Thursday, February 17, 2011

The missing hoops file (cont'd)

While writing last night about those who have recently gone on or come off the Missing Hoops File (as Winning Post's list of jockeys on the sidelines is called) I forgot to mention the news closest to home on this subject. Iva's recovery from her broken knee, sustained at last year's Yarmouth September meeting, has been painfully slow, but she's taken a big step forward recently in returning to the saddle, albeit in a very sedate manner. As anyone who has found themselves returning to the saddle after a serious injury knows, the one thing one wants to do is to ease oneself back into it gradually, which obviously requires a sensible horse: the last thing one wants is, after months on the sidelines and while one is still in a lot of pain, is to climb aboard a horse who's going to jump around. Well, step forward Ex Con, who is also known as my hack. This is absolutely perfect timing as Ex Con is currently at a stage of his preparation where he wants to do as much walking and trotting as possible, so he and Iva have spent this week putting in the slow miles to help each other return to fitness. Iva's principal job, of course, is in Jane Chapple-Hyam's stable, and she's set to return to work there on Monday, just doing yard-work on the ground initially as she isn't yet up to riding any horse other than an abnormally quiet one, as she is still in a lot of pain and still has very limited strength in her knee. There aren't many horses in the town who answer to that description, but Ex Con fits the bill perfectly. When she told Jane that she had begun riding a quiet horse here to get back into the swing of things, Jane asked whether she was riding one of the racehorses, or riding a hack - which actually isn't that easy a question to answer, as Ex Con, who as we know is a multiple winner, is equally adept in both roles. And, as the second illustration in this paragraph illustrates, he'll be perfect too for more energetic riding when the time comes! (And finally, as the chapter's third and fourth photographs - in the next paragraph, even though they relate to this one- show, he's had a lovely morning, the perfect post-script to a ride being, of course, a roll.)

By a curious coincidence, I sat down to read last weekend's Winning Post once I'd finished writing yesterday's blog chapter - and who should appear in one of my favourite columns, the 25/50/75/100 years-ago retrospective? Well, none other than one of the subjects of yesterday's chapter: Peter Hutchinson. Why? Well, 25 years ago last week, mid-February 1986, he was also in the news: "Apprentice Peter Hutchinson breaks his ankle in a race fall at Moonee Valley". Read in parallel with Peter's recent misfortunes, that provides a timely and worthwhile reminder that a lengthy career for a jockey can be best summed up as quarter of a century of serious injuries. The same column also provided a reminder of the toughness of horses: 50 years ago "Watch Out wins two consecutive races at Healesville within 21 minutes to become the first horse to do so since Belmont Park, who won successive races at Rosehill on July 31, 1954". Healesville's only a picnic track so its races in 1961 might not necessarily have been very competitive - but racing in Sydney has been very strong for a long time, so one particularly has to doff one's cap to Belmont Park. Just like Phar Lap's achievement in winning on all four days of the Flemington Carnival in 1930, it's a fair bet that Belmont Park's feat in winning consecutive races on a metropolitan fixture in Sydney will never again be achieved. Would be grand to see, but.

If the time capsule is one of the most readable columns in Winning Post, the highlight of this week's Racing Post surely has to be report of James Main's trial before the panel of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The series of reports is as entertaining as any soap opera - and, just like a soap opera, it's completely pointless: (unless I'm missing something) James Main hasn't done anything wrong and the trial shouldn't even be taking place. Surely it isn't an offence for a vet to give a known bleeder an injection of an anti-bleeding drug? The fact that the horse raced later in the day, when clearly she wasn't eligible to do so, was the misdemeanour - but that's down to the trainer, not the vet. If a vet had given such an injection without the trainer's permission or knowledge, then it would have been a different matter altogether. But, as far as I can gather, all the vet did was do what his client asked him to do, even if the fact of billing for a "pre-race check" suggests that, in his mind, he was doing something which ought to have been covered up. Notwithstanding that bizarre piece of book-keeping, however, I can't see that he has broken any rules at all - so why this hearing is taking place at all is far from clear to me. Other than the fact that I would like to put on record my sympathy for the vet's plight, the other point which I feel ought to be made is that apparently the claim has been made during the trial that giving injections of this drug on race-mornings has been standard practice in numerous stables. I would like to take this opportunity to make one statement, lest we all be tarred by the same brush: not in this stable it hasn't been. Nor is it. And nor shall it be. Here endeth the lesson.

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