Day on Saturday.

Flipping to the other side of the coin, the sport needs figures like these two Irish raiders, otherwise we would not have much racing to discuss.

Imagine ten-runner fields going for the Grand National - the world's greatest steeplechase, and how increased the chances would be that we would not get a winner due to all ten failing to get round.


Likewise in the Derby, four or five runner fields in Britain's richest and premier Classic which we last saw back in 1794, it would just simply be boring and easy to call.

Racing wants variation, and there is nothing better than a group of punters all debating to each other their own fancies and explanations why.

Champion Hurdle fields are better with twelve or thirteen players, rather than bringing it down to an odds-on favourite to be beaten.

If O'Brien and Elliott have the best horses, we should not restrict that and instead relish it.

Manchester City, Liverpool, even Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur (if they spend money), are commonly at the top level due to their repeated investments and talented individuals.

The master of Ballydoyle will always be sitting around the top level collecting the best prizes around as long as he has the backing behind him, which is what drives the sport.

Compare that to the betting industry, a common ethical debate amongst many, yet racing needs the markets to drive sales and figures with safe measures always in place.

Lewis Hamilton wins Formula One every year due to the backing behind him. The Englishman has the best car, and O'Brien typically has the best horses on the flat.

More numbers in fields mean he has the best chance of winning, but it is not an unfair advantage.

O'Brien had seven horses in the Investec Derby on Saturday, and realistically speaking, five of those had serious chances of victory because they are the best progeny out there.

All close to favouritism mark, the aim was to find the best horse over the mile-and-a-half distance, and even if it was just played out with O'Brien's inmates plus Kevin Prendergast's Madhmoon, that is exactly what we found out.

Restricting fields would prevent this.

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