Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Small mercies

As seems to be usual nowadays, I'm starting this chapter with a semi-serious statement of regret that it's been so long since I last wrote anything on here.  I really don't know where the time goes.  It's probably easier in the winter as the shorter days limit the amount of time one can productively and/or pleasantly spend outdoors.  This time of year, the days just seem to disappear.  It was understandable in the first week of blog silence as we had four runners.  Last week we only had one and this week we only have one too.  So I really must write something today, in advance of Hidden Pearl's trip to Doncaster tomorrow.

The week of four runners seems a lifetime ago.  I'll try to remember what they were without looking up.  We had Dear Alix at Hexham on the Sunday.  That was a lovely outing, notwithstanding that it's a long way away, as it was a glorious day at a heavenly racecourse where one had no worries about running in dry conditions as the course had been unbelievably well irrigated.  Alix ran OK, finishing fifth in the bumper.  Brian Hughes was extremely helpful and gave some good advice, saying that the horse is so clearly a proper National Hunt type that we won't see the best of him until he's running over at least two and a half miles, over jumps and on softer ground.  So we'll heed that advice, with his next run pencilled in to be a novice hurdle at some unspecified point of the autumn, maybe in October.

We then had Hidden Pearl running in the Roy Rocket Amateurs' Handicap at Brighton on the Tuesday.  That was a really special day.  Hard to credit that it was (if my memory is correct) only 15 days ago.  It was a wonderful thing for Brighton to do, naming the race in Roy's honour, and it was a really special occasion.  Brighton made a very good job of it and Sky Sports Racing did too.  It was great to have a runner in the race, and particularly good that she ran creditably, for the first time this year running as if she'll benefit from going back up to two miles.  Which is what we'll do tomorrow.

We had Cloudy Rose running at Yarmouth.  There was overnight rain going into the meeting which helped her and she ran a nice race.  Outpaced, she kept on keeping on in the final half-mile to finish a never-nearer and staying-on fourth.  It'll be good to get her up to two miles (from a mile and six).  And it's worth saying that Josephine Gordon's ride was outstandingly good.  The instructions were to keep her as in touch as possible without putting her under so much pressure so far from home that she would weaken at the end; and no one could have done a better job of carrying them out.

And we had Dereham running at Nottingham, when again we found, as with Turn Of Phrase the previous week, that being drawn very wide makes it very hard there.  He is a horse without any early speed so not getting involved in a fruitless battle for a prominent early position seemed a no-brainer,  particularly as it seemed reasonable to expect that the tempo would be solid in a big-field, long-distance apprentice race.  As it turned out, the tempo was extremely solid to the first bend but pedestrian thereafter, and, in a race in which the order hardly changed at any stage, we achieved nothing.  

Still, it didn't do Dereham any harm and we hoped to run again less than two weeks later, except that didn't work out as we were eliminated from Bath today.  (We were the first one out in a race which has three non-runners).  That was irritating, but the silver lining to that cloud was that it saved me a dangerously late night, the race being the penultimate one at a Bath evening  meeting.  We've had one other horse eliminated in the same period, Das Kapital at Chepstow.  That was the last race (at 8.50) of an evening meeting, so had we run I would have been looking at getting to bed around 2.30, which isn't ideal when you've been up at 6.00 that morning and will be up at 6.00 again three and a half hours later.

That was an odd one.  We were the first one out in a race which had a safety factor of 10.  Why only ten?  God only knows.  Das Kapital ran in a 15-runner race over course and distance in 2019.  The safety factor for ten furlongs at Chepstow is 16, and as far as I can see the only difference between the 10-furlong course there and the 12-furlong course is that the 12-furlong course has a longer run to the (same) first bend.  Inexplicable.  Predictably (and it was predictable because the weather forecast was very vague, suggesting that it would either rain heavily the day before the race or stay dry, and there would clearly be non-runners whichever one happened) five of the ten horses who did get a run were scratched, so I had the galling experience of sitting at home watching a five-runner race over Das Kapital's ideal course and distance from which he had been eliminated.  But at least I could to bed immediately after it, rather than the best part of six hours later.  Small mercies.

|Anyway, to revert to the horses who did actually run, we had the one runner  last week: Eljaytee at Bath (at an evening meeting, of course).  That was his third run and I'm coming round to thinking that I might have got him all wrong.  He's not a flashy worker and he'd given the impression that midde distances would be his go.  He'd weakend badly at the end of his first two maiden races over ten furlongs, but fared better over a mile last week, albeit still weakening late on.  Overall it was a step in the right direction.  I'd imagine that we might go shorter still the next time he runs.

In the same period I have also made a welcome (to me, if  not to anyone else) return to Sky Sports Racing, albeit briefly, having last been on the channel for the overnight Melbourne Cup coverage last November.  I was on the Racing Debate, formerly the Sunday Forum, ten days ago.  Which was great - particularly as currently one pontificates from home rather than from a studio a two-hour drive from home.  It was the day after the Irish Derby, so we discussed the case of Havana Lane causing interference on the way to winning narrowly.  This, of course, followed on from Dragon Symbol doing the same at Royal Ascot.  In the latter case the victim of the interference was the runner-up (which wasn't the case at the Curragh) and consequently the first two placings were reversed.

We (racing's chattering classes in general, rather than just Gus and I) have had much discussion on this topic since then, and I feel that most people miss the point.  What is generally concentrated on is the question, "How much ground did the victim lose by being interfered with?" when it is being decided whether or not the winner would have passed the post in front without the inteference taking place.  But that's only half of the matter - and it's nearly always the smaller half too.  (I am, of course, aware that there is no such thing as a smaller half).  

As pertinent, it not more so, is the question, "How much ground did the winner not lose because the jockey allowed him to drift and thus cause the interference, rather than correcting him when he started to drift, interrupting his momentum to keep him straight?".  People, in general, never seem even to consider this aspect, and the answer is generally, "Quite a lot - a length or more".  Because that's why jockeys allow their horses to drift, because correcting and straightening them would completely interrupt their momentum.

That's what would have needed to happen for the interference not to have taken place, so the territorial advantage which the culprit gains by not being corrected should be considered just as much as the territorial disadvantage which the victim suffers from being leant upon and carried slightly off a straight line.  And if both aspects were to be generally taken into account, there would be a lot more demotions than there are currently.  Which would probably be no bad thing, not least from the point of view of those who believe that high standards of riding and/or safety matter.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As I recall from the early to mid 80s (and presumably earlier), jockeys did take and had to be seen to take such evasive action, and it was noticeable. Riding styles seemed to evolve with focus on toe-stirrup, ultra streamlined style. I feel this type of rule needs to come back. Horse and jockey are one team on the racecourse, if horse drifts that's its defect not the opponent's. Anyway, the ride contributes to get the jockey penalty, so can't be too far a leap to add distance & momentum saved. Unless it's considered a double jeopardy. But probably ought not be as the interfered ought not to have been interfered with in the first place.