Friday, February 07, 2014

Armchair critic

Any trainer is always reliant on having good people around him; and I'm particularly reliant on this blessing at present as I had a hernia operation on Monday so, while I'm feeling surprisingly chipper, it behoves me to take things very easy for a couple of weeks.  Hence I'm even less use to Hugh and Hannah than normal.  Happily, they're working like the Trojans we know them to be, and things seem to be running very smoothly.  My indisposition is well timed as we're relatively quiet at present (although, admittedly, Hugh and Hannah might disagree) and I should be back in action by the time we welcome a handful of horses back at the end of the month: certainly, last week, when all hands were on deck, was a very unpressured one.

I actually feel a bit of a fraud doing so little at present, because I feel fine.  In fact, I feel more than fine as I'm taking things so easy, and thus feel far healthier than I've felt for ages.  In general, one only has time on the sidelines when one can't enjoy it (ie because one feels terrible) but I clearly had a very good surgeon, and having a three-inch incision cut in my abdomen to allow the contents to be re-arranged has proved to be far, far less physically stressful than one would think.  But, excellent though Mr Boyle's handiwork clearly was, I'd be capable of undoing all his good work if I put my midriff under pressure in the first couple of weeks, so common sense is dictating that I err on the side of caution.  Which is rather pleasant for me, particularly in what is turning out to be a(nother) very, very wet and miserable week.

We actually had four nice days (as this chapter's illustrations confirm - and you can also see the cats doing their best to calm the patient) at the start of the week, the last one of which was Tuesday, Gus' birthday, 4th February, the day after my operation - which was very welcome as I was feeling rather frail at that stage, and I really appreciated not being cold and wet during the brief spells I spent outdoors.  However, since then conditions have become very rough, as they appear to have been throughout the British Isles.

Taking this easy, I'm currently even better placed than usual to act as Martin Kelner's understudy.  So here goes.  I am often critical of Racing UK's policy of treating the day's racing as if nobody (least of all the presenters) is interested in it, and instead concentrating on the forthcoming (if an event which is still several weeks away can be called forthcoming) Cheltenham Festival.  To redress the balance, I must compliment the channel on its coverage of the Kempton evening meeting this week.  Kempton's evening meetings are generally the principal victim of RUK's tendency to treat anything which isn't Cheltenham (or Cheltenham-related) with disdain, but this week's coverage was outstanding.  Lydia Hislop and Steve Mellish previewed and reviewed the races extremely well, and in between times conducted a very interesting discussion, revolving around viewers' feedback, of the apparent practice of many bookmakers to refuse to accept any bets bar the tiniest from anyone who might have any idea about anything.  It was a very good show indeed.

Compare and contrast, as our teachers used to say, the Racing Post's coverage of the biggest race run anywhere in the world last weekend, the J&B Met at Kenilworth in Cape Town.  Sunday's Post carried the result in brief (ie it listed the first three place-getters, named the winning trainer and jockey, and gave SP details etc., but didn't list the also-rans, weights, etc.) but, after scanning Sunday's, Monday's and Tuesday's papers, I gave up hope that the paper might carry a report of the race, or even a proper listing of the result.  For a supposedly top-class racing newspaper, this was appalling - and, to my mind, startling, bearing in mind that they found the space in Tuesday's paper to include a FIVE-PAGE preview of the RSA Chase, which is set to be run at Cheltenham on Wednesday 12th March as one of the main supporting races on Queen Mother Champion Chase Day (and in which I'll take a very close interest on 12th March, but not before then).  Come Tuesday evening, I'd got the message that I wasn't going to be able to read about one of the world's biggest weight-for-age races in the Post, so I googled, "J&B Met Kenilworth Anton Marcus Hill Fifty Four" confident that that would direct me to an on-line account of the race - and was staggered to find myself reading a very good report of it on, of all sites,  I know that I know virtually nothing about running a newspaper, but if I were trying to make a racing paper a viable concern (which I appreciate must be hard nowadays in this era of free news online) one of my main priorities would be to ensure that the ever-diminishing band of people who did the decent thing by paying £2 to buy the paper didn't end up finding themselves receiving worse coverage than the cheapskates who spend nothing to read it online, and thus didn't come away musing, "They saw me coming, didn't they?".


bigalp said...

Get well soon John we hope all goes well for you. Perhaps you may use a mounting platform now. Best Wishes.
Alec & Jayne

John Berry said...

Thank you very much. All going well, I'm pleased to say.
With best wishes