Saturday, July 22, 2017

When they said, "Repent, repent", I wondered what they meant

The racing landscape has tragically been dominated this week by the terrible fatal accident which claimed the life of senior stalls handler Stephen Yarborough at Haydock yesterday afternoon.  Just an awful thing.  We know that stalls work is very dangerous, but one doesn't generally think that moving the stalls around is one of the dangerous parts.  But that's the thing with freak accidents: they come at you out of nowhere in a split-second, and they just happen.  Just so very, very sad.  Deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Aside from that, I was rather taken aback to find myself quoted in Matt Chapman's column in the Sun today, but it's a valid point which is worth looking at.  It's about the on-going charges against John Wainwright, Adam Carter and others about a supposed non-trier at Southwell a while back.  I hadn't been following this because I don't like trying to study these cases; it's so confusing because you never know who is lying and who isn't, so trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff is frustrating and irritating.  Thankfully deciding innocence or guilt is not my job, so it's more satisfactory not even to think about these cases, never mind read about them.

However, it was brought to my attention that one of the planks in the BHA's barrister's case against John Wainwright is that one can infer that connections were not trying to win because they booked an 'out of sorts jockey'.  What the hell?  What's that meant to mean?  What is an 'out of sorts' jockey?  It seems as if Adam Carter had had an argument with his girlfriend.  But, really, what's that got to do with anyone?  Most times when I book a jockey, I have no idea about or interest in whether he or she is married, single, divorced, in a relationship, getting on well with his or her wife/husband or partner, getting on badly with him/her etc.  It's completely irrelevant.  Basically, if a jockey or an apprentice has been given a license, and is not suspended or signed off, then you assume that he's physically and mentally able to ride. You've got to be able to make that assumption.

One has more than enough to do without trying to second-guess whether a jockey is happy in his or her home-life - and, if not, whether this is going to affect his/her riding - and, if it does, whether it is likely to affect it positively or adversely.  So this 'out of sorts' thing - I can only think that we're getting back to the old chestnut of whether the  jockey is fashionable or unfashionable.  In other words, the BHA is saying, "Book a jockey who gets plenty of rides and we know you're trying; book a battler who is struggling and isn't getting many rides, and we'll view you with suspicion and work on the assumption that you might not want the horse to win."  This just appalling.  We've covered this previously several times, but the battlers, the jockeys who have fallen out of fashion, have more than enough going against them without the BHA's barrister telling us that using them makes you a crook.

The gist of what Matt quotes me as saying is that the unfashionable trainers and jockeys are up against it everywhere you turn because all too many people make unfounded assumptions, both positive and negative, about trainers and jockeys based on the quantity and quality of patronage which they receive; and that as an underdog I generally like to favour unfashionable jockeys when I can as they need the help most.  By and large most jockeys are good enough if given the chance, but there are already enough factors militating against the unfashionable ones being given the opportunities which they need to turn the tide of fashion in their favour.

I know that on occasions like when Sussex Girl had her third run (at Goodwood) and Simon Pearce rode her and I'd done my best to pick a race she could run well in (which she did, running a cracker to finish a close fourth) and to book a jockey who would ride her very well (which he did) there are always going to be wise guys who nod their heads and say, "Third run, obscure jockey.  Yes, we know the score: they won't be very busy this time, so not today, thank you".   But to find that the BHA's barrister not only shares the Betfair Forum cynics' view that if you book an unfashionable jockey you're probably not trying, but is happy to be quoted as such - well, that's very, very bad.

For the record, I have no opinion on the current case.  I'm not interested in it.  I know John Wainwright, but don't know him well.  I wouldn't know Adam Carter from a bar of soap.  Most of the other people involved I had never even heard of, never mind met.  I haven't watched the race, and am likely never to do so.  But what I do know is that if the best the BHA's barrister can do is to construct an argument based on the fallacy that they booked an 'out of sorts' jockey therefore they didn't want to win, then the prosecution deserves to be laughed out of court.  As soon as he made that assertion on the BHA's behalf, the BHA's overseer should have intervened to drop the case, issued an apology to every struggling jockey in the country and every owner or trainer who has ever had the decency to give a ride to a rider who is struggling and who needs a boost, and said, "We cannot be associated with such an opinion, or represented by someone who holds it".

On a similar note, when looking into this I did see something about Adam Carter having given different versions of his side of the story because, seemingly, he had been advised that he should say x, y and z because he might be treated more leniently for having given such and such a story.  If this is true, then this is a disgrace.  Anyone who gives any direction to someone about to give evidence in any case should go no further than saying, "Tell the truth".  To go beyond that, and to start coaching people down one avenue because it might get them off the hook, is to veer dangerously close to trying to pervert the course of justice, which is a very serious crime.

1 comment:

David Winter said...

Well actually John, i take the opposing view.
I think that a trainer should be prepared to visit the appointed jockey two days beforehand.Preferably in a melancholy atmosphere, buy his supper and talk through any potential issues he may have with work life/ relationships and as to whether he was beaten by his parents or whether he feels the need to " come out" as a homosexual and needs your help in counselling . It is only right and proper in these enlightened times that due care be given to an employee. After all it would only take a few hours. In the same way a trainer should visit his charge the morning of the race and discuss how he/she feels about running, and if not fancying the rain or the potential "going" be allowed to desist from venturing forth. It is only through this thorough and committed preparation that we will stop jockeys giving poor rides and horses under performing. The public and the authorities demand and indeed have the right,to expect a higher level of dedication by the training fraternity than is currently offered. Appalling !

PS. Just looked at the date. 1st April.