Monday, July 07, 2014

What's going on?

Last week I was quite the international traveller as I had one night in Wales (Monday night at Ffos Las) and two nights, Thursday and Friday, in Span (at Palma in Mallorca).  I'd spent one night away from home earlier this year (at Musselburgh) in Scotland, so to have two trips in the one week was remarkable.  I meant to write a review of my trip to Ffos Las, and I might still do so; but I'd been very busy after my return and prior to my next departure, so I haven't done so yet.  But now that I'm home I should write a chapter on my trip to Spain, not least because I have some photographs which remind me of a lovely trip and I would like to publish them.

The reason for this trip was that Emma and I had been invited to Gina Bryce's wedding to Andrew Harding, which took place at Cap Rocat, just outside Palma.  That was on Friday, so we went out on Thursday, flying from Standsted, and came home yesterday, Saturday.  The pity, of course, was that we missed the two lovely 26-degree todays here, Thursday and Friday - or rather we missed the bulk of them, as we flew out of Stansted at lunchtime on Thursday.  But that is no big deal as the weather was even better where we were.  Thursday in Palma was very hazy but still very warm; but Friday and Saturday saw perfect weather, with unclouded skies, glorious sunshine and temperatures around 30 degrees.

So conditions were just right for a special occasion.  The wedding and its aftermath were idyllic, which is just as you'd hope for such a lovely couple.  Anyone who has seen Gina on either At The Races or on Channel Four will know that she's a very good TV presenter, with the fact that she knows her subject thoroughly being one of the principal weapons in her armoury.  Over and above her mastery of her subject, her presentation style is very good, as she speaks calmly, confidently, level-headedly and unpretentiously.  But her biggest asset is that she comes across so pleasantly, which is easy to understand as she's exactly the same off-screen as she is in front of the cameras.

What also becomes easy to understand is why she is no nice, because she comes from a family of very decent, kind people.  And what is so good is that she has married someone who seems to come from the same mould, because Andrew seems a thoroughly decent man.  So this ceremony, which was perfectly arranged and set in a beautiful setting in perfect weather, really was a truly happy occasion; and it was a pleasure and an honour to have been a guest at it.

What was less good, and certainly less easy to understand, was reading online in the Racing Post the story that the BHA is to press charges against Brendan Powell that, supposedly, Graham Bradley is 'training under his name'.  What on earth is this all about?  It appears that some of the horses in Brendan's stable are owned by friends of Graham, who acts as their racing advisor and gets involved with the training of the horses, including riding them out some days.  Graham is registered on Brendan's list of stable employees.  He currently has an application lodged for a training license of his own, and I would presume that, if he succeeds in gaining his own license, these horses would join his stable.  Anyway, does anyone know what the problem is supposed to be?

What does training a horse mean?  There are very, very few occasions when the trainer can fully be described as the horse's trainer, because he generally has to cede at least some of the tasks to someone else.  He very often doesn't ride the horse out himself (in fact, often he never rides the horse out himself) and very often only takes a minor role in many or all of the aspects involved with getting the horse ready for a race (eg feeding, planning the work, picking the race).  He is allowed to pass on any or all of these roles to other people.  Mark Johnston recognises this, having previously questioned why the trainer has to be listed as one person, rather than the company of which this one person is the head.

Mark's point is that the horse is trained by the company, and that saying that the trainer is merely the head of the company is as misleading as it would be to say that a car is made by the CEO of the Ford Motor Company, rather than made by Ford.  The BHA's point, though, is that there has to be one individual taking responsibility for the training of the horse, not least so that if there is a disciplinary inquiry (drugs, not trying etc.) then there is one person responsible for the misdemeanour.  That makes sense.  And that is what training is: it is being responsible for the training of the horse, whether you actually do the training yourself or cede that task to someone else.  And I'd be very, very surprised if Brendan were trying to claim that he is not responsible for any or all of the horses under his care.

If it transpires that Brendan has a case to answer, this is going to open up a colossal can of worms.  Mike De Kock has a permanent stable in Newmarket, and I might see him on the Heath once a year.  Who is going to be charged with training 'his' horses under his name during the months on end when he is in Dubai or South Africa?  Similarly, Saeed bin Suroor formerly had a stable in New York.  Who will be charged with having trained 'his' horses there while he was in England (or Dubai).  Or, looking at Godolphin another way and bearing in mind that any time we've heard Simon Crisford or Saeed or al Zarooni being interviewed we have heard the line that "the boss" would be taking this, that or the other decision, each one a decision (eg what work the horse is going to do, when he is going to run etc.) which we'd assume would be integral to the role of 'training' the horse, will one or all of the Godolphin trainers be charged with allowing Sheikh Mohammed to train under his name?

