Saturday, January 22, 2011

New hoops

I think that I can say that we've added a new name to our roster of jockeys because I made the acquaintance of Jack Quinlan this morning, and my first impression was a very positive one. As you probably know, Jack is the nephew of Michael, who trains in Athnid Stables in Hamilton Road. Jack's father is Michael's younger brother Noel, who would be listed as co-trainer were there such a thing in the UK. If you know the Quinlans, you'll know that tallness is a family trait, which might be a worry for Jack in the future, but I'd say that that would be the only worry (leaving aside the jockeys' ever-present spectre of injury, of course) because he seems a top-class young horseman with a positive, helpful and professional attitude to match. A couple of weeks ago I'd told Tommy Keddy that he could use Kadouchski as a lead-horse any morning he liked for his current jumping learner, Archie Rice, the only proviso being that he'd need to provide the rider: I'd have the horse up at the Links any time he liked, but I'd expect to hand him over to another rider there as I'm too old to school these days. (I didn't add that these days began about twenty years ago!). Anyway, we met Tommy and Hayley at the Links at 7.30 this morning, where Paul Moloney (who seemed in quite a hurry with a busy morning leading into a busy day, so hence he can be excused for omitting to mention that he was going to ride a 40/1 winner at Ascot this afternoon) was on Archie Rice (in the hi-visibility sheet) and Jack Quinlan was waiting on the ground. After introducing myself, I legged him aboard and stood back to watch a very satisfactory schooling session. What was really nice was that, after Kadou had led the less experienced horse up the line of hurdles a couple of times and Paul had decreed that his mount had done enough for one day, Jack volunteered the opinion that Kadou would probably enjoy having another run up the line of jumps on his own, being allowed to bowl along at a faster (more-experienced-horse's) pace. Which he did - and you'd never see a horse coming home from the schooling ground as pleased with himself as Kadou did after that. It was lovely to see, as was Jack's positive and helpful attitude, as well as his polished riding. He was also kind enough to put Cape Roberto over some hurdles and fences, so all in all it was a very pleasing first lot. William, of course, remains our rider of choice irrespective of whoever else might be available, but the lesson I learned this morning is that I'll never be stuck for a good rider any time that Jack is available.

On the subject of meeting good riders, I was very pleased yesterday to make the acquaintance of a top-class jockey, bumping into Seamus Heffernan on the bottom of the Heath. I'd cantered Ex Con around Bury Hill all-weather and was walking back down the hill when a few of Jane Chapple-Hyam's horses appeared out of her back gate and headed away up the Bury Hill walking ground. Yarmy, who helps out a lot in that stable, materialized at the bottom of the hill to watch them, in the company it transpired of Seamus, who has been spending quite a bit of time in Britain this winter, riding some of the Irish-trained horses who have been sent over here as well as for a handful of UK-based trainers. He's had a few rides for Jane, including recently getting the enigmatic Big Bay to put in his best run for over a year, but even so it was impressive to see him taking the trouble to come out to watch some of the stable's young horses do their exercise. I was delighted when Yarmy called me over to make the introductions as Seamus is a jockey I greatly admire, not least because he is very proficient over jumps as well as on the Flat, which I always regard as a big plus in rider's favour - although paradoxically it often seems to count against them, as dual-purpose riders seem to struggle to break through in either code until they give up one and concentrate on the other, the careers in recent years of such as Ryan Moore, Ray Cochrane, Richard Hughes, Jim Crowley and PJ McDonald being illustrations of my point (as is, from the other angle, that of Paddy Aspell, who still rides under both codes but remains under-patronized in each, as has been Vince Slattery throughout his career). Things might have been different had T. P. Burns not broken his leg at Clonmel in May 1958. He was, of course, at the time Ireland's reigning champion jockey (the championship then being decided on total winners ridden, Flat and jumps) and Vincent O'Brien's jockey both on the Flat and over hurdles, having in the past 12 months ridden Ballymoss to be second in the Derby and first in both the Irish Derby and (English) St. Leger, Gladness in both the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (unplaced) and Prix du Cadran (second) and having won two hurdle races for the stable at what we now call the Cheltenham Festival. When Burns was on the side-lines, O'Brien naturally had to look for other jockeys. Scobie Breasley picked up the ride on Ballymoss and Lester Piggott the ride on Gladness, and things were never the same again. It became the norm for Irish trainers to look for jockeys who had proven success at the top level outside Ireland, and for the mounts on top-class Flat horses to go to jockeys who didn't ride over jumps. These two biases both persist to this day, as is shown by the fact that Seamus (who actually rarely rides over jumps) probably isn't going to end up as stable jockey at Ballydoyle. But if the decision were mine, I'd stand by my initial reaction when the position became available last autumn: I'd promote him without a moment's hesitation.

