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Problems ahead in avoiding 'fractious' horses playing up in stalls, say trainers

Trainers believe it will be difficult to execute the BHA's request to avoid running potentially fractious horses in the first few weeks when racing restarts, with many of those likely runners to be unraced two-year-olds.

The request featured in Saturday's 33-page document detailing guidelines for behind-closed-doors meetings. It stated the number of stall handlers permitted to push horses would be decreased to two to allow stricter social distancing. 

But in the first eight days of racing, 14 races will be for two-year-olds who will be having their first experience of the racecourse. These are usually the most problematic at the start of the race.

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The BHA's chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea appeared on Racing TV and admitted it would be challenging but put his trust in the professionalism of trainers and stressed that everyone across the industry had to work collaboratively to help the sport for its anticipated return on June 1.

David Evans trained Good Vibes last season, a classy juvenile who won two of first three starts, and he believes it is extremely difficult for a trainer to predict how a horse will take to the stalls without previously running.

He said: "It's a bit of a stupid comment because no-one can guarantee what two-year-olds are going to do on the racecourse and first time out.

"It's a bit like saying you're more likely to be injured in a handicap than a Pattern race. Most of the early types would be good at home otherwise you wouldn't be running them.

"There's not enough stalls handlers at the best of times. When the horses stand about and wait that's when they play up. It's going to make it very difficult to get races off on time.

"I don't think we necessarily need the full amount with what's happened but I think we'll need more than two. You can never guarantee what any horse will do."

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John Quinn, who trained smart two-year-old Liberty Beach last season, agreed the situation was not ideal but was understanding of the BHA's approach.

"We're all desperate for racing to go ahead and I can see where the BHA are coming from to try and make sure that things go as smoothly as possible," he said.

"It is difficult. Nobody knows how an unraced horse will behave, it's a totally different atmosphere. But it is a trainer's job to ensure that their horses are well schooled. We all have tricky horses.

"It's not ideal but we can see what they're trying to do. This is just a transitional period and I'm sure things will be more normal with more handlers in the future."

'We have to rely on the professionalism of our trainers'

Dunshea said on Luck on Sunday: "What we're requesting trainers to do is to work with us and to exercise their best judgement in the circumstances. I accept it's difficult and we only have an understanding of the horses who have previously raced. But we have to rely on the professionalism of our trainers.

"They also appreciate that this is a really challenging environment for working. If we want to ensure that we're delivering a successful product and mitigating the risk then we all have to work collaboratively together.

"While we haven't mandated that trainers don't bring horses who have some sort of vices, we're asking and requesting that they do so. That's not just the BHA and all of those that'll be working on a raceday but to help the whole of the industry for their own benefit as well."

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