Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Milestones, ups and downs - and that ubiquitous Festival!

I've been pleased to note two milestones in jockeys' comebacks over the past two days. More recently, Adrian McCarthy, who seemingly jacked in the jockeying last summer, had his first ride for six months or more this evening, partnering Chez Vronny for Dave Morris in the 6.40 at Kempton Park. Adrian's too good a jockey to have retired himself at the age of 32, so I'm very pleased that he's back in action. His main job is riding out for Ed Dunlop, but he rides out for Dave at the end of the mornings and, wild though he might have been as a youngster, he's certainly a hard worker nowadays. And an invariably cheerful one too. So let's hope that he enjoys a good degree of success henceforth. I'd hope that we'll be able to put him on something at some stage as he certainly has a very good record for this stable, having won on Brief Goodbye (pictured before the race) at Windsor a few years ago (giving the horse a faultless ride) from only a very small number of rides.

A similarly chirpy (even chirpier) hoop is Peter Hutchinson, who paid us a visit last summer when making a long overdue return to the UK, where he spent much of his upbringing. He was nursing a broken elbow at the time, which was well on the way to recovery after a very bad break in a fall at Geelong in the first half of the year. He did resume race-riding towards the end of last year but has not been finding rides plentiful at all since his resumption, which isn't surprising I suppose, bearing in mind that comebacks in one's mid-40s are never going to be easy, especially when one had been struggling for rides even beforehand. I was, therefore, delighted to note that Peter (pictured, bottom left of picture) returned to the winner's enclosure on board the Robert Smerdon-trained Olympic Win in the Marong Cup at Bendigo last Saturday. Let's hope that it can be onwards and upwards for him too henceforth.

Two of our other former antipodean visitors enjoyed contrasting fortunes last weekend. Clare Lindop has enjoyed a cracking start to 2011 thus far and duly saluted the judge yet again at Morphettville on Saturday afternoon. She's averaged more than one winner per meeting at which she has ridden so far this year, having ridden plenty of doubles and having rarely come home empty-handed, and I'm sure that I'd be correct in saying that she's ridden more winners in South Australia this year than any other jockey. After a relatively slow start to the season, she's now lying second in the Adelaide premiership, two winners behind Paul Gatt, so let's hope that this momentum continues; if it does, it would surely see her champion jockey again. Michelle Payne, on the other hand, won't be riding anywhere for a couple of months, having broken a bone in her neck in a fall on Saturday in the Blue Diamond Fillies' Prelude at Caulfield. She was in Newmarket at the same time as Clare a couple of summers ago - as this photograph shows, with Clare on Rhythm Stick and Michelle on Douchkette - and there will be plenty of people on this side of the world wishing her well in her recovery.

Mention of Adrian McCarthy's come-back, by the way, prompts me to issue a plea to the producers of Racing UK: please, please, please remember that the Cheltenham Festival isn't the only meeting being held in Britain this year! I know that Racing UK, understandably, make a big thing of Cheltenham, but even so it was a shock, when I turned on the TV at 6.31 this evening to watch Adrian ride in the 6.40, to hear Lydia's voice saying something like, "So you think that the Queen Mother Champion Chase might, in fact, be the race for him?". The pictures on the screen were of the runners for Kempton's 6.40 walking around the parade ring with the jockeys about to mount, but the discussion between Lydia and Steve was revolving around whether some novice chaser (I left the room before discovering which one) should be running in the Arkle (27 days hence) or the Queen Mother (28 days) hence - while the race in which anyone watching RUK at that time was most interested was 9 minutes away, and being ignored. Unbelievable. Discussion then moved on to what might be a fair ante-post price for this horse for these races, until eventually the horses reached the start, and the discussion reluctantly moved on to the race in hand. I'm sure that the last thing that Steve and Lydia wanted to be doing at that time was pontificating yet again about races four weeks away, analysing the chances of horses who very possibly won't even run in them, and that they must have been getting as bored as the audience was by all this nonsense, but the producer had clearly instucted them to spend as little time discussing this evening's action as possible and as much on events four weeks away (yet again). I say this as someone who loves jumps racing, so I'd hate to read a review of the programme by someone who has a strong preference for Flat racing - and I'd imagine that plenty of the few people who would switch on the TV midway through a February evening to watch Kempton AW might fall into exactly that category.

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