Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Fora

I seem to be on ATR's rota for the Sunday Forum to do the show once a month or so at present, which is great from my point of view (if not the viewers') as I enjoy doing it.  I had initially been pencilled in for today, but I'd been thinking that I'd be going to Pontefract today (which trip didn't happen) so ended up doing it last weekend instead.  So, being at home rather than on the way to Pontefract, I watched it this morning at home, and really enjoyed it.  I particularly enjoyed Kevin Blake's sensible summing up both of the hypocrisy of our stance on other countries' drugs use and of the way in which our interference rules encourage jockeys to ride dangerously.

I touched on this hypocrisy on this blog in the week when I discussed the strange situation which sees Britons in general critical of the American tolerance of racing horses on bute while saying how harsh it is to disqualify a horse who tests positive to cortisone, which is not dissimilar in its effects other than that it continues to act for quite some time after it ceases to be detectable in the bloodstream.  Kevin was, as ever, very sensible, and the only thing which annoyed me was his repeating the myth that trainers in Newmarket hit their owners with monthly vets' bills which might exceed the monthly training bill.

This is a colossal distortion of the truth which is harsh, giving a bad name to us all because of the practices of a few.  I am told (by David Redvers among others) that there are some trainers in town who hit their owners with massive vets' bills monthly, but this certainly isn't the case here.  As it is compulsory for horses to have an influenza vaccination once a year (and wise to vaccinate for tetanus at the same time) no horse can have a zero-pound vets' bill for the the year.  But I'd estimate that at least 50% of the horses whom I train have the annual 'flu and tetanus vaccination as their only veterinary treatment during the year (I do the quarterly worming myself, so that doesn't count as veterinary treatment) so, as the vaccination costs roughly £35, this just isn't true, in this stable and, I presume, many others.

I've already remarked on a similar distortion of the truth which was put about by Any Currency's owner who said something to the effect that for all trainers the use of cortisone injections is standard practice, so there's no need to go over that ground again.  But, while we're on the subject of misleading pronouncements, another piece of misinformation which annoyed me recently was a letter in the Racing Post, suggesting that Windsor ought to reimburse owners for the costs of taking horses to Windsor for a meeting which was abandoned after a couple of races, which said that the bill from a Newmarket trainer for running a horse at Windsor (just under 90 miles from here) would be £500.  That's just not true.  Halve that figure and you'd probably only be overstating it by a small amount.

Kevin's other point was on the subject of Britain's policy of allowing horses to keep the race more or less irrespective of how much interference they cause, and how many other horses' chances of winning the race they nullify, if they are probably the best horse in the race.  Again, I'm very much with Kevin on this one, and it really annoys me (as regular readers of this blog will probably have worked out) that not changing the result is deemed to be much more important than either the safety of the horses and jockeys in the race, or fairness, or the interests of the connections and backers of the horses who are interfered with.  Kevin contrasted this with the (better) situation overseas - and we have had a perfect illustration today of that disparity with the apparent dismay of William Buick, who has become accustomed to the British rules, at being given a 15-day suspension for causing a fall at Chantilly today.

What has made William's dismay particularly unfortunate - over and above the confirmation which it implies that British jockeys have become accustomed to viewing causing a fall as something for which they shouldn't be punished and which, presumably, doesn't really matter - is that it has seemingly led to him being hit with a further 15-day suspension for being "offensive" to the stewards.  This isn't good: it's a given of sport that you don't answer back to the umpires, but that you accept their verdict with dignity.  If you want to appeal subsequently, then that's that.  But it's a problem for all sports nowadays that accepting the umpire's verdict is no longer automatic; and it's sad if, as William's secondary ban today implies, this malaise has now worked its way through to racing as well.  And I feel - and I'm sure that Kevin Blake feels - that the laxity of the current rules in Britain is largely responsible for this seeming belief that riding without consideration for the safety your fellow competitors shouldn't be a punishable offence.  Start owning or training (or even just caring for or about) horses (or jockeys) and you might take a different view.

We have Roy (declared for Brighton on Tuesday) and Indira (entered for Windsor and Brighton on Saturday) pictured together on the Heath this morning, putting their heads together to make plans for the week ahead.  Then we have them in the field later on.  Then we have Roy in the field, showing why, after rolling in the water-hole, he's unlikely to win 'Best Turned Out' on Tuesday.  And then we have Magic Ice putting Roy's attempts to make himself dirty to shame, showing just how dirty a horse really can get if she puts her mind to it.  (And showing that, although today's conditions might look fairly pleasant, we really did have the mother and father of a monsoon on Thursday evening).


neil kearns said...

the one I don't understand on the drug or not to drug debate is what on earth is wrong with nasal strips , since most trainers see nothing against tongue ties which as I understand it fulfil the same function as a nasal strip - could you please tell me why they are banned ?
and on a similar theme why are ear plugs allowed ?

Brian Jones said...

John, why do you leave head collars on under the bridle at exercise?

John Berry said...

No idea why nasal strips are prohibited while tongue straps aren't, Neil. I suspect that nobody in the BHA would be able to provide us with a logical answer.

Two reasons, Brian: safety and convenience. Our horses go out in the field every day and are just led around on the headcollar, so it's easier just to leave the headcollars on them all the time (and more satisfactory for the horse as it means that he or she has a headcollar that fits comfortably, rather than if every time they were led out one had to grab a headcollar, and half the time it would be one that didn't fit properly). More importantly as a basic safety measure on the Heath. As our horses have much more freedom than most, they tend to be less wild at exercise, but even we have the occasional loose horse on the Heath. Once in a while a loose horse will tread on his reins and break his bridle. If he has a headcollar on as well, then he'll always have something on him by which a bystander could catch him; whereas if his bridle breaks and he has no headcollar on underneath, nobody could catch him (unless happening to have a spare bridle or headcollar in his pocket). Once a decade or so this might save a loose horse's life. A more pertinent question might be why other strings don't go out with a headcollar on under the bridle, as to me it's basic common sense.

Brian Jones said...

Thanks for the reply John, very interesting.