Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sick, slow or badly ridden? Take your pick!

We were a beaten favourite at Newcastle on Friday night when Hope Is High ran.  But she ran creditably even so, finishing third, so that's not the end of the world.  And it's particularly not the end of the world as it was on the AW, where I am generally even more prepared for defeat than I am on the turf.  Which is saying something as I never count my chickens even at the best of times.  As always, Josie gave her every chance, and I was more disappointed on her behalf that she didn't have a winner than I was on our behalf that we didn't have one - so was particularly pleased that her later ride, for Hugo Palmer, won, meaning that she is back in the lead in the apprentices' title.  Let's hope that she can remain there for another three weeks.  I hope that we might be able to do a bit more to help her in the final week of the season as I have pencilled two horses in for Yarmouth on 10th October, but there's plenty of water to flow under the bridge before we get there.

The main jockey news, though, hasn't, of course, been the apprentices' title, but James Doyle's future.  He will presumably remain under contract to Godolphin for the remainder of that contract's term (up to the end of this year, perhaps?) but clearly is no longer one of their principal riders.  It was odd to see Danny Tudhope riding Saeed's horse in the Middle Park yesterday while James was sitting in the weighing room, particularly as James had won the Royal Lodge in the Godolphin silks - on a horse trained by Hugo Palmer, a trainer for whom he hardly ever rides - earlier in the afternoon.  Whatever happens, though, James will be OK: not only is he a top-class jockey, but he is also widely recognised as such (the one does not necessarily follow the other) so he won't struggle for good rides.

It was, though, very appropriate that James should lose his job this week as principal rider for Saeed bin Suroor's team as I'd been thinking about related issues only the other day, when expounding in my blog my belief that 'the virus' has been vastly overstated and is much less of a factor behind poor performance / under-performance / non-performance than either unsoundness or lack of ability, even if 'the virus' can be put forward as a convenient and seemingly blameless excuse.  Anyway, what had particularly tickled my fancy had been an article in which Saeed bin Suroor had bemoaned the woes of presiding over a supposedly virus-hit stable ("Most have been coughing") but also threw in the observation that "the three-year-olds are very slow.  They're healthy, they're sound ...".

This article, which appeared under the headline "Infection and 'very slow horses' blighting Bin Suroor's season" struck me as rather bizarre, so I have rather enjoyed the post-script of the stable's jockey being replaced.  We all have barren spells (as I know only too well, having had umpteen of them over the years, most recently last winter when we went something like seven months between winners) and it's often hard to work out just why the pieces of the jigsaw aren't fitting smoothly into place.  But this article made it very hard to establish whether ill health was or wasn't at the bottom of the problem.  And now, of course, we have a further complicating factor: the horses have apparently had the wrong jockey up.  If Josephine were to turn out to be his replacement (and you could get 10,000/1 with me about his replacement not being male) then at least that excuse couldn't justifiably apply.  (Any more than it can justifiably apply now.)

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