Tuesday, April 06, 2021

It's nonsense, isn't it?

The mighty juggernaut is shuddering into action.  It's like starting (rather than stopping) the Titanic.  We had a runner last week (at Hexham on Wednesday).  We had one the previous week (at Doncaster on the Saturday, Lincoln Day).  We hadn't had a runner for two or three weeks before that.  But we're now going for the treble: we'll have (God willing, obviously) a runner this week too, Kryptos at Nottingham tomorrow (Wednesday). That's a runner three weeks in a row.  We won't make it four weeks in a row as we won't have an entry next week; but, still, it's a (small) sign that we mean business.  And we did actually have two entries this week as Turn Of Phrase was declared for Bath today, but she was eliminated.  I hope that she'll go to Yarmouth in two weeks' time instead, so we should have a runner that week too.  Very dynamic.

The past two runners were very satisfactory.  Cloudy Rose's run was good.  As I'd hoped, she improved for going up in distance and onto turf.  She kept going well and resolutely in a promising manner.  As expected, she found the opposition too strong, but that's fine.  The only downside is that the handicapper seems to have been at least as impressed as I was.  She ran her best race yet, recording her best Postmark figure (53) and Topspeed figure (37).  And she has been given a BHA rating of 60.  That will obviously temper enthusiasm ahead of her handicap debut, but that's a small quibble.  The handicapper is often right; and when he isn't, he generally corrects his mistake quickly enough.  So that's fine.

Alix's run at Hexham was more than good.  He had been pleasing me at home, working well enough to suggest that he ought to be able to run very well.  But things don't always work out as one is hoping and as one has reason to expect, so that didn't guarantee a good run.  But a good run is what we got.  It was a lovely day at Hexham, made all the more special by this very promising debut.  Alix is a massive horse who ought to be able to progress from his debut - and that would have been the case however the debut was, good or bad - so that's very promising.  Obviously one never knows what's around the corner, but that was a lovely way for a horse's career to start.

The other good thing about going to Hexham was that it put my mind at rest.  I'd been reading and hearing a lot of scare-mongering after Cheltenham about British National Hunt racing being on its knees, so it was very reassuring to go to a British National Hunt meeting and find what appeared to be a sport in good health.  This Cheltenham stuff - it's nonsense, isn't it?  It seems to be based on a misconception that racing is a sport of national teams, like rugby, soccer or cricket.  But that's miles from the truth.  It isn't a country v. country competition, and it isn't a team sport.

It is a team sport in one sense, I suppose.  Each race is a contest between several teams.  A 10-runner race is a contest between 10 teams, the teams each consisting of a horse, an owner (or owners), a trainer, a jockey, a set of stable-staff.  The people (bar the jockeys) can be in more than one team, but the horses can't.  But basically it is the horses against each other.  For it to be a top-quality race, one needs the best horses around to be taking part, irrespective of who owns or trains them, or where they are trained, or who rides them.  Where they are trained is irrelevant.  The nationality of the trainers, jockeys, owners or stable staff is irrelevant.  Or, indeed, the nationality of the horses.

From a trainer's point of view, there are only two possible trainers who can supply the winner of a race: you or someone else.  If it's someone else, it doesn't matter who the someone else is, or in which county or country he/she trains.  If the someone else is someone in your own country, he/she isn't a team-mate and it isn't a victory for your team: he/she's the opposition and it's a victory for the opposition.  By the same token if he/she trains overseas, he/she isn't the enemy: he/she is merely the opposition, no more or less than that, exactly the same as if he/she trained in Great Britain.

For British National Hunt racing to be in crisis, we would need to see the big meetings not attracting the best horses (which clearly isn't the case, as Cheltenham proved, and as Aintree will prove this week) or the lesser meetings being ignored by owners, trainers and punters.  British racing, particularly British jumps racing, has plenty of on-going problems, but I don't think that either of those situations apply, leaving aside cases where bad ground makes people wary of running their horses.  Cheltenham suggested to me that British National Hunt racing is in rude health.  How could it not be with all those lovely horses running?  The time to worry is when the best horses in Ireland don't run at Cheltenham, rather than when they do.  The racing at Cheltenham was, admittedly, less competitive than it ought to have been, but that's merely the consequence of the expansion of the meeting's programme.  It certainly wasn't for the absence of good horses.

I just don't understand why it matters so much to some people that Al Boum Photo is trained in Co. Waterford rather than Somerset, that Monkfish is trained in County Carlow rather than Berkshire.  If you aren't lucky enough to train him, then someone else does, and it really doesn't matter where that someone else lives.  And for the race-going public, all that matters is that the best horses run at the meeting, not who trains them.  And regarding the supposed disaster for British stables and the supposed mighty triumph for Irish stables, it is worth remembering that 98% of British stables and 98% of Irish stables enjoyed/endured a Cheltenham no better and no worse than normal.

Possibly the silliest thing I've heard is the line that the fact that the bulk of the best horses are currently trained in Ireland will make British owners think that they won't own the winners of the best races if their horses are trained in Britain.  Nobody could be stupid enough to believe that, could they?  It's common sense: if you own the best horses (which generally nowadays means if you are happy to spend more money than anyone else) you will win the best races, irrespective of where you have your horses trained.  If you don't own the best horses, then you won't, irrespective of where you have them trained.  That's the way it has always been, is now, and always will be.


Unknown said...

Spot on , this UK v Ireland thing is even picking up some anti English undertones which i find quite disturbing.

Unknown said...

Excellent summary John. Good luck and safe home for Kryptos. 🤗
Bernard Dowdall (Dante)

neil kearns said...

For once i don't agree with you John , I think there is a problem at the top end of the National Hunt game too many of the so called top UK races barely have any runners and are totally uncompetitive ,( though have noticed very similar things happening on the flat last couple of weeks with decent prizes being competed for by very few runners ).

I find it odd that the better novices (both hurdlers and chasers)in particular dont take each other on and for me they pitch up at the big meetings not battled hardened but that is just my take .

neil kearns said...

So sad to read about Roy's passing his fan club here in Almeria is gutted , superb Obituary by Emma our sympathy and best wishes to both of you , the owners and all your staff he will be missed by many best wishes Neil and Pauline Kearns