Monday, May 29, 2017

Freedom and fashion

It was a pleasure to read your comments at the bottom of the last chapter, Glenn.  Thank you.  Yes, Simon Pearce is a top horseman and excellent race-rider who, like so many of us, suffers from being in the ludicrous dead-end loop by which people assume that if you only ride (or train) ordinary horses (irrespective of how well you ride or train them), you are only capable of riding (or training) ordinary horses.  It's a vicious circle out of which is hard to escape.  If Simon got on a good horse, he would win big races and become 'fashionable' - but, unless he is very very lucky, he's not going to get on one because he isn't already 'fashionable'.  A classic 'Catch 22'.  There are plenty of both jockeys and trainers in the same boat (including, in my humble opinion, yours truly!) but few more obviously so than Simon.  It was a pleasure to have the chance to use him on Saturday - and it was also a pleasure to have the horse, as I had expected would be the case, ridden so well.

Simon riding Parek (Sussex Girl) so nicely was merely part of a lovely trip to Goodwood on Saturday.  It's always lovely to take a horse to one of the most special (arguably the most special) racecourses in the world, especially on a lovely summer's day.  We had a bad journey down there as the M11 was closed, but Parek coped with the delay well and didn't get agitated and sweaty while we were stationary, which many horses would have done.  She did everything right throughout the day other than being slow to enter the stalls, but that wasn't the end of the world.  And she ran well, giving us plenty to look forward to when she begins her handicap career, possibly at Brighton on 12th June, 14 days from now.

Let's hope that our trip to Windsor  today will be similarly pleasing.  It will be great to have Indira, our stable star (whose ears are visible in the fifth photograph, taken yesterday morning) who enjoyed a great campaign last season, back racing, 325 days after her last run (when she finished an excellent fourth at Ascot last July).  She showed signs of a very slight tendon strain after that race, but the damage was minimal and, when the tendon was re-scanned six months later, it was possible to justify her having another year in training at the age of six rather than being sent off to stud in advance of the new breeding season.  So far her tendons have given me no further concern, so let's hope that things remain that way.  She has done plenty of work, is going nicely and should run well - even if, obviously, resuming in a handicap off a rating of 92 (ie 9lb higher than she has ever won off previously) isn't going to be easy.  Furthermore, a third of an inch of rain overnight is unlikely to have helped our cause.

Looking outwards rather than inwards, the big topic seems to be the possible participation of Diore Lia in the Derby.  I can't get too worried about this, even though John McCririck got very agitated on the subject on the Sunday Forum yesterday.  It was rather funny because he expressed very laissez-faire, liberal views elsewhere in the programme on the subject of a possible tightening-up of regulations on fruit machines in betting shops, maintaining that he does not like telling people how to run their lives but prefers to give individuals freedom to make their own choices.  But apparently he, like many others, does not believe that that should always apply to letting people chose to run horses in races for which the horse is eligible and for which the field is smaller than the safety factor.

I won't be 'Angry from Newmarket' if this filly runs in the Derby.  If the field were to exceed the safety factor, then obviously she would be the first one out.  But if the field is smaller than the maximum, I can't see the problem.  It frequently happens that one sees people running a no-hoper in a Group One race and one thinks that the horse really is very badly placed in such company and that the outing is more likely to do the horse harm than good, but really the only losers are the horse's connections.  Nobody else.  If they are happy to pay the entry fee and watch their horse finish tailed off  in an unsuitable race, then that's their choice.  Smoulder in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches was a classic recent example, but (quite rightly) nobody minded about that.  Nor should anyone mind about this.

But that's racing, isn't it, as discussed earlier in this paragraph?  If Diore Lia was owned and trained by fashionable connections, nobody would bat an eyelid, but because she's owned by somebody obscure and trained in an unfashionable stable, the world and his wife are down on them like a ton of bricks.  The further disappointment is that I've seen Gina Mangan also included in the barrage of complaints.  I don't know her, but I know John Jenkins, and he's a proper old-school horseman, a hard taskmaster who doesn't suffer fools.  If he's putting her up in races - whether the Derby or a Class Six contest - then she deserves respect; and if she is the one entrusted with taking this filly around Epsom (when there are dozens of jockeys and apprentices who could have been given the job and would rightly have been pleased to receive it) then she should be both respected and allowed to enjoy the honour which it is.

So that's it for the Derby from this quarter, my interest in the race having waned dramatically since (a) it was announced that Churchill wouldn't be running and (b) I discovered that Franny Norton won't be riding Permian, on whom he won the Dante Stakes 11 days ago.  I was getting huge pleasure from the thought of Franny, a terrific jockey, getting a first realistic chance of winning a Group One race at the age of 46 or whatever he is.  It just never occurred to me that anyone, having just owned the Dante winner ridden by a jockey who has ridden many winners for him, would decide not to use that jockey in the Derby, but would instead opt for a more fashionable (that word again!) jockey who happened to be free simply because the man who retains him was running three horses in the race but didn't need him for any of them.  But (as I observed in the previous chapter) it would be a dull world if we all thought the same way; and (as I've already observed in this one) everyone is entitled to make their own choices, not just fruit-machine addicts.  Even Diore Lia's connections!


neil kearns said...

couldn't agree more with your comments about Gina Mangan being the right jockey if connections deem it so , find it farcical the BHA even bother to consider whether she should be allowed to ride - having over the years seen so many of the alleged greats fail to navigate Epsom and lose any chance their horses have had - none of those was then given a red card from riding there again so why not a new face to take on the challenge - apart from anything else the publicity being generated by the owner for Great Ormond Street Hospital far outweighs the negatives being put forward by so called racing professionals about the "dumbing down of the race" .

I have to be honest I feel more decent handicappers should be put into group ones as I am not convinced that the elite runners are actually that race hardened particularly in the classics and that others would not actually shape better than the alleged superstars if given the chance

neil kearns said...

you have to be pleased with that run great effort by all particularly indira