That's enough of my twittering off at tangents, which brings me to mention that the phenomenon of Twitter has started to rear its ugly head in this house, Emma having signed up to it. I'm sure that I will remain resistant: I am only too aware that I struggle to include one worthwhile nugget in a dispatch of 12 paragraphs, so if I've only got 12 words to play with I'm sure that I'd be as inane as the next man. I do occasionally look at, simply to see what William (who tweets as WTKjockey) has been coming out with, but I'd have to say that he's considerably better at riding than twittering. However, it has been brought to my attention that Richard Fahey showed this week that brevity can help one to hit the nail on the head. The ongoing RFC/Champions' Day nonsense has been a bit quiet this past fortnight, and I haven't really added to the debate since using the Racing Post's letters page to put Nigel Payne right, following his seeming inability to understand why owners and trainers might see any drawbacks to Racing For Change's plan which will see 3 million pounds from the under-funded prize money pool being pumped into one card (Champions Day at Ascot), which obviously will leave roughly 2.5 million less for the remaining 1,500 or so meetings of the year than would be the case were the prize money for that day to be, say, half a million. Anyway, I thought that my letter made my concerns pretty clear - but for crystal-clear conciseness, I don't think that you can beat Richard Fahey's tweet of a couple of days ago: "First day of turf at Catterick this year on 30 March, 7 race card total prize 21800. Racing for change are putting 3 million in for 1 day??"

Brahma of the week, though, has to go to Luke Harvey, even though he was absent from his usual chair alongside Jason Weaver on one of the week's best TV programmes, 'Get In' on ATR on Friday evening. As you might know, Jason and Luke are liable to say just about anything, while many of their asides centre around the unpopularity of the other one. Robert Cooper was in Luke's place last night, and so the show was, as one would expect, up to its usual high standard. Jason repeatedly read out emails from viewers who, apparently, were writing in to say how pleased they were that Luke wasn't on the show, and asking (clearly hoping for an answer in the affirmative) whether he'd got the sack for good. But the highlight came when Luke (who was in the departure lounge at Heathrow with his partner Emily Jones, the pair of them waiting to board a flight to Cape Town, where they are having a holiday) phoned in. Jason, predictably, maintained the banter with such announcements as, "Well, Luke, things are running very smoothly here, and I just thought that I ought to tell you that we've made the last question this week on the 'either/or' section 'Robert or Luke' - and from the answers we've been getting I've got to break it to you that you're not as popular as you like to think you are". But the icing on the cake came from Luke. He told us that his one mistake in the run-up to the holiday had been, fearing ear-ache from flying at altitude in a pressurized aeroplane, to have his ears syringed: the drawback was that he could now hear Emily even more loud and clear than usual, and he was getting sick of her bellowing in his ear as the sound waves were hitting him much more forcefully than usual. Anyway, Robert consoled him with the observation that, "Don't worry, I'm sure that they'll wax up again soon", to which Luke, quick as a flash, came back with, "I hope she doesn't". Fortunately, I'd say that the vast majority of the viewers might have missed that one!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Get In! is a good show and gets non racing folk like my better half taking an interest, which can only be a good thing. I am still waiting for my racing replay of Aghawadda Gold beating Wahiba Sands a shd in the Red Rum Chase at Aintree though. If your reading this Attheraces, please take note :-)