Friday, June 01, 2012


"You're political - have a look at this".  So said John Waterfall, proprietor of Horse Requisites, to me a couple of weeks ago, rather to my surprise.  John's daughter runs a PR company in London, and she/it had produced a racecard for the London mayoral elections (which were taking place that day).  And a very good and entertaining job she had done of it, too.  Anyway, I was rather suprised to be told that I'm political - but, being a Town Councillor, I probably should not have been.  So I suppose I am political, and this week that's been easy to believe as we had our major annual meeting for re-election of offices etc. on Monday and  our annual Town Meeting on Tuesday.  No rest for the wicked.

But that's relatively small beer, more so than the recent election for president of NASS, the stable staff's association. The results of that election came in yesterday and I was very pleased to hear that George McGrath (pictured above this morning in the string of Willie Musson, to whom he has been travelling head lad for many years) won by a wide margin.  I've known George for many years and his father (also George, the former multiple champion jockey of Ireland, whose wins included the Irish Derby on Weaver's Hall and the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Sadler's Wells) even longer, and I'd say that Geoge will be very good for this job.  He knows the workings of racing life inside out and he's a very fair man who will deal with everyone whom he meets fairly: he won't take any sh*t from his members' employers (nor from his members, come to that) and won't hesitate to fight the cause of anyone who isn't being given a fair deal.  I was pleased to see him win, not only because I think that he will do a good job and not only because I like him and so was keen to see him land this position which he clearly covetted, but also because I thought that his main rival, Jim Cornelius, pulled a stunt which lost him any sympathy in my eyes.  You'll see from this poster (which was on the back of the door in the gents in the canteen at Sandown Park) that Jim claims to have created NASS.  That, of course, is a claim which (although one might possibly be able to argue that its true) is thoroughly misleading: the Stable Lads' Association had been going for yonks, only to be re-named while Jim was at its helm.  If that extremely questionable claim was the best that Jim could do by way of finding recommendation for himself, then I don't think that anyone can quibble with George replacing him.

The same day that I saw that poster in the Sandown gents, I also ran into Rick Dale.  Rick is standing for the ROA council and I think that he'd be a breath of fresh air.  I can't vote as I'm not a member of the ROA; but, if I were, I would vote for Rick.  He was at Sandown that day with his South American-bred mare Sos Brillante (pictured) who finished one place behind the mighty Twice Over (pictured, below, enjoying his shower after that race on that really muddy day) in the Gordon Richards Stakes that day before finishing three quarters of a length behind Twice Over's Group One-winning stablemate Timepiece in the Group Three Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket eight days later.

Rick is a decent guy who would give a voice to the small owner on the ROA council; and he too, like George, is a voice of reason in a sometimes mad world.  Similarly decent is the mare's trainer Terry Clement - and best wishes go out to Terry because I believe that he has recently suffered a heart attack.  I hope that it is merely a mild one, and I'd imagine that that is the case, because I'm sure that we would have heard more about it had it been too serious.  Terry doesn't get many headlines - in fact, he doesn't get any, even when he has a heart attack - but he's one of the thousand and one characters who collectively form the bedrock of our wonderful sport.  He would never do a bad turn to any man, so let's hope that fate has not done a bad turn to him.

And I can't end these belated reflections on 'Whitbread Day' without giving mention to another character whom I saw that day: our friend Gerry Chesneaux, whom I found hobnobbing with his old buddy Nicky Henderson, for whom he has ridden out (including doing some schooling) in the past, with lovely old Fondmort, I believe, being the best horse over whom Gerry has thrown his leg in that stable.  I'd imagine that Gerry will be betting at Epsom tomorrow.  Let's hope that the Derby is less rough than today's Oaks (in which the Sir Percy filly would surely have made the frame if the jockeys on her outer had been able to keep their mounts straight).  It's hard to look farther than Camelot, although perhaps his stablemate Astrology might be the value.  Today reminded us that it certainly isn't always Aidan's first string who fares best of his runners.  With the Coronation Cup being on the same card, it'll be a very exciting day, that's for sure.


racingfan said...

Hello John,

I have been away getting married and a holiday to boot (which explains my absence), I had a fantastic time,it was nice to be back in the UK to watch the Oaks today of which I thought Coquet was unlucky at a crucial time, and is worth following, Looking forward to the Derby and reading your blogs,

I know you like your books John, so I would highly recommend Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon if you get the opportunity.

Keep up the good work,



John Berry said...

Many congratulations, Ian. I hope that you and your wife have had a lovely time - and best wishes for the future to you both.

Yes, I too thought Coquet's run was remarkable. I couldn't believe that she was able to run on so well again after being almost stopped in her tracks on the rails. Most of the supposedly unlucky horses in the race were just given too much to do, coming from too far back in a slowly-run race. But she was genuinely unlucky: her jockey was fully entitled to go for that run up the rail as there was plenty of room there, but then the jockeys on her outer failed to keep their mounts straight. I thought that the other unlucky runner was The Fugue: murdered by Betterbetterbetter, whose jockey I presume would have copped a lengthy suspension, after about two furlongs.

Didn't think Barzalona did himself any favours: in both the Oaks and the earlier handicap, he seemed more intent on keeping Buick in than on putting his own horse in the race. Astounding that the stable can have elected to have him ride in the race while Frankie was sitting in the weighing room watching it on TV.

I'm rather bashful about saying that I took the easy way out with Shadow of the Wind: we listened to it as an audio-book a few years ago. We really enjoyed it. As audio-books always lose something for being abridged, I am sure that it's even more enjoyable read properly.