My heart has been broken on a racecourse, more than once in fact, and after a while I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I took a break from the turf. I’ve only kept an eye on proceedings because of the wonder horse Frankel who I saw hack up at the Dewhurst nearly two years ago now. Frankel moves the heart and soul like very few other horses do, but I confess there have been a few . I won’t name them now. Those who know me might remember some of them. Probably they won’t. It doesn’t matter – no need to make the heart hurt more than it needs to on a sunny October morning.
All that’s a rather long way of saying, today, I logged into one of my long idle gambling acounts. One has been run down to a balance of zero thanks to ‘inactive adminstrative fees’. Because it costs you money to be my bank Mr Ladbroke? Another remains intact with a sum in the magnificence of eleven pence. Still, Paddy Power has at least left the paltry amount in my name, rather than helping himself to it in disgust at my giving up the gambling life.
It turns out I am not ready to place a bet. I think I will close the accounts. I have others elsewhere, but I can’t remember who with, or indeed the log-ins. I have a vague idea that there is some money in one of them, somewhere. I was thinking I might have a bet on Meandre today, but the ground has gone in Longchamp and it will not be coming back in time for this afternoon’s race. Even worse, I find I do not care who wins the Arc. What is wrong with me? It only seems like yesterday I ran the Southend 10K on Arc Day morning and then watched when Sea the Stars confirmed his place in the glittering firmament later that afternoon. It seems like yesterday, but in truth it is three whole years ago. The further truth is that I don’t run any more and I don’t go racing.
Where has the time gone?
Where are all the horses that used to live in my head?
Richard Hughes has handed in his jockey licence over the new whip rules introduced this week.
I have some sympathy for him. In fact quite a lot. Jockeys are paid to do a job: to get their horse into the best possible finishing position in a race – preferably in the money if not the winner’s enclosure.
Hughes is not against hitting horses less during a race. This is where we slightly part company.
I am against hitting horses in a