Saturday, July 02, 2016

Positive discrimination

I'm proud as anything on behalf of my broodmare Minnie's Mystery who has achieved the remarkable feat of breeding three winners in a week.  Irrespective of the level of success, this is a mighty achievement, and particularly as the winners are aged eight (Grey Panel at Les Landes in Jersey last night; and pictured in the second paragraph as a yearling at Haras de la Cauviniere in 2009), seven (Dream Walker at Leicester this afternoon, Saturday; and pictured here alongside his mum as a foal in 2009) and six (Roy at Brighton on Tuesday) which suggests that she is adept at putting the toughness and durability which she displayed in her racing days into her progeny.  She really can hold her head high, and I am happy to bask in the reflection of her glory.

Dream Walker's victory was thus the highlight of this afternoon's racing for me, even if the Eclipse was ostensibly the feature race.  That race rolled back the years in providing a duel between the Godolphin royal blue and the Coolmore dark blue, particularly as the royal blue emerged victorious.  That was nice to see, particularly as the earlier stages of what seemed on first viewing to be an unnecessarily rough race had not made pleasant viewing.  And it was a good boost for William Buick to be able to ride a big winner before signing off for his 30-day absence, thus helping him to end a thoroughly unsatisfactory episode on a happy note.  The whole business of the aftermath of the Prix de Diane could not have been handled worse (other than by the French stewards, who have behaved with admirable level-headedness) so it's good that William can start his break in more creditable circumstances.

Another jockeys' issue which has been in the news recently has been the Shergar Cup.  It has raised a few eyebrows that Ascot seem to feel that there are currently so few competent female jockeys in the world that they have had to bring one out of retirement to make up the numbers for the Female Team, especially as Josephine Gordon has been riding extremely well all year and would, I am sure, have been only too happy to answer the call.  However, I am not (you might be surprised to learn) one of those who feel that Josie ought to have been summoned.

Basically, it makes a mockery of a jockeys' challenge if one allows apprentices to claim an allowance in the races.  There is no reason not to have apprentices in the competition if they are good enough to deserve a place (which Josie is) but the riders have to be competing off level terms if the competition is to have any meaning at all.  It has not been written into the conditions of the races that riders' allowances cannot be claimed, so there should not be claiming apprentices (or claiming jockeys, as nowadays exist) in the competition.  It made a nonsense of the concept of the jockeys' competition to allow Sammy Jo Bell to claim her allowance last year, and it would be equally absurd to have any rider, Josie or anyone else, claiming 3lb in it this year.  For the same reason, the most notably successful female rider in the world at present, Kei Chiong, would also not have been a suitable candidate.

A greater mystery is why, when Ascot have seemingly found it so hard to fill the three places in the Female team, they did not turn to Lisa Allpress, who appears to be champion-elect in New Zealand with four weeks of the season remaining.  Currently she leads the table with 157 winners, 12 ahead of Matthew Cameron and 69 clear of third-placed Danielle Johnson (who herself would clearly be a deserving candidate for a place in the Female team).  I suppose the reason why Lisa Allpress has not been called up is that her presence would highlight the anomaly of the existence of a Female team: she would be a legitimate contender for a place on the Rest of the World team, being so successful that she ought not to require the benefit of the positive discrimination which a Female team implies.

Josie does not need any positive discrimination either, so all in all we won't lose any sleep about the fact that she seems almost certain not be riding at Ascot on Shergar Cup Day.  Let's hope, instead, that she is riding there on Friday, when Indira, for whom she is automatic first choice of rider, is an intended runner.  Anyway, we have probably heard too much about this piece of Shergar Cup positive discrimination, which is particularly odd as we have heard very little about another option for positive discrimination for the event, ie the suggestion which Saleem Golam (pictured here on So Much Water at Windsor in May) has posted on Facebook (23rd June) that there be a Shergar Cup team consisting of him, Royston Ffrench and Sean Levey (with Ahmed Ajtebi as first reserve, if he's still alive).  This team, he contends, should called 'The Dark Side'.  Interesting idea.  And, if we have a female team, why not this team too?  You know it makes sense.

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