Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pendleton trumped by Ricci; Henderson trumped by the Sheikh

I know that we're only halfway through Cheltenham, but I think that we can wrap up the awards now.  Best Cheltenham Preview?  Easy: Luke Harvey's interview/feature on ATR with Victoria Pendleton.  If you haven't seen it, you should do.  I'd imagine that it's on the ATR website, so it'll be easy enough to find.  Worst Cheltenham Preview? Easy again: the Betbright evening, when apparently Rich Ricci announced that the only two options for Vautour were the Gold Cup or not running at the Festival.   Even at the time that was a silly thing to say: the Ryanair clearly presented him with a better chance, and he was entered in the race - and, as the pre-Derby New Approach debacle a few years ago reminded us, if a horse holds an engagement in a race and is still alive, he has to be regarded as a possible runner.

This potential fallacy of that declaration became even more obvious last Friday when we had the confirmation stage for the Ryanair, at which Vautour's connections paid up to keep him in the race.  Lo and behold, all hell broke loose yesterday morning when Ricci announced that common sense had prevailed and that the Ryanair, rather than the Gold Cup, would be the race for Vautour.  He'd sensibly left the decision until fairly late in the day and I can't see that there was any plan to defraud punters.  The only complicating factor is that he is now a bookie as well as an owner, which obviously puts a potentially sinister slant on any move to misdirect punters; while the only mystery is why he had ever been silly enough to give out the misinformation in the first place.  Guilty of stupidity, surely (and we all have that on our charge-sheets all too often) - but guilty of anything more sinister?  I can't see it.

All things considered, Rich Ricci ends this saga in front as he has done the impossible: his faux pas has taken the spotlight off Victoria Pendleton.  Which has to be a good thing for everyone, particularly for her.  And his blunder certainly won't be the only stupid thing said in connection with the Festival.  I took my hat off to Willie Mullins for not rising to the bait after the Arkle when it was put to him on C4 that Douvan was "the horse of a lifetime".  If I were the trainer of Douvan, that would be a sensible thing to say to me.  But I don't train Douvan.  As things stand, bearing in mind one can only really have one horse of a lifetime if the phrase is going to mean anything at all, Douvan has a long, long way to go before he can be considered the horse of the lifetime of the man who trained not only Hurricane Fly (winner of 22 Grade One races) but also Quevega (whose record of winning at the Festival six years running is likely to stand forever).

Aside from that, we should doff our hats to the Tweeter of the Week, who has to be Nicky Henderson.  As reported in today's Racing Post, he seemingly interrupted his duties after legging up Nico De Boinville and Noel Fehily before the Supreme Novices' Hurdle to tweet, "It's nearly time ... #CheltenhamRoar".  That's impressive: I'm a fairly dedicated Tweeter, but I don't think that even I could match that diligence, particularly not for the production of something so banal.  In fact, he must be in the running for Tweeter of the Century for this brahma, although that award is already wrapped up: if my memory serves me correctly, Sheikh Mohammed put out a series of tweets, in both English and Arabic, to highlight some UAE government works programme while waiting for the trophy presentation after Dawn Approach's 2,000 Guineas.  Not even Donald Trump could show such devotion to the affairs of state.


David Winter said...

So, the day of reckoning came for Ms Victoria Pendleton. All the hype and expectation, the razzle and media scrum drifted to a close at the start of the race and the Corinthian ( well, not strictly as a substantial retainer was, I believe,involved) rider was, at last, to engage in the finale of the project. And what a fantastic job she made of it.
Some of my non-horsey friends dismiss riding as " sitting on a leather chair while the beast does all the work".
Erm, no!
Unless you have had horses or ridden, it would not be recognised that they have an inordinate habit of making the best of riders look a twerp. At any moment, if there safety appears to be threatened they will cart you off, throw you out the side door or unfortunately stumble and plant you with the apple trees.
They have no idea as to the level of fitness a rider must attain to acquit him/herself to in order to allow the horse fulfill his potential. Furthermore, for someone to learn the basics of horsemanship,sit and control the horse adequately and then to jump to a semi- profession level, all within twelve months is amazing . My admiration for the women is boundless and after watching the interview with ATR and Luke, finding such un-affected pleasant person just reinforces my view. It is heartwarming to find that we still have characters that embrace the challenge, push the boundaries and prove, with determination and stubbornness that the seeming impossible can be overcome. I salute you Victoria.
In the cause of balance, John, I thought the finding of a fifth place spot in the winners enclosure was going a tad too far and basically unfair. The winners enclosure ( or first three) is just that and the fifth, whatever the circumstances , doesn't belong. JP McManus puts a fortune into racing and along with his connection,rider and trainer deserves the attention that to a large extent,was distracted to Victoria.

neil kearns said...

fully accept all of David's comments bar the last one I thought the racecourse management fully got how much of a non racing story - if my daughter and her friends all asked me would she win after discussion by them and other mums at the school gate yesterday morning it crossed some boundary - this was , to allow the various tv crew , journalists etc the opportunity to finish the story off in the winners enclosure was appropriate on this occasion and notwithstanding the whys and wherefores of who paid what to whom and why , this story was a marvellous marketing success for racing as a whole and should be acknowledged as such .

if there is a down side it distracted from the riding performance of the week for me by Nina Carberry her mount was a loser at the bottom of the hill for her to get him back up to win was just brilliant