Will Ishmael Mohammed be charged with allowing someone (and I don't know whom) to train under his name, bearing in mind that I see 'his' horses every day, but have never laid eyes on him other than when he appeared in the winner's enclosure at the Rowley Mile last autumn after he had just 'trained' the Cambridgeshire winner.  In fact, there would be very few trainers who 'train' all their horses without some input from either the horses' owners or the horses' owners' advisors.  Are Sheikh Hamdan's trainers be charged with not training his horses, bearing in mind that if they want to gallop one of the horses, one of the Sheikh's employees (Richard Hills, Paul Hanagan, Dane O'Neill) is likely to turn up and gallop the horse for them rather than allow one of the trainer's employees to do the job, and then pass on their opinions to the Sheikh's racing manager before he decides whether the horse should run in this race or that?

Will Gai Waterhouse be charged with allowing David Simcock to train under her name?  Gai bought Cafe Society 'out of' David's stable on the Monday of Royal Ascot week and the horse ran at Royal Ascot, officially trained by her, four days later.  But the horse had not joined her stable after the sale (which is understandable as her stable is in Sydney), instead remaining in David's stable, under David' care and looked after by David's staff.  David's staff brought him from David's stable to Ascot for the race, and he was led around the parade ring by two of David's employees.  So it's even less easy to understand how Gai can have been Cafe Society's 'trainer' than it is to understand how she can have been the trainer of Pornichet in the Belmont Derby in New York last night.  It is just inconceivable that she can have been the horse's trainer in any accepted meaning of the word - other than the fact that she was officially responsible for him from that Monday onwards.

In fact, I doubt that there are more than a handful of trainers in the country who don't cede at least part of the training process to a horse's owner or his advisor.  I certainly do, and I don't even train for any owners who have racing managers or advisors.  For those owners who do have managers (and plenty do) it is a given that the manager will be taking over part of the trainer's job.  We all saw Harry Herbert interviewed on Channel Four after Baitha Alga had won the Norfolk Stakes.  He relayed a story which had me rubbing my ears in disbelief, that when the trainer (Richard Hannon) reported that the horse was in good condition and that he'd like to run him in the Norfolk Stakes, Harry (as the owner's manager) headed down to the stable, taking the owner's vet with him - and that it was the vet who gave the go-ahead for the horse to run, presumably because the owner does not feel that Richard Hannon (or Harry Herbert) can tell the difference between a lame horse and a sound one.  What charges are going to be laid against whom in this case?

I assume that Richard Hannon, despite allowing the decision of whether or not the horse ran to be taken out of his hands, won't be charged, because presumably the horses are at his premises and he was taking responsibility for them - in just the same way that I assume that all the horses whom Brendan trains are in his stable, and that he takes responsibility for all of them.  (With Gai Waterhouse it might be different, because Cafe Society clearly had never set foot in her stable prior to running at Royal Ascot).  Anyway, we'll watch this one with interest and see what happens.  If Brendan is found guilty of this, I only hope that I'm not one of the dozen and dozens who will be presumably be facing similar charges.

One man who, I hope, won't be facing any disciplinary action is Hugo Palmer, another guest at Gina's wedding.  Hugo wasn't staying in our hotel (in fact, I think I heard something about him staying at the consulate) which was a shame as, if he had stayed there, he would have been very close to his own street.  A minor diplomatic incident loomed when the Mayor of Palma discovered that Hugo had already been in town for 24 hours without announcing his presence.  The Mayor was most put out because, had he known in advance that Hugo was coming, he would, apparently, have arranged a civic reception in honour of his visit.  As it was, there was no time to lay this on - so he did the only thing possible at such short notice, re-naming a street in Hugo's honour.  Which was very nice - particularly for Hugo, as it took his mind off joining me in worrying about the disciplinary consequences of allowing someone else to train our horses in our absence.

And, by the way, if you think that you've spotted a Dalmatian in one of these photographs, you're right.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

And there rest the case for the defence m'lud