Last Sunday saw the thirteenth edition of the Harness Jewels since GTH Aveross caused a monumental upset in the first race of the first one. According to reports, the latest, thanks to the efforts of Cambridge Raceway, was successful and certainly, as usual, there was some pretty spectacular racing. Will it be the last, only time and a lot of discussion will tell.
One thing is for sure, if there is another Jewels, it won’t be in June, due to the rearranging of dates for next year. That has to be a good thing as the middle of Winter has never been ideal, despite having been fortunate with the number of meetings staged in reasonable weather.
However, there are a number of other factors to be taken into account. If our young horses are, as seems the obvious scenario, going to be asked to perform at the highest level at two periods in the course of a season, is staging a Jewels type event after all that, fair to either horses or trainers? Are we going to end up with fields of second rate horses while the majority of the top liners rest and prepare for the new season which, if the Jewels were held in, say January, would be not long afterwards. At least staging them in June has allowed those horses to have a decent break before any more major events in this Country. Already it is plain that a good number of horses are virtually on their knees in some of the races now, and in some instances, this has let in horses ranked in the twenties and even thirties, which does nothing to enhance the spectacle.
Of course, there is the financial side also, getting sponsorship for Group one races is never easy, and having nine on the one day is a huge mountain to climb, hence the lower stakes this year. There is also a feeling around the traps that, while the concept has been a wonderful showcase for our Industry, perhaps a revamp or alternative is the way forward.
It will be very interesting to see what the think tank currently assessing the schedule of events for next year comes up with, but I’m guessing that any decision on the future of the Harness Jewels will be a fair way off yet.