Saturday, April 13, 2019


Plenty of news this week, as usual.  The most arresting was the out-of-the-blue announcement that Brendan Powell had called time on his training career.  This seemed sudden, and it was fair to assume that it was not the plan a couple of months ago when he renewed his license.  It was a sad reminder of how hard it is for any trainer to make the job pay, leaving aside the handful of trainers who have a very profitable business.  Being good at one's job, offering a good service honestly and working hard very often just isn't enough, as this reminds us.  Very unfortunate.

One would hope that Brendan will be able to find a good job within the sport.  Certainly, one would be hard pressed to think of a better CV for pretty much any role within the game, with integrity, decency, reliability and industry to match.  Let's hope that he finds employment as quickly as Fran Berry did, another person who was able to offer a wealth of experience to any potential employer and who was snapped up by Racing TV.  If you don't know the game inside out after several decades of hard work as a professional jockey and/or trainer, then you never will.

The one job for which a thorough background in the game doesn't apparently help is Chair of the BHA, as we were reminded last week when Annamarie Phelps, who has no racing experience on her CV whatsosever, was appointed to that position, to start on 1st June.  Is this a good appointment?  I've read plenty of opinion on this subject, mostly on Twitter, but the truth is that nobody knows.  Only time will tell.  Is the fact that she has no racing background overall an advantage or a disadvantage?  I've no idea.  It's an advantage in one sense in that no one part of the sport can complain that someone from another part has been chosen, thus potentially favouring that other part.

Does that outweigh the more obvious disadvantage of her overseeing a sport about which she knows very little?  Again, I have no idea.  We'll see as the months progress.  She has a very sound civil service behind her, headed by Nick Rust.  Any person of high calibre (as she is) ought to be able to steer the sport in a good direction with the support and guidance which she will be receiving.  I only hope that she will be better treated than Steve Harman was: one of the low points of recent racing administrative history was when a complaint was lodged against him for introducing Alex Frost, whose only crime is to try to help the sport, to a government minister.

That anybody could have been silly enough to be concerned about this was absurd; that anybody could have been malevolent enough to lodge a complaint about it was very disturbing.  That's the problem with racing administration: for every one person trying to do good for the sport (eg Steve Harman) you'll find another trying to do it harm (eg the person who complained about him) and that unfortunate situation can make these top jobs a poisoned chalice.  I only hope that Annamarie Phelps can steer clear of that type of sh*t-stirring.  If there is one thing on which we should all agree it is that we should be united in hoping that her tenure in the role is a big success.

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