Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I've seen the future, brother: it is murder

We're into a new month, hence no chapter having appeared on this blog for a few days.  The first week or so of the new month is always busy, with accounts to be drawn up and sent out, etc.  We've had one runner in this time: White Valiant at Fontwell on Saturday 6th.  He did what I was hoping that he wouldn't do, but feared that he might: let himself down with his jumping again.  He jumped the first six hurdles fine, bar flicking the top of some of them (which is never a bad thing for a hurdler).  Then he flattened the seventh and the eighth flights, ruling himself out of contention.  He finished a very well beaten fourth.

So frustrating.  If he'd done it at the last two, one could understand, as the pressure would have been going on, and he would have been getting tired.  Or if it had at been at a couple of the early hurdles, showing he just couldn't jump.  But to jump fine for the first two thirds of the race - and then give it away before he's come under pressure.  Very frustrating.  He is not going to realise his potential while he keeps doing that, and I don't really see what one can do to cure him of the habit.  But at least in the future he will be eligible to compete in marginally weaker company, having now been given a handicap mark (albeit one, 112, which rules him out of lower-grade races).

Otherwise it has just been the daily grind.  But at least it has been the daily grind in lovely weather.  Saturday was a very wet day (which probably meant that White Valiant was beaten farther than would otherwise have been the case) but we have returned to (an Indian) summer since then.  Today is really lovely, but it looks as if it is - understandably, bearing in mind the time of year - going to spoil from tomorrow onwards.  We might say that about the sport itself, too, if a headline in yesterday's Racing Post is anything to go by: 'Racing in Britain must reflect modern society, industry told'.

How worrying is this?  I like to watch the news on TV, and what it usually does is comfort me that our little world hasn't (yet) gone off the rails as much as society in general has done.  Modern society is a disaster, if the TV news is anything to go by.  So many people are just so horrible to each other.  Dignity and standards of civilised behaviour have gone totally out of the window.  Crime is everywhere.  Violence.  Corruption.  Racial tension.  Chaos is everywhere, and the infrastructure of the country is falling apart.  The rail network.  Airports.  Traffic.  Litter.  The NHS.  The police.  The judiciary.  Prisons.  Politics and politicians.  We're like a third-world country.  The idea of loving thy neighbour isn't even on the radar for most people.

Compare and contrast, as we say, with the racing world.  The racing community is a throwback to a kinder age.  It's always been the case that all men are equal on or under the turf, and I hope that it always will be.  And we still function.  Ride out on the Heath in the morning, and it doesn't matter what colour your skin is, where you come from, what your gender is, what your religion is, whether you even have a religion.  It has been the experience of Victoria (formerly Vince) Smith that she has found it easier to change gender within the racing world than would have been the case in pretty much any other walk of life.

Everyone is equal.  If anyone is in trouble, a helping hand will appear.  I sometimes refer on this blog to 'the racing family'.  We are a family.  If one of our number is in trouble, we rally round.  That's how it used to be throughout society, but it's no longer like that in the real world.  It's 'dog-eat-dog' out there.  This is one of the very few parts of modern society where there genuinely is a community spirit.  And we are supposed to replace that with a microcosm of the modern world?  No, I'd rather not, thank you.  One of my stock phrases, one which I use whenever we are confronted by a debacle stemming from stupidity, selfishness, nastiness or incompetence, is "Welcome to the 21st century!".  And now we are meant to be saying it to ourselves.

We found out this week that racing in Sydney no longer regards itself as being the Sport of Kings when an uncouth radio presenter, seemingly believing himself to be promoting racing's interests and to be speaking on racing's behalf, was shockingly unpleasant to the CEO of the Opera House, who was merely doing her job correctly.  The boss of Racing NSW appeared to acquiesce and align himself with this appalling nastiness and, although the aim of using the Opera House to promote racing was, on the face of it, achieved, it came at the heavy cost of alienating floating voters by painting the sport in the most unflattering light.

But that's reflecting modern society, I suppose: it's aggressively pushing one's own interests forward rather than acting courteously and considerately towards other sections of society, without even trying to see the bigger picture, to see things from others' points of view.  The Everest / Opera House debacle allowed one to treat oneself to cliche, "Makes you proud to be British!".  We generally say this sardonically and/or ironically, but in this case we can say it genuinely.  But how much longer will we be able to do so, though, if we must indeed reflect modern society?

What the debacle also did, incidentally, was highlight how harshly racing's professionals are punished for minor misdemeanors.  This debacle was, to my eyes, the most glaring case of bringing racing into disrepute that we have seen for decades.  But I'd say that there's zero chance of either the presenter or the administrator being charged with anything.  There's more chance of yet another trainer being punished for unwittingly presenting a horse at the races with a cobalt reading above the threshold limit for having used a standard feed supplement that has no withdrawal period, or a jockey making a victim-less mistake.

We have one runner coming up in the remainder of this week: Sacred Rock at Worcester tomorrow.  We'll hope for the best but expect nothing, as always.

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