Marks out of ten for racing’s leading lights
Candidate for the Labour Party leadership Rebecca Long Bailey (pictured) has given Jeremy Corbyn marks of “ten out of ten” as a politician.
It has been observed that with two election defeats, failure to quash anti-Semitism allegations, a manifesto which people didn’t buy into and an ambiguous position on Brexit, maybe there were grounds to knock off half a point.
But it’s an interesting method of awarding points, and one which these scribblings have decided to use to assess for some leaders in the sport in the past week.
Fairness and transparency
Top trainer Nicky Henderson saw some disappointing performances from fancied runners over the festive period plus the unfortunate absence of Altior from the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton due to an abscess.
Still, there was the Silviano Conti Chase at the same track where Altior could resume competitive action.
But there was an alarming drift one morning in the horse’s price, from 1/4 to 5/2, before Henderson said, via bookmaker Unibet, that the horse would not run.
There was much comment on using Unibet as the mouthpiece and disquiet at the dramatic lengthening of the odds. So much so, that the BHA, on seeing that Altior still had an entry in the race after Henderson’s statement, reminded him of his:
“obligation under the rules to immediately scratch a horse if, at any time between closing and the deadline for declarations, the trainer becomes aware that the horse is not going to run.”
The BHA added
“In the interests of fairness and transparency for racing fans and the betting public, it is for Mr Henderson to clarify his plans publicly as soon as he can.”
They also sent a vet along to take a look at the horse, which Henderson had no objection to as there was nothing wrong with him, and Henderson said “that’s why I was reconsidering running him”.
There is so much that’s unsatisfactory about this sequence of events. The sharp market fall, the subsequent announcement via a bookmaker, the failure to scratch the horse and that, as the horse was sound, the preference was for him to run after all.
On the Rebecca Long Bailey marks out of ten system, these scribblings award Nicky Henderson 12.
Nods and winks
Put it down to frustration in having to tackle trainers who were subject to a series of serious allegations in the past year, but a spoof quiz compiled by National Association of Stable Staff chief executive George McGrath (pictured) caused yet more friction within the sport.
The quiz appeared in the Association’s newsletter, and typical of the questions was:
Name the trainer that thinks part time staff do not have the right to holidays? There is more than one correct answer to the question
Other questions referred to a range of matters including sexual assault, staff rights, equality and pay.
The National Trainers Federation responded angrily, not least that the quiz addressed the allegations in a “publicly provocative manner”.
No doubt there were some knowing nods and winks among stable staff, but are these matters which can be dealt with in a jokey manner?
At best it was clumsy and it clearly cranked up antagonism between respective parties.
There’s no excuse for any trainer who is guilty of any of the allegations, but there are better ways to illustrate the sorts of conditions which some table staff have to endure.
For marks out of ten, George McGrath gets 11.
Nothing is ruled out
Martin St Quinton has not long been in the job as chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, but one can assume he’s picked up the key objectives of taking the course forward to bigger and better things.
So, ITV Racing’s Ed Chamberlain, somewhat reverentially, interviewed St Quinton (pictured) and sought his opinion on the possibility of the Festival being extended to five days, finishing on Saturday.
St Quinton played a straight bat to the question, saying nothing was ruled out nothing was ruled in. But it was difficult not to draw a conclusion that he’d be happy with an added day.
That was also a conclusion which trainer Alan King had arrived at when he wrote about a “long chat” with St Quinton after which he was won over to extending the Festival to five days.
The report of the chat, published in King’s Racing Post Weekender column, was easy to interpret as St Quinton giving the official line. Within hours, Cheltenham Racecourse slapped down the suggestion that a five-day Festival was being explored saying: “We have four fantastic days of the Festival running Tuesday to Friday, and no plans for a fifth day.”
So that’s that, although the speculation will never go away, but St Quinton is probably now going to refer questioners to someone media savvy at Jockey Club Racecourses.
On the Rebecca Long Bailey points out of ten system, St Quinton gets 11.
You can’t argue with that
Having a fifth day of the Cheltenham Festival meant the sport’s columnists aired their conflicting views with varying degrees of elinquency.
Former Racing Post editor Bruce Millington went through a series of questions concerning the wisdom of the Festival taking place on a Saturday, dismissing each concern in turn.
One concern was “But it’s also the Six Nationals on that Saturday”.
“So what” was the response from Millington, no fan of egg chasing. “The Cricket World Cup final, the British Grand Prix and the men’s final at Wimbledon all took place simultaneously last year and seemed to cope. ITV could bill it as a great day of sport building a bigger audience than the midweek cards”.
At the back of my mind there’s something telling to me that the British Grand Prix is being moved to avoid a repeat of such a clash.
Also worth pointing out that the Six Nations comprise three back-to-back matches that Saturday, starting at 2.15, with coverage split between BBC and ITV. Such games can attract 7m viewers.
“So what” indeed.
♦ Rather pleased to have got through these scribblings without referring to Marx out of ten. Oh damn.
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