Friday, October 04, 2019

Tough love for jockeys (and the bourgeoisie)

We're stuttering along quietly.  One runner this week (The Simple Truth at Newmarket tomorrow); no entries next week.  Last weekend's two runners achieved nothing.  Hope Is High (first picture) gave her running in the Class Three handicap at Chelmsford, but (not unsurprisingly) was not good enough.  Still, she showed that she is still in good form and we'll just lower her sights a little next time.  There was no harm in having a go.  Dereham (second picture) struggled badly in the heavy ground at Epsom the following afternoon but again no harm was done.  He needs to race three times to become eligible for suitable races (ie handicaps) and we achieved the aim of getting another run under his belt.

The Simple Truth (third picture, yesterday) will be similarly hard to fancy at Newmarket tomorrow as he too contests his second novices' race.  He's a grand little horse and is going nicely, but it would be unrealistic to suggest that he might have a chance of beating the best-bred two-year-old in Aidan O'Brien's stable, Vatican City (who, being by Galileo out of Giant's Causeway's Group-winning full-sister You'resothrilling, is a full-brother to Gleneagles, Marvellous and Happily).  It's easy to suspect that Vatican City might be a high-class horse even without looking at his lineage: one would imagine that when a good Catholic operation decides to use the name 'Vatican City', it would make sure that it is allocated to a good horse!

The weather has been a big topic as it has been getting colder and wetter, even if the coldest morning, when we had the first ground frost of the autumn, led into a glorious day.  Cocaine has also been a big topic, thanks to the news of William Carson's positive test and consequent ban.  Cocaine is a story which isn't going to go away as it has become a big factor in British society and is likely to remain as such for the foreseeable future.  We've seen racing in general and Newmarket in particular come under fire for their association with cocaine, but that's sensationalist and unfair: it's not specifically a racing problem or a Newmarket problem, but a nationwide one.  A worldwide one, in fact.

Pat Smullen's column in the TDN was very good, advocating a zero-tolerance approach to cocaine use among jockeys.  We live in a society in which we're often encouraged to take the view that nothing is anyone's own fault, but the fault of the situation in which the individual finds himself/herself.  There's an element of truth in that, but there has to be a point at which people have to take responsibility for their own actions, a point at which one says, "There are no excuses for this - it's totally unacceptable, just wrong".  Pat says that jockeys taking cocaine are at that point, and he's right.

We're going to find people from all walks of life taking cocaine.  There isn't really any excuse.  Whatever 'pressure' you're under, taking cocaine is not the answer, and you don't need to be particularly intelligent to grasp that.  But people take cocaine because they can and because it seems to them to be a good idea at the time.  We were, I gather, even reminded of cocaine's ubiquity during the highlight of the week's entertainment, ie the Conservative Party conference.  I've actually reached the point where I can't sit through a Boris Johnson oration, but I read in the Grauniad that he had been "declaiming welcome lies about having cleared up Britain's debt, and eyebrow-raisers like "the cocaine habits of the bourgeoisie"".  It's everywhere, apparently - but the one place it particularly shouldn't be is among the ranks of professional athletes. 

Pat's comments are very good, an important reminder (for jockeys) that using cocaine is not acceptable.  These words are worth considering not only by jockeys but by everyone.  "The onus is on the rider not to go down that road ... if you want to be a professional jockey, the reality is that you are going to get caught if you do this ... The younger generation needs to make the right choice ... To be a successful jockey you have to treat the job with respect and seriousness.  I never thought I'd say this but it has come to the point that I don't have sympathy for the people who get caught because they have a choice and they are making the wrong choice.

"There is a line which you cannot cross and unfortunately if you choose to do that you will pay the consequences ...  The message has to be driven home to all riders that it is unacceptable, and that if you do that you are running the risk of ruining your career, putting yourself at risk, as well as other riders and horses ... Jockeys are supposed to be athletes and I think that has to be the mentality that is adopted.  You should think and act like an athlete, and that entails being very dedicated to your job."  Simple, isn't it?  And it's not difficult: we all have to do difficult things at times, and doing the right thing can often be difficult - but one thing that is not difficult is not taking cocaine.  (Unless you have already started taking it, of course).

1 comment:

glenn.pennington said...

You're correct (as usual ) John. From Dettori to Kevin Lundie and from Danny Cook to Joshua Bryan, those caught range across the echelons of the sport. If it affects horseracing, there is no doubt that other professional sports are similarly affected.

I understand that the Irish have raised starting level bans to five years. I know that if I was an owner or trainer, I wouldn't contemplate using a jockey if I thought he/she had taken recreational drugs of any description.