Sunday, February 12, 2017

It always happens to all the ones

It's been a grim few days culminating in a snowfall last night on a miserably cold and damp weekend, but the forecast suggests that things are going to pick up from tomorrow onwards.  Which is very good news.  We could do with a boost, and we certainly didn't get one at Lingfield on Thursday when Kilim was trapped out wide from her wide draw and duly did what one would expect a keen horse to do when unable to be covered up behind another horse: she pulled far too hard and consequently weakened badly at the end of the race, finishing tailed off.  Nobody's fault (bar mine) and far from the end of the world - but at the same time not a recipe for a happy day.  At least we had a good journey in each direction, which is always a bonus.

Today's trip was more enjoyable as I had my first Sunday Forum booking of the year, being on a Matt Chapman-chaired panel along with Alastair Down and Simon Holt.  I only hope that it was as enjoyable for the audience (or nearly as enjoyable for the audience, which might be a more realistic target) as for the panel.  I was relieved that we didn't have time to wring our hands over Rich Ricci's woes in being misfortunate (I do know that that is not a word, by the way) enough to "lose" four of his many very good horses, ie Vautour, Annie Power, Faugheen and Min.  That, of course, is nonsense: he has only lost one of them (Vautour) while the other three have merely sustained season-ending, rather than career-ending, injuries.  (Although, of course, it is possible that Annie Power might be retired to stud, which would be understandable; and conceivable that Faugheen might end up not racing again).

But, really, it would be an over-reaction to do anything other than note that one very good horse was killed as a result of a freak accident a few months ago and that three horses (two of whom were likely not to run this season anyway, having started the season on the sidelines) are on the sidelines.  Basically, one would only be stunned by the news if one didn't appreciate how very fragile racehorses are.  It is a fact of racing life that disappointments are always going massively to outnumber the pieces of good news, irrespective of the level of the game at which one is playing.  When you are racing as many horses as Rich Ricci owns, or as many as Willie Mullins trains, you are going to have setbacks seemingly all the time.  And when you have as many good horses as they have, you are inevitably going to find that quite a few good horses sustain injuries.

One of racing's myths is that 'it always happens to the good ones'.  Well, it does usually happen to the good ones, but that is only a misleading part of the truth.  With humans, professional athletes who go through their career without injury are few and far between.  With horses, they are even fewer.  A horse weighs maybe eight times more than a human and runs maybe twice as fast, so the force (mass times velocity) on his legs is 16 times as much - and those legs are only the same diameter as a human's legs.   The pressure on his system is far greater than that put on a human's system: his pulse-rate can be in the 30s at rest, and over 250 when he's under maximum pressure.

How few professional soccer players go through the season without spending part of it on the injured list?  Not very many.  How many racehorses do?  Even fewer.  'It', ie injury, pretty much does always happen to the good ones.  But it also pretty much always happens to the indifferent ones too.  Only nobody hears about them.  A vet put it very well to me.  The thoroughbred is the Formula One car of the horse world.  The Formula One car is perfectly made for getting round the track as fast as any car possibly can go - but set off to drive it from Land's End to John O'Groats, and you'll be pulled over on the side of the road, calling the AA, by the time that you get to Torquay.  So I was glad that we didn't have time to bemoan his supposed misfortune.  (Although were the mighty Douvan, who seems to be a remarkably sound horse, to be sidelined, that might be a different matter!).

On another matter, thank you again for the feedback, Neil.  Yes, you pay the entry fee for entering the horse, whether or not you end up running.  It's not a running fee: it's an entry fee.  The only exception is that the entry fee is not charged if the horse is eliminated, which is fair enough: if you enter a horse and then are told that you aren't allowed to run him in the race (other than if you have entered a horse who isn't qualified or eligible for the race, of course) it would be totally wrong still to be charged the entry fee.  In some early-closing races which have several forfeit stages, only the later fees are refunded if one's horse is eliminated, but that's another matter.

But, by and large, yes: for normal races, you pay the entry fee whether or not you run, unless you are eliminated (which can only happen if you have declared).  (Which is why, if one has entered and then decided not to run, it's always worth keeping an eye on whether you would actually get in the race, because it's then worthwhile to declare if you're going to be eliminated, so that you aren't charged the entry fee - although, of course, you don't want to be caught out by declaring a horse whom you don't want to run on the assumption that he's going to be eliminated, and then find that he gets in after all.)

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