Don’t deprive winning handlers of their share of glory
It was only a fortnight or so ago that racing was celebrating the vital work that stable staff do for not very much money and for long and unsociable hours.
From time to time they have the pleasure of greeting a winning horse and jockey and leading them into the winner’s enclosure.
It is a contrast to the dark days when a horse suffers a fatal injury on the racecourse and the horsebox goes home empty. I don’t think anyone feels the pain more than the handler as they build a relationship, you could say a loving one, with the horses they look after.
There should have been a moment of high celebration for the groom of Poet’s Word, Chas Roberts, after the horse won a terrific battle with stablemate Crystal Ocean to take the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last weekend.
Indeed, he greeted the triumphant horse with James Doyle aboard to lead them back but, as they approached the winner’s enclosure, he was ‘mugged’ by the owner and a member of his family who took over the reins – the groom was side-lined. And there’s no hiding his disappointment.
Of course, the owner pays the bills, a bigger or lesser proportion of their net wealth depending on their circumstances, and they’ll be among those receiving the plaudits and in most cases it’s for their financial outlay, not their involvement with the horse’s preparation.
For that reason, they should let the handler have the pleasure of leading the winner all the way to the winner’s enclosure. It is what they deserve and perhaps trainers should stipulate this as part of the deal.
“He’s as game as you like, I love him to bits.” said Roberts. One can only speculate on whether or not the owner has the same emotional attachment.
One other aspect of leading home the winning horse, or any horse for that matter – shouldn’t it be left do be done by someone who is experienced in looking after horses, not least for the safety of the horse and those around it?
I met a man who wasn’t there
Jeffrey Bernard once wrote “I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974.”
I’m more certain of what I’ve been up to but I’m beginning to have my doubts.
Every time there’s been a meeting at Sandown this past month I’ve received an email the next day from Jockey Club Racecourses thanking me for my attendance and hoping I enjoyed my time at the races.
Strange, because I haven’t been to the Esher track since Eclipse day.
I don’t know what it’s doing to their stats and customer data but it had me worried for a moment.