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We have four runners today

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

"Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward."

Søren Kierkegaard.

Cantering up Hamilton Hill

It’s getting much darker in the morning and it was raining just after half four when I was feeding first thing. The shower didn’t last long though and it looks like it will be a dry day from now on. I was only feeding as Tim, my new assistant, has gone up to Thirsk with today’s two runners. It is a bit of a hectic day with four runners, a hay delivery and a non- runner rider wise once again. Saying that, everybody is pulling together well. A couple of lads from the stud will be coming down to help with the hay. We have been cantering on Southfield’s turf and the polytracks not far from the yard. All has gone to plan and the horses are very fresh and well.

Hold Firm

We have four runners today, two this afternoon at Thirsk, and two tonight at Chelmsford. Stellekaya is our first runner in the 3 o’clock, the mile and a half maiden. She has had one run at Windsor, where she didn’t trouble the judge and I don’t think liked the very firm ground. It is slightly easier ground today and I hope she can get another good education. Joe Fanning takes the ride. Our next runner is Velvet Voice at 5 o’clock. She would have preferred soft in the going description, but Tim has walked the track this morning and says it is definitely very good ground, with no firmness at all. She ran well last time at Lingfield when meeting one that was very well handicapped and I expect her to be competitive in this contest today. Ben Curtis takes the ride.

At Chelmsford, our first runner in the 6.10, the Nursery Handicap, is Four Fifty Three. He has run two sound races, will like the step up to a mile, and should definitely be there about. In the following race at 6.40, the two mile three-year-old handicap, we run Gee Sixty Six. He was third last time at Sandown and should be competitive once again tonight. Let’s hope one of them can get their head in front and give everybody who is working so hard at home a boost.

Walking back after second lot

I see the BHA, under pressure from the Professional Jockeys Association, has brought in a rule for a minimum rating requirement for all Group 1 races on the flat, for three-year-old’s and upwards. A similar rule will come in over jumps to run in Grade 1 chases, hurdles and novice chases. There will be no change for two-year-old’s and novice hurdles. This has all come about from a horse with no chance at all, being entered in the Derby and confirmed at the six day stage. I think this is a very backwards step. The BHA Director of International Racing and Racing Development says the introduction of minimum ratings has these three clear benefits.

Firstly, it will help protect the welfare of the human and equine participants. Secondly, it will ensure the risk of unsatisfactory results and take out the unknown factor and complications that can be caused by running an inferior horse, and thirdly it will help preserve the reputation and public perception of our top races. What a load of buncombe. It is purely elitism gone barmy. It will kill the small owner and trainer having any chance of winning a major race, or even having the dream of having a runner. There are plenty of instances of unraced horses winning the Derby, and some massive outsiders have won and been placed. This year’s jockey had only had a handful of rides before winning the race, and if the female apprentice, who they were all frightened of, had been given her licence, she was fully entitled to ride in the Derby.

The sport at present is going one way. The big yards are getting bigger and the small are getting smaller. There is no encouragement for new owners to come into the sport and the BHA Owners Association, PJA and even our inefficient National Trainers Federation, seem to be on their side. You have always got to have a dream in this sport and if we keep restricting it, that dream will soon die and the same people year in year out will be the only ones competing. It has always been much more on the flat, but it will also be felt under National Hunt rules as well.

I have not seen the exact rule issue yet, but it would be interesting to see what entry fees are to be repaid if the said horse doesn’t reach the 80 rating limit. You have to enter for the Derby so far in advance and pay different forfeits, at varying times. These are very expensive. So, what happens if you enter the horse, keep paying the money, but the horse doesn’t gain the necessary rating? Do you get the money back? I very much doubt it and this will again put off anybody with a dream of entering. The interesting facts of between 2005 and 2016, is that there were only six horses which would not have been eligible to run under this rule, so to my mind why bring it in. It is just another way to annoy the normal horse racing enthusiast? I can’t see the jockeys, or for that matter anybody’s point on this. I hope it gets slaughtered, a bit like the silencing of Big Bens bells. The war couldn’t stop Big Ben chiming, but our ridiculous Health and Safety rules have. I compare this rule with that.

The British people love an underdog, but this rule will completely kill that in a stroke.