Saturday, January 23, 2021

Back to the Future

I should have called the last chapter 'Back to the Future' when we revisited our look to the future by focusing on a few more of the young people who represent part of our future.  It actually called it 'The future (revisited)' but this one I will call 'Back to the Future' as we've been overtaken by events because another local apprentice has shown up on the radar.  I was saying in the last chapter how good Marco Botti is with apprentices; no sooner had I said that than he gave another what appears to be her first ride, Ellie Norris on Casina Di Notte, who finished second at Chelmsford last night.

That's so heartening.  Last year or whenever it was, we had all the doom-and-gloom talk stemming from the changes to the regulations regarding employment of apprentices.  I don't recall Marco's name being mentioned at all at the time, but he was already one of the best trainers for getting apprentices' careers off the ground (it is easy to forget that Andrea Atzeni was apprenticed to him, and Dan Muscutt as well if I recall correctly - and I'm sure that he had another very successful apprentice at the same time as Dan; and Gabriele Malune only got going when he went to him) and nothing has changed.  Good on 'im.

Less heartening is the bamboozlement that various tortuous stewards' enquiries are evincing.  We've had two particular head-scratchers in the past few days.  Yesterday we had the latest bulletin in the string of Justify non-sequiturs, while earlier in the week we had the Charles Byrnes bombshell.  The two things which these and other strange sagas have in common are that they make no sense and that they happen very, very, very slowly.  Justify's disqualification from the Santa Anita Derby in March 2018 should have been automatic as he tested positive to a drug which at the time (although not now - the rules were amended after, and presumably because of, this debacle) made disqualification mandatory.

However, the Californian authorities seem determined not to apply their own rules, as we were again reminded by an announcement yesterday.  Their reasons for not doing so have included that they have already ruled on the matter and that they aren't obliged to be bound by or to apply their own rules.  This latest announcement seems to imply that they believe that the matter has been put to bed, but I'd be amazed if the final chapter of that particular book has yet been written.  It just gets stranger and stranger - but surely nothing is as strange as the Charles Byrnes mystery.  As always, part of the weirdness here is the timing: when we first heard in the week of the positive test given by Viking Hoard at Tramore, I assumed that this must have happened some time this past autumn, and it was only a couple of days later that I realised that we were talking about a race which took place in 2018.

Leaving the slow-turning of the wheels of justice aside, though, the baffling thing is the dislocation between the verdict and the severe punishment.  The verdict appears to be that Charles Byrnes' misdemeanour was to leave the horse unattended for 20 minutes at some point between arriving at the racecourse and saddling him, thus creating a window of opportunity in which a person unknown could nobble him.  This makes no sense.  If that's a crime, then we're all guilty.  Who doesn't leave their horse unattended at some point in the run-up to the race?  We all do.  And the fact that doing so is acceptable is demonstrated by the fact that racecourses have canteens and toilets: if we weren't allowed to leave our horses, then those would be of no use to us.

Of all the unanswered questions, two which immediately jump to my mind are the matters of what the CCTV footage in the stableyard shows and, on the basis that the same horse was also heavily laid to lose at Sedgefield in the autumn of 2018 and was apparently dope-tested after that race too but without anything coming to light on that occasion, how did the layer manage to have similar certainty that the horse wouldn't win on that occasion too.  (And why was the horse so sluggish at Sedgefield too if no sedative showed up in his sample - the Racing Post close-up records that the horse received a reminder after the second hurdle).

The CCTV evidence from Tramore ought to make it easy to establish who went into Viking Hoard's stable at the races that day.  There was a finite number of people in the stable-yard, and there will be a list of every one of them.  There will have been a list of which box each horse occupied, so it will be easy to work out which CCTV camera will have been recording the relevant area.  The footage will have made it clear who went into the stable at what times; and if some of the people are hard to identify, just going through the list of people who had access to the yard on that afternoon should narrow the field sufficiently for an identification to be made.  As with the Justify debacle, I am sure that we haven't heard the last of this one.  Maybe I should have called this chapter 'Groundhog Day'.

1 comment:

David J Winter. said...

Mr Wathenberry, This is becoming, again, I was having the same thought processes as you...(are you the long lost brother who travelled the Mekong in China in the 70’s and never reappeared ?)
Even twenty years ago when wanting to visit one’s horse in the racecourse stable, one needed an owners pass and some racecourses even then had CCTV TV to back up security. I was escorted somewhat briskly from the stable area at Lingfield as I had attempted to wander unknowingly into the racecourse stables without the proper permit, until Jack Berry resolved the problem.So why the extraordinary length of time to resolve the issue/s . My inbuilt but unfortunate cynicism noses me towards some unknown factors of which we know little and it’s something that I find rather unsettling. Justice delayed is justice denied, they say. All rather discombobulating and unsatisfactory.