Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hope Is High has been eliminated again, but she hasn't quit

No runners this week, with our only entrant Hope Is High having been eliminated from her intended race at Yarmouth tomorrow.  There is a safety factor of 14 for her race and there were 20 horses declared for it.  She was number 19, so she didn't even come close.  One doesn't generally expect not to get in at Yarmouth at this time of year as it isn't a place which usually has big fields during the height of summer; and our race had especially restrictive conditions (45-55, three-year-olds only).  However, that's what poor weather in the summer (which is, relatively speaking, what we have, despite the impression given by these pictures which were taken eight days ago) does for us: it produces good ground, and thus produces big fields.

Ah well, we'll make another attempt to run her next week, when she'll have entries at both Bath and Yarmouth.  Again, we'll be aiming at courses which generally produce firm(ish) ground and thus small fields in the summer so we can be optimistic, but if the up-and-down weather persists, so will the good ground, and we might be struggling again.  Then again, there is talk of a heatwave of sorts arriving towards the end of this week, so one never knows.  I think that she'll be our only entrant again next week, so it'll be another quiet week if she continues to fall victim to the eliminator's axe.

My several outings last week wore me out as well as causing me to overlook much of what was going on in the wider world (well, the wider racing world, that it - no one could have failed to notice the bigger picture as politics continue, for once, to be interesting).  I did notice, though, the Racing Post's front page the day after Kieren Fallon announced his retirement.  I rather wish, however, that I had missed it, because its headline was disappointing: 'FALLON QUITS'.

There probably isn't a correct meaning of the word 'quit' because it's slang, but it's generally taken to mean giving up prematurely.  David Cameron has quit his post as Prime Minister, and Andrea Leadsom has quit the Tory leadership race.  What it doesn't mean is seeing something out right to the end.  There is no set retirement age for a jockey so one can't be dogmatic about what the end is, but a jockey retiring at the age of 51 is not calling it a day prematurely.  I am not sure about Ireland, but I believe that there is no jockey riding in Britain at present as old as 50.  I can't think of one of that age currently in Ireland either, so I'd guess that Kieren was until last week the oldest jockey riding in the British Isles.

Under the circumstances, it is ludicrous to say that Kieren had quit.  He didn't quit; he retired.  He would have come to the decision with a heavy heart as he is going to be like a ship without a rudder now that he is without the anchor of his calling.  But none of  us is immune to the ageing process.  He had just had a fall on the gallops, and he felt that he had to face up to the fact that he was struggling to cope with the rigours of the job, physically and mentally.  To say that he had quit was an unnecessary and justifiable insult, one which it is hard to see would be aimed at a retiring journalist: for instance, when, say, the likes of Graham Dench and Bruce Jackson eventually retire from the Racing Post, I am sure that we will be told that they have retired, not that they have quit.

Furthermore, this headline was particularly disappointing from a newspaper which professes to be sympathetic to the woes of the sport's workforce.   Kieren has swallowed his pride enough to come out and admit that he has been suffering from depression and needs professional help to enable him to overcome the problem, so under the circumstances - over and above the general insult - it was particularly disappointing to see him waved away so unsympathetically.  I think of him as a great jockey who kept at it into his 50s even when he was clearly swimming against the tide.  I don't think of him as a quitter.

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