Friday, June 28, 2013

A grande brahma

The trip to Carlisle meant a long day on Wednesday, and we didn't have anything to show for it unfortunately.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained - and there was nothing lost either, because the horses have come home unharmed and live to fight another day.  And it's always nice to head to a lovely racecourse in a lovely part of the country - especially on a lovely warm, bright, dry day.  The track was in magnificent condition and I'd be surprised if any horses picked up any injuries there on the day.

Ethics Girl ran the better of our pair - and she finished 10th!  I hope that that doesn't sound too dismal, because in truth neither horse ran badly.  The Cumberland Plate was, as one would expect, a fiercely competitive race, so 10th of 17 when not getting a perfect trip through the race was far from a disgrace.  It's easy to forget how competitive racing is: if you've got 17 horses in a 80-85 handicap (which is what this 0-85 handicap in effect became, such was the competition just to get a start in it), you've got 17 nice horses, and it's not inconceivable that they could all run well.  But, however well they all run, you're still only going to have one winner, one second, one third, one fourth, and 13 unplaced.

Gift Of Silence finished last of eight, but she didn't run as badly as that implies (or as badly as it looked, as she did shorten stride badly in the final furlong).  She just did too much work in the middle stages of the race,  making it inevitable that she would knock up in the final 300m.  She's not as easy a ride as the other mare, not least because she can get restive in the stalls, but by and large she's fairly straightforward, and we were just unlucky on this occasion: most times things will work out better, as her usually consistent record shows.  She, like Ethics Girl, is just a bit high in the ratings at present, so I hope that on Tuesday we'll see the ratings of both mares down a bit.

Several good points from the day (including how impressed I was by the size of the fences, which are still the size one expects steeplechase fences to be, rather than about two thirds the size, which is usually the case nowadays) and only one complaint from the day.  The photograph of Gift Of Silence cantering to post gives the clue to this.  It used, you'll remember, to be the case that horses had to pass the judge and the stands en route to the start.  This was both so that the judge could have a look at them so that he would be familiar with their appearances (to help him with his judging) and also so that racegoers could see them completing their preliminaries by cantering to the start.  The former reason no longer applies thanks to modern technology making things easy for the judge; but surely it's still nice for racegoers to be able to see them canter to post, whether or not they want to use the evidence thus gained as factor in placing their bets?

Formerly, it was compulsory for this to happen unless the stewards gave special dispensation (either to a particularly unruly horse, or to the whole field if the ground was very wet and it was felt that it should be cut up no more than necessary).  Anyway, this no longer is the case: now, according to instructions 29.1, 29.2 and 29.3, it only happens if a parade is specified in the race's conditions (which basically means Group One races) or if the Racecourse Managing Executive (whoever that is) specifically opts for one.  This is so bad.  Surely it would have been nice for the runners in the Plate and the Bell, the biggest races of Carlisle's season, to pass the stands en route to post?  Surely this should always happen unless there is a good reason to the contrary?

There was no excuse on the basis of ground (good to firm, good in places) to forego this worthwhile formality (as is the case at Kempton AW, where runners in races starting in the back straight never pass the stands) and I really do think that this rule change has been a bad thing.  It really is better to have horses cantering past the stands en route to post as the norm unless there is a reason not to have it, rather the norm being not to have this unless it is specifically chosen (which, of course, it rarely is) (or unless they pass the post anyway to get to the start).  Surely we haven't reached the stage where we work on the assumption that racegoers aren't interested in the horses?  Or maybe we have: Racing For Change has been known to move in mysterious ways.

Our tenant Dave Morris also moves in mysterious ways.  Most recently, he's been involved in Brahma of the Week.  You'll recall that Dave won at Yarmouth recently with his new recruit Jamaica Grande, a very nice horse who had managed to go the first five years of his life without winning (and on whom Dave is pictured here a few days ago crossing the Bury Road onto the Severals). Anyway, Dave has always taken great pride in being able, when he has a nice horse who might be worth a bet, in making sure that nobody finds out how well the horse is going.  So what's Brahma of the Week?  Dave managed to get Jamaica Grande in the Racing Post's gallop reports yesterday, under the headline 'Great Work!'!  It'll take Dave many years to live this down (as I've already told him) - but, in fairness, he has at least waited until they've already had a 25/1 win with this horse, in a race in which I'd thought that the horse should have started favourite.

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