Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

I haven't yet seen today's Racing Post, but I've seen a snapshot of the front page, and I see that John Gosden is reported as having said something along the lines of the concentration on short-distance influences in the pedigrees of nearly all the thoroughbreds being bred today being detrimental to the production of high-class stayers, which has always been the strongest point of British breeding and British racing; and that he hails Coolmore for being a stalwart in this respect.  (At least I am assuming that that is the gist of the article, having read the headline, 'Gosden: breeding for speed will be the ruin of racing', and the sub-headline, 'Leading trainer says follow Coolmore example or Leger and Cup races will be at serious risk'.)  (Although, of course, it is not unknown for a headline to totally misrepresentative of the contents of an article - but I doubt that that is the case here.)

Anyway, the sentiment behind this warning is one with which we should all concur.  I love long-distance racing, and I despair of most of the trends in the modern bloodstock world, so I'm very much in John's camp on this one.  And I think that it is particularly good of him to have highlighted Coolmore's lead in this respect, as for him what one might describe as the party line might have been to act as if Coolmore doesn't exist.  So that's all good, and his warnings should be taken seriously,  I do, though, think that one might lighten the gloom by observing that 'twas ever thus, and that the world has not yet stopped turning even so.

I am going to observe that this lament is not a new one, and to illustrate the point I am going to quote a bloodstock authority who a few years back, shortly after two French horses had finished first and second in a big staying race, made some very gloomy prognostications about the bleakness of the future of the British (staying) racehorse.  "And so in one of our chief Cup races, and over the severest course in England, we have to stand by and see French-bred horses first and second.  No one grudges the honour to our neighbours, who deserve all they have gained, but we trust the lesson it inculcates may not be thrown away upon our breeders.  Fields are small, Cup races are unfashionable, and today our Derby favourites and our Cup winners are beaten by the foreigner."

Sobering, isn't it?  The damage that will undoubtedly follow if our breeders concentrate on short-distance elements in their pedigrees.  Anyway, what I would like you do to is to guess in which year that was written.  When you have done so, hold the date in your head, please.  In the next chapter I will (assuming I remember to do so) supply the correct answer.  What I will also do - bearing in mind that, since the re-vamping of Ascot 11 years ago and during the general flourishing in the 21st century of John Major's classless society, one is sometimes tempted to observe that Royal Ascot has lost some of its elegance and exclusivity - is ask you to guess when the next passage was written and to hold that date in your mind.  I will also, if I remember, divulge the answer next time.

"How greatly Ascot has changed within the last fifteen years, what distinctive characteristics it has lost, and how it has been absorbed into the common run of great racemeetings, few among us now pause to remember.  It certainly enjoys in a peculiar manner royal patronage, and our aristocracy flock to it pretty much as they did a quarter of a century ago; but it has long lost all claims to exclusiveness, and with them have gone much that no doubt rendered Ascot the pleasantest of racemeetings.

"It is a huge metropolitan gathering, becoming each year more Epsom-like in character, retaining, indeed, some of the old prestige in the scarlet liveries of the royal party and the select circle in and around the Royal Enclosure, but in all other aspects an Ascot of the people, imposing in its numbers, and with a certain magnificence pertaining to it which no other country can show."  And I'll give you a clue: this was written prior to the re-opening of Ascot in 2006.

Oh, by the way, I hope that I have voted with my feet today in John Gosden's matter of doing one's bit to support stamina-laden pedigrees.  Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and today I have been sufficiently optimistic to buy a three-year-old filly (called Kilim, seen here making the acquaintance of some of her new friends this afternoon) who has raced seven times without ever finishing in the first three.  That's hardly encouraging - but her dam is a full-sister to a St Leger winner (Milan) so that's good enough for me.  Let's hope that she can eventually do something as a racehorse, notwithstanding her lack of achievement hitherto; and let's hope that she can subsequently, as a broodmare, do her bit to help to bolster Britain's seemingly dwindling reputation as the home of the high-class stayer, under either my auspices or those of another breeder.  Hope does indeed spring eternal.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

dont often disagree with you John but as someone who follows the Irish jumps scene quite closely I have always noted that there are less fallers in the many large field maiden/novice hurdlers compared to British jumps racing . Now I am fairly sure this is correct or maybe it is merely me not watching closely enough but I have certainly not seen any difference between real/artificial hurdles - for want of a beter description -in terms of the number of fallers

so have I got my facts wrong and your assertion the new style hurdles are more dangerous as I always put this apparent better jumping down to more horses graduating from point to points into jumping and less doing it as an afterthought following a flat career . your articles make me wonder if I have got this totally wrong ?