Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The view from the Sodermalm Omnibus

Good observation from Brian Jones, thank you, after the last chapter, drawing my attention to Lucinda Russell having talked her way out of a fine for having a horse arrive late in the parade ring.  I'm sure that I could (should) have done the same, the only problem being that, as it never occurred to me that the stewards could possibly be so mean-spirited, not to mention unreasonable, as to fine me, I didn't bother to put up much of a defence, beyond telling them why I had been late (ie that I'd been standing in the weighing room talking firstly to Alan King and then to Hugo Bevan, waiting for the jockey to weigh out, when by rights I ought to have been saddling the horse).  No matter: what's done is done, we can't turn the clock back, and life goes on.

Still, if I was taken aback to be punished on that occasion, poor Luke Morris must have been flabbergasted at Lingfield on Saturday.  I see that his appeal is being heard tomorrow, and I'd rate him about a $1.05 chance to succeed, but really it shouldn't have come to that.  It was ludicrous that he was given a five-day suspension in the first place, and he shouldn't be having to go to the expense of travelling to London (and, I note, hiring a lawyer, although I suspect that the PJA might pay for that) to have something overturned which should never have existed in the first place.

It's funny how things happen.  I mentioned at the start of last week that we had had three horses come back from their work uncomfortable and then show abnormal blood profiles afterwards.  We wouldn't have any more than 10 horses cantering at present, so that's a lot, hence my not having any runners for a week.  Basically, the problem was 'tying up', which means getting cramp in the muscles in the hind quarters after exercise.  This causes muscle damage, hence the subsequent elevated muscle enzyme levels in the blood.  Anyway, that was only the start of the saga which brings us round to Luke's ban.

Last weekend Banquo's ghost showed up at the feast: our former colleague and ongoing friend D. Williamson (7), better known as Squeak.  Squeak is still jockeying in Sweden.  He was over in England for four days with his (Swedish) wife Maria and their daughter Bella, visiting his son Conor who lives with his maternal grandparents.  Anyway, the four of them called in on Saturday, which was lovely.  You can see them in the first paragraph when we had our lunch in the Golden Lion.  (It was all smiles at that stage, but things got a bit grim later on as he and I played chess, and it pains me to admit that he won 3-0).

Anyway, Maria has a trainer's license for the one horse whom they have.  Squeak told me that the last time the filly had run, he'd pulled her up because she wasn't travelling well and he was concerned that there was something amiss.  She walked off the track sound, but she tied up afterwards, and her subsequent blood profile, ie elevated muscle enzyme levels, confirmed this.  Anyway, he said that the stewards at Taby had given him a rocket, telling him that it was irresponsible to pull up: he was right to ease her if he was concerned, but he should have let her canter home unpressured.  They said pulling horses up unnecessarily in Flat races (ie unless the horse has broken down, in which case you have to pull up) gives the sport a bad name because it gives the general public a false impression that many more horses are being badly injured than is the case.  That clearly makes sense.  And it's just a charter for stopping horses: 'I wasn't quite sure that he was moving right, so I pulled him up ...'.

Anyway, little did we know that about the time that this conversation was taking place, Luke Morris was riding a 3/1 shot, Apache Glory, for Mark Loughnane in the first race at Lingfield.  Half a mile from home in this 12-furlong race, Apache Glory started to struggle.  Luke was concerned that Apache Glory wasn't moving right, so he chose to err on the side of caution and eased him, letting him come home unpressured in his own time, finishing a distant last.  The horse apparently walked sound off the track, but when he got back to the stable yard and began to cool down, he tied up.  He would have been very stiff behind at that point; and then, as they do, he came sound again later on when the cramp wore off.

Anyway, when the stewards heard that the horse was found to be lame once he had returned to the stables, they gave Luke a five-day suspension for not having pulled him up.  (Overlooking, of course, that the horse would have tied up just the same had he done that).  Anyway, where does this leave us?  It's actually rare to see horses pulled up (ie not complete the course) in a Flat race, other than when they break a leg and go hopping lame midrace, often fatally: they are generally eased down and come home in their own time, finishing a long way behind the others.  That was what happened here, and is what happens, often several times, just about every day.

When the jockey finds the horse struggling more than he might be expected to do so, and finds that the horse is not stretching out properly, is he now supposed to pull him up?  (Bear in mind, of course, that the jockey has only seconds to make this judgement, and actually has no idea whether the horse will be found to be lame afterwards, or just a bit sore somewhere).  Basically, the message is that he has to do so: he has to treat the horse, who might or might not be lame, as if he has gone properly lame - and that presumably will mean not only pulling up to a walk, but dismounting too, because it is an offence to continue to ride a lame horse, and the jockey has to work on the assumption that the horse might be lame, just in case.

This is just so very, very stupid.  There will be horses pulled up in the majority of races.  As the stewards at Taby Galop pointed out to Squeak, this will make racing look so very, very bad to man on the both the Clapham and the Sodermalm Omnibus.  More (ie less) seriously, it will mean that there are trainers being fined for having their horses late into the parade ring all the time, as, rather than saddling when we should, we stand around waiting for the jockeys to reappear from leading their horses up the home straight after the previous race.  It's just so very stupid.  Hopefully a wrong will be righted tomorrow - but if it isn't, it will the whole of racing which will suffer, rather than merely Luke Morris.

I hope that tomorrow might also see us having a winner as Blue Sea Of Ibrox runs at Chelmsford.  She'll have a chance.  She only has four opponents, but they are four relatively formidable ones, and she could easily run very well and finish last.  But she'll do her best, so we'll hope for the best.  And Cherry Street then runs at the same venue roughly 24 hours later.  He, too, will do his best; and he, too, will have a chance. Otherwise, trying to keep warm and dry will be the aim.  The weather really hasn't been nice at all over the past week or so, and has been (very) wet and/or cold just about all the time.  Still, as this chapter's illustrations mostly confirm, during that time I have managed to take a few photographs which make things look more pleasant than they have been.

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