Friday, July 05, 2013

Summer scratchings

The fact that there were 37 non-runners in England today tells us all we need to know about how glorious the weather has been.  We knew that the going at today's meetings would be on the fast side come what may, and that if the forecast was correct it would end up very fast.  However, it wasn't guaranteed that the forecast would be correct (because it rarely is, as we've been reminded so often recently).  As it was, though, the country has had a lovely sunny day in the mid 20s, so the ground will have gone from being just on the fast side of good to being significantly firmer than that.  Warwick ended up with only five of these 37 non-runners, taking its total of runners to 47 in seven races (ie just over six and a half per race) with three of the non-runners being in the race in which Zarosa had been entered.

This glut of scratchings is interesting because in recent weeks we've seen and heard quite a lot of Dale Gibson complaining about non-runners, and the supposed consequent loss of income for jockeys.  But surely the alternative would be less good for the riders?  The alternative to these non-runners being non-runners is that they wouldn't have been declared in the first place - and, of course, if that had happened, the jockeys would have had no chance of getting the riding fee.  At least if they are declared in the (often justified) hope of the weather forecast being wrong, there is a chance of them running and of the jockey collecting a riding fee.

If the preferred course of action were that one wouldn't declare unless it were certain that conditions were going to be suitable, there would, of course, be many fewer non-runners - but there would also, of course, be many fewer runners.  As it is, there are more runners (and hence more riding fees) - and not only because sometimes (often) the weather forecast is wrong.  It's also the case that sometimes one declares hoping that the track won't end up being as firm (or as wet) as appears likely to be the case - but when it turns out to be what one wasn't wanting, one is tempting to think that, "as we're declared, we might as well run anyway" (and usually one ends up regretting that decision).

There is, of course, a third option - that a horse, once declared, has to run come what may, even if things clearly end up, 54 hours or whatever it is after declaration time, such that it's not in the horse's interests to run.  Surely Dale's former colleagues aren't so short-sighted as to want the horses from the stables who patronise them to run when it's not in their interests to do so?  It's in these jockeys' interests that the trainers are concerned for the horses' welfare, because the jockeys should want these horses' careers to last as long as possible so that the horses remain sound enough to have plenty of runs and provide plenty of riding fees.

It's worth remembering that one declares a horse because one wants to run him/her - and one only scratches him/her if it's plain that running is not in the horse's interests.  And invariably the people most disappointed by the fact of feeling obliged to scratch are the horse's connections.  Anyway, we don't need to worry about that just now - we can just concentrate on enjoying the lovely weather.  All these photographs in this chapter were taken this morning - and the best of the weather was through the afternoon, so they actually understate how blissful our current conditions are.  Set to last through next week too, apparently.

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