Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Texas School Book Depository

It's been a while, so I had to look back to the last chapter to see when I wrote it.  That was, I find, in the morning before heading to Sandown's evening meeting on the Bank Holiday Monday, which fell this year on the last day of August.  So today we are nine days later, although it seems more than that.  That trip to Sandown was pleasant, albeit slightly disappointing initially to see Kryptos beaten considerably farther than I'd bargained for.  However, on reflection his run was very respectable.  The ground was still very taxing, more so than I'd expected, and the winner clearly relished it and won easily.  We then lost out in a three-way photo for second, which I think we'd have won if conditions had been slightly less gruelling (ie the combination of 10 furlongs, a stiff finish and taxing ground just making life a bit tougher than ideal for him).

I seem to recall that I ended up with a very busy day on the Tuesday, and then Wednesday and Thursday were long, busy days too.  It was a late race at Bath; and then at Haydock, although it was afternoon racing, it was still the last race and that too is a long way from home.  So I was pretty much exhausted after that, and it's probably fair to say that it's taken me most of the time since then to recover.  We've returned to good weather which helps, and this week we only have the one trip (to Salisbury with The Rocket Park (seen here today, on the right, hanging out with Kryptos) on Friday, which too will be a long day as it's the last race at an evening meeting).  And then I don't think that we'll have any outings at all next week.

The Bath trip was slightly frustrating.  The ground was 'good, good to firm in places' in the morning, but the forecast showers through the day turned out to be significantly more solid than anticipated and, while the official going ended up as 'good to soft', both the jockeys who rode for us (Liam Keniry and Tom Marquand) reported that it felt very adjacent to soft.  Neither horse ran badly, finishing not far behind the place-getters, but I think that both would have run better had the rain not come, or not come so plentifully.  The way the dividing of the race turned out wasn't ideal from our point of view, either, as we had our better chance (Hidden Pearl) in the stronger division.

It wouldn't be fair to say that I'd never seen a divided race in which there was such a marked difference in strength in the two divisions - there must have been times when there has been a maiden race with two or three horses who stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they both/all ended up in the same division - but I'd never expected to see a handicap in which one division was so much weaker than the other.  I thought this beforehand and the times confirmed it, the second division (with Dereham in it) being run about two and a half seconds faster than the first.  I'd like to think that Hidden Pearl would have gone close had they been the other way round - but then again one would say that about each of the first eight in her race.

But, looking on the positive side, being in a weaker race did allow Dereham to be competitive for the first time in his life: having never finished closer than 15 lengths to the winner, including in handicap company, he was beaten 5.5 lengths, having been involved in the race throughout.  That was very promising and, helped by a terrific ride from Tom Marquand, the race will have done him the power of good, physically and mentally.  He is basically a fairly slow horse - which is not surprising for a horse who, physically, could be mistaken for a child's pony - but he is progressing nicely and he's a tough, genuine, sound horse who seems to stay well, and horses like that generally end up putting together a nice enough career.

The next day was Haydock.  Ah yes, Haydock.  I haven't got the energy to spend too much time reviewing the race, so I'll just say that it was slightly hard to swallow that a horse who could cruise to the front within the final two furlongs could manage to get himself beaten by the horse past whom he had cruised.  The further bitter pill was that we were taken back in time to the last century in that it took over five minutes for the photo-finish (reproduced here) to yield its verdict, and nowadays when they take that long you pretty much feel that you know that it will be a dead-heat (which itself would have been slightly disappointing).  

What did help me to feel better about the judge's eventual verdict was this photograph which I accompanies this paragraph.  Anthony and I were standing maybe 30 yards past the line and, as you can see from this snap, the horse who beat us (who was given a superb tactical ride by Will Easterby, really making use of her patently abundant stamina and toughness - and it's worth mentioning that our rider, Ross Birkett, rode really well too) was two lengths in front with her ears forward as she passed us.  Under the circumstances, if she had been your horse and seeing this picture, you would have felt a bit stiff if she hadn't won.

So that's the racing, recent past and immediate future.  What else?  Well, JockeyClubGate rumbles on.  Lee Mottershead has covered this very well in the Racing Post, none of which coverage has altered my opinion, as previously stated, but neither party involved in this sorry story has covered itself in glory, with the Jockey Club coming out of the debacle particularly badly.  I think that I mentioned in the last chapter that I was aghast that the Jockey Club had allowed this dirty washing to be put on public view.  I can now add to that that it's appalling that the identity of the complainant (who comes out of the matter worst of anyone, bearing in mind that more than half the complaints were not upheld and, from the details that we know, even the ones which were upheld border on the trivial) is public knowledge.

If you lodge complaints against a colleague, whether that colleague is your senior or your subordinate, you are entitled to have done so with your anonymity secure.  Your identity certainly should not be revealed to the person about whom you are complaining, never mind your name and details published in a national newspaper.  The complainant has been very badly treated - tongue in cheek, I fear that he has grounds to join Julia Bushell in launching a lawsuit against the Jockey Club - and, while he has come out of this very badly, he should not have done so because we should not know his identity.  I can only repeat my closing observation from the last chapter which questioned the Jockey Club's ability to conduct its business with discretion.

Looking at other angles of the matter, Julia Bushell was clearly grossly unsuitable for the job.  But that wasn't her fault: that's the fault of the people who hired her.  I tend to be like that with jockeys: I never blame the jockey, always myself, because if the jockey gets it badly wrong, I have either hired the wrong jockey or hired the right jockey but failed to brief him properly.  I'd take that view with Julia Bushell, who seems to have been the wrong person for the job and/or not to have been briefed about how she should be going about the job.  Responsibility for either of which failings does not lie at her door.

I'm also very sceptical about this thing which I've been reading about her supposedly unilaterally creating and pursuing a policy of planning to sacrifice the less profitable tracks on the altar of commercialism and for the benefit of the headline-making ones.  Jockey Club Racecourses is to be run for the benefit of racing as a whole rather than for profit, so I can't believe that its directors would both hire someone with no racing background who is not in a position to understand what is good for racing as a whole rather than for profit, and then give her complete power to pursue whatever policy she, in her ignorance of racing's bigger picture, deems fit.  That just doesn't ring true

To support my theory that she was no more the lone gun than Lee Harvey Oswald, I introduce Exhibit A, which is the plan drawn up to sacrifice Kempton Park on the altar of commercialism and for the benefit of the group's headline-making tracks.  This scheme (which thank God appears to have gone quiet, although whether that's temporary or permanent I don't know) was, of course, dreamed up long before Julia Bushell was on the scene.  So I really can't swallow the line that she was single-handedly and without the agreement of her board trying to take Jockey Club Racecourses down a road which it didn't wish to travel.

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