Friday, June 02, 2017

America's best ambassador

I had a disquieting start to the day yesterday.  As we passed Ed Dunlop's string during first lot, Jimmy Quinn called over to let me know that John Egan had had a bad fall in the last at Kempton the previous evening. (Jimmy had ridden in the race; and I hadn't seen it as it was at 9.20 and had gone to bed by that time, so was fast asleep when the race was run).  Fortunately, John  has 'only' fractured a vertebra.  A bad injury, granted, but it could have been a lot worse.  And the fact that he hopes to be back riding for Royal Ascot (which starts 18 days from now) tells us that he has got off relatively lightly.

So thank God it's no worse than that.  Now that we know that the fall didn't lead to a catastrophic injury, we can take a step back and reflect on the light which it shows on some topics on which we have recently touched.  Notwithstanding that Gina Mangan had picked up a suspension for careless riding in the apprentices' race which opened the card, this was something that the BHA probably could have done without.  She has been prevented from riding in the Derby on the very dubious grounds, as far as I can make out, that she might make a dangerous race even more dangerous.  Does anyone actually believe that?  If Kempton's meeting was any guide, if anyone is going to make the race more dangerous it would be Oisin Murphy, who caused John's fall by a shocking case of dangerous/reckless (delete as applicable) riding.  And he's still riding in the Derby.

I can fully understand that the BHA might want to ensure that all the jockeys riding in the Derby, our highest-profile race, are ones which people might have heard of.  Presumably it had never occurred to our lawmakers that anyone would want to put up an obscure 7lb-claimer who would effectively be putting up 7lb overweight (by the virtue of not being able to claim his/her allowance).  It's the usual thing of there being many things which are legal simply because they are so improbable that nobody had thought to make them illegal.  This is one of those.

It's easy to see that the rules might be changed in the future to say that riders in the Derby have to have ridden x amount of winners.  And it's easy to see why the BHA, wanting to discourage obscure riders, have fallen back on the obscure rule that they have managed to dig up.  But, again, does anyone actually think that the race will be safer for having Paddy Pilley (a very good apprentice who has ridden very well on all the occasions that he has ridden for us) on Diore Lia than Gina Mangan?  But we have seen it time and again: if you are trying to justify the unjustifiable, throw in the words 'health', 'safety' and 'welfare' and you have created so sacred a cow that it can be used to justify anything.

Oisin's suspension (seven days) brings us back to the matter of Eugene Stamford's punishment for Lulu hitting The Happy Hammer too many times.  I'd said that Eugene was clearly farther down the list of being responsible for Lulu's conduct that the British Racing School and her boss, Michael Bell; I've subsequently remembered that one could throw in her 'jockey coach' to that list.  Which certainly doesn't make it any clearer (none of those having been punished for Lulu's offence) why he has been given a fine over twice as stiff as the one which Oisin has received for causing John's fall by his reckless/dangerous riding.

(You might wonder why I have described Eugene's punishment as being more than twice as stiff as Oisin's, rather than merely as double Oisin's, bearing in mind that I have equated Eugene's fine as being the equivalent of two weeks' income, while Oisin has been suspended for seven days.  The answer, of course, is that Oisin is retained by Qatar Racing, so a seven-days' suspension equates to a loss of less than seven days' income, because of course he is still paid his full retainer).

To move to the actual action, I really enjoyed watching Epsom on the TV today.  Highland Reel is a truly wonderful horse, and Enable seems to be a very good Oaks winner.  As she's clearly such a stout stayer, while her principal rival Rhododendron has such strong mile form and comes from a shorter-distance damline, Enable was clearly helped by the fact that Pocketfullofdreams set such a searching pace, putting a real premium on stamina.  This brings us back to Neil Kearns' sensible comments at the bottom of the previous chapter, but I'm tired and I haven't the energy to revisit the topic of a horse's tactics being planned not to maximise his/her own chance of achieving his/her best possible placing, but for the perceived benefit of a stablemate (even if they turn out actually to be to the disbenefit of the stablemate).

But, all told, the true highlight of the day was Kenny McPeek's conduct.  What a gentleman.  The Daddy's Lil Darling debacle was truly unfortunate (and gave us an insight, perhaps, in why American horses don't canter to post, as discussed in a recent chapter) and my heart went out to her connections.  It must have been an 'I wish the ground could open up and swallow me' moment for Kenny - but the composure, dignity and courtesy which he showed throughout was inspiring to behold.  From being interviewed live on ITV by Ollie Bell while the debacle was happening, to his reflective Tweet, "Letting everyone know that Daddys Lil Darling is fine. Peslier got along fine with her a week ago. I should've gotten her a pony. I'm sorry".  That's behaviour of the very highest class.  Their President is ensuring that Americans aren't getting great press at present, but Kenny McPeek has redressed the balance this afternoon.  No nation could have a finer ambassador.

2 comments:

David Winter said...

I heard from an obscure tweet late the other evening that JE had had a fall and they offered sympathy...i was really concerned after the FT scenario. I went on the Internet but could find no information wherever i looked. Thanks for the update and lets hope John makes Ascot...but with vertebrae it is better to be very cautious.
After all the fuss about Mangan it was slightly anti-climatic that the horse was withdrawn for lameness at the eleventh hour [ well, sort of ].
I usually have the same general thrust of opionion as Mr J.Berry but on this occasion i rather differ.
I hate the signature of "Health and safety" as much as others but i was concerned for the girls well being. I understand John's stance regarding her being a professional , having been tested and licensed but there are, in my humble opinion, different levels.
I am probably taking this analogy too far i guess, but it is to make the point.
If a teenager were to past the driving test, they are requested for a period to display green P plates and a sensible parent would also [ i understand that a determined youngster has their own ideas.] try to restrict motorway driving for a while. Would you then after even a year or two allow them to enter a Formula 3 race, let alone a F1? On a tight and demanding Monaco track ?.
Whether the horse was lame or not i think it has all turned out for the better.
I

David Winter said...

I heard from an obscure tweet late the other evening that JE had had a fall and they offered sympathy...i was really concerned after the FT scenario. I went on the Internet but could find no information wherever i looked. Thanks for the update and lets hope John makes Ascot...but with vertebrae it is better to be very cautious.
After all the fuss about Mangan it was slightly anti-climatic that the horse was withdrawn for lameness at the eleventh hour [ well, sort of ].
I usually have the same general thrust of opionion as Mr J.Berry but on this occasion i rather differ.
I hate the signature of "Health and safety" as much as others but i was concerned for the girls well being. I understand John's stance regarding her being a professional , having been tested and licensed but there are, in my humble opinion, different levels.
I am probably taking this analogy too far i guess, but it is to make the point.
If a teenager were to past the driving test, they are requested for a period to display green P plates and a sensible parent would also [ i understand that a determined youngster has their own ideas.] try to restrict motorway driving for a while. Would you then after even a year or two allow them to enter a Formula 3 race, let alone a F1? On a tight and demanding Monaco track ?.
Whether the horse was lame or not i think it has all turned out for the better.
I