Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Remember that your right boot goes on your right foot

Our strike rate has diminished further.  Roy's mid-division run at Salisbury seven days ago dragged it down to seven winners from our past 15 runners.  After yesterday's trip to Brighton it has declined further to seven winners from our last 17 runners - but, boy, I was ever so proud of the two fillies who ran yesterday.  The ground (good to soft) was softer than I believe to be ideal for both of them, but they both did their very best.  Parek (Sussex Girl) finished a gutsy third of 12, her first time in the first three and at last starting to build on the promise she's been showing at home; and Kilim finished second of 13, beaten a short head.

That, therefore, was excellent.  As was the fact that each was ridden perfectly by Nicola.  When you finish second by a short head, it's inevitable that you run things through in your mind, trying to work out if you could have won if things had been done differently.  But I can't see that we could have done so.  She was ridden perfectly and just failed; ridden any differently, she'd have been beaten farther.  A quick glance at the weights makes it baffling that she was able to do as well as she did.  She had finished second to yesterday's winner Esspeegee over course and distance on her previous run on 18th September, beaten half a length with Esspeegee giving Kilim 2lb; yesterday it was the same straight forecast, only Kilim beaten less far, with Esspeegee receiving 9lb this time.  She was 11lb worse off with the horse who had beaten her, and she failed by only a short head.  Ten out of ten to Kilim.  Ten out of ten to Nicola.

If you are wondering, by the way, how on earth that turn-around in the weights can have happened, it was because of the claims.  On the previous occasion, in a normal race, Nicola claimed 7lb while Esspeegee was ridden by Jimmy Quinn who obviously claimed nothing.  Yesterday, in a hands-and-heels apprentices' race, Nicola claimed nothing because of having ridden 10 winners, while Esspeegee was ridden by Paul Hainey, who had never ridden a winner and who thus claimed 5lb.  And I should add that, if we couldn't win the race, I was delighted not merely that Alan Bailey's stable won it but also that Paul rode the winner.  He's been working in racing for a long time now, is a very good rider and a thoroughly conscientious, industrious and professional apprentice.  It was a glaring omission that he had never previously been in a position to be able to win a race, so I'm very pleased (leaving aside that, obviously, I'd have preferred Kilim to win) that that has now been put right.

If you'd been watching the racing from Brighton on ATR, you'd have seen me interviewed by Matt Chapman before both races.  Each time on the move.  The first time I was hurrying off to saddle Parek, having not been able to get started early as Nicola had been riding for Brendan Powell in the previous race and being in a hurry as I needed to get off down to the start to lead the filly into the stalls; the second time I had just legged Nicola up onto the only horse still in the parade ring, Kilim only having arrived in there as the last of the others was leaving.  Nicola, having ridden Parek in the previous race, had been the last to weigh out; there were only 30 minutes between races; I saddled Kilim as quickly as I could; I put on Kilim's tongue strap; Abbie led her immediately to the parade ring and (thank God) although late we were just in time to do the obligatory complete circuit and get off down to the start without delaying proceedings, thus ensuring that I wasn't fined for her lateness.

Saddling the horses properly is important.  Getting it right can literally be a matter of life and death (for the jockey).  It isn't something which should be done in a rush.  But it has to be done in a rush when your jockey is in the previous race and there are only 30 minutes between races.  It really bugs me that often you are forced to rush so important a procedure.  But happily all was well that ended well.  What it did mean, though, was that there was no time to give Nicola any instructions before she got on the horse.  When she weighed out, there was no time to discuss the race: I took the saddle off her and headed away.  When Kilim, Abbie and I got into the parade ring, I legged Nicola up immediately and off they went.

In this instance it didn't matter, as I reflected as the pair cantered to the start.  Nicola and I had had a chat after three races had been run and we had both seen how the track was playing out (Nicola's only rides were in races five, six and seven, and our two fillies were running in races six and seven) and we worked out and agreed at that point what each filly wanted to do.  Furthermore, when I was leading her around at the start before Parek's race, we ran through things again, confirming and slightly adjusting our plans on the basis of how races four and five had been run and won.  So it didn't matter that there was no time to give the jockey instructions.

However, on many occasions it would matter.  It would matter a lot.  Yesterday I had a jockey who knows both horses well, had ridden them in previous races, who knows how my mind works, who knows Brighton, and who I was confident would remember every detail of a conversation we had had an hour and a half previously.  But very often none of those situations might pertain, never mind all of them.  And, of course, the one thing which didn't even figure on the radar was my instructing her to adhere to the whip rules.  As she was cantering to post and I was reflecting that there had been no time for a parade-ring discussion of tactics but, thank God, on this occasion there had been no necessity for one, it didn't even cross my mind that I had not had time to discuss the whip rules with her.

And why should that have crossed my mind?  When you use someone else's apprentice (and Nicola is apprenticed to Richard Hughes, not to me) you know that their boss, rather than you, is responsible for their education and conduct.  You also know that, in theory anyway, the BRS has taught them what they need to know, and that the BHA's licensing committee has only given them a license after being satisfied that they do indeed know such things, the correct and permitted use of the whip obviously very much included.  And you also know that the apprentice has a jockey-coach who is keeping them on the right track.  So the last thing you need to do is to check that they know what the whip rules are (and I'm the last person to be qualified to do that as I don't know what they are myself - I don't need to know them as I'm a trainer, not a jockey, so I don't ride in races) and that they know that they aren't exempt from the obligation to adhere to them.  Right?

Wrong.  You might remember the ludicrous situation earlier this year when Eugene Stamford was fined £650 because he had used one of Michael Bell's apprentices (Lulu Stamford, who happens to be Eugene's daughter, but that's irrelevant) and she had broken the rules, and it transpired subsequently that he had not specifically reminded her of her obligation pre-race to abide by the rules.  Madness.  Eugene appealed this fine but his appeal was not successful.  Insane.  After the failed appeal, I consoled myself (and Eugene) with the opinion that, now that this piece of idiocy had come to light, this absurd rule would be removed from the rule book.

Not a bit of it, however: in this week's National Trainers' Federation newsletter I read that, "Failure to instruct apprentices and conditionals on use of the whip leaves you open to being found in breach of rule (C) 45.2 and fined £650."  Nuts.  (And that is referring not to occasions when your apprentice for whose conduct you are responsible is riding in a race, but to occasions when you are using someone else's apprentice for whose conduct you are not responsible).  Sheer idiocy.  (But, by the way, don't worry about yesterday.  We're covered.  After the Eugene miscarriage of justice had first blown up, I discussed the matter with Nicola - who, incidentally, confirmed to me that it is virtually unheard of for an apprentice to received a pre-race reminder of the rules which they ought to know anyway - and gave her a permanent instruction that any time she rides for me, she must ride within the rules, as regards the whip and everything else.  So that's fine: we're automatically in the clear, never mind how rushed we are.  But honestly ...).

1 comment:

David Winter said...

I was indeed watching the Brighton card on ATR and was privy to the slightly tongue in cheek, acerbic comment by Matt [ which i thought was uncalled for, in that other trainers manage to get things done on time. Sometimes his comments are too self grandidising and slick, i am sure he doesn’t mean it but it comes across as a cheap shot and shows a lack of practical understanding of the business] considering how important the process of saddling is. Even for leisure riders, the preparation for a ride should be meticulous to ensure a comfortable fit of the tack for the horse and safety for the rider. Furthermore, it should be done in a calm and reassuring atmosphere to settle the horse, as anyone who has anything to do with horses will know. Rushing anything to do with horses is a completely self defeating project.
What is more worrying after John’s explanation regarding the briefness of time to retrieve Nicola’s saddle and prepare Kilim in time is that there has been some talk recently of reducing the half an hour between races to twenty minutes. How crazy is that. Again i suppose this has been initiated by a desk jockey at the BHA wanting to sex-up the action for the publics decreasing attention span. Imagine any trainer using the same jockey for two or three races in a row coping.
Sometimes i sit and wonder at the ineptitude of the games rulers after centuries of experience. Nicola and Lulu’s recent shenanigans ; Johns fine for lateness and a failure to complete a paddock circuit a while back, and the very poor record on bringing trainers to book in a fit and proper manner. Rules are made to be enforced, but at some point common sense has to help mitigate certain scenarios and there seems either a lack of will or a surfeit of ignorance preventing this. Rant over. Great training John...very much deserved !.