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BHA denies probing all Curley horses after Tusculum win.

Byline: By Graham Green

THE BHA insists that it does not put the running of all Barney Curley's horses under the microscope, despite admitting the improved performance shown by Tusculum, the legendary gambler's well-backed winner at Kempton on Wednesday, was not referred to Shaftesbury Avenue's monitoring service because each of his previous four runs had already been reviewed.

At the same time, deputy head of handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill defended colleague Neil Young's decision to drop the six-year-old 50lb in the space of eight months, enabling the Andrew Stringer-trained gelding to land a hefty gamble in a classified stakes off a rating of 45.

Tusculum, formerly trained by Aidan O'Brien, won a Listed race at the Curragh in 2006 and finished sixth in the St Leger behind Sixties Icon before moving to Andre Fabre, for whom he was well beaten in two efforts in Listed company.

But his dramatic slump in form came after joining Stringer to race under the Curley Leisure banner.

In four outings on turf since Goodwood last June, when running off 95, Tusculum was beaten a total of nearly 250 lengths, finishing last on three occasions, and beating only two on the other start.

On that basis, the Kempton stewards would have been expected automatically to refer the apparent improvement shown by Tusculum, making his allweather debut and who was backed from 7-2 in the morning to 8-11 on course, to the monitoring unit. It only later emerged why the rule book had seemingly been disregarded.

BHA media relations manager Paul Struthers said: "Under normal circumstances that horse would have been referred under Instruction H19 (b), but as the horse's previous runs had already been reviewed by our disciplinary department, it was not referred as the races had already been looked at."

Asked if that meant every Curleyowned runner was similarly scrutinised, Struthers said: "We don't target horses with any trainer. It just so happens that in this case, all four previous runs had already been cleared for any breaches of running and riding rules."

In the absence of the holidaying Young, the handicapper responsible for Tusculum's plunge down the ratings, Gardiner-Hill said: "From a handicapper's point of view, occasionally you have to take a view with a horse like this, and Tusculum performed abominably last year.

"We have a system whereby we put a performance rating on each horse, race-by-race, which we use as the basis for their handicap mark, and in only one of Tusculum's races last year could you just about be able to put a positive figure on it; all the rest were minus figures.

"Neil took a view, 10lb off first, 10lb off second time, 15lb off next time, then another 15lb off, and obviously the horse has rediscovered some form. He has found his level, and, I suspect, it'll be a while before he's back in 0-45 company again."

CAPTION(S):

Tusculum scores an easy success in a Listed race at the Curragh in 2006, his last victory before winning at Kempton on Wednesday
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 7, 2009
Words:503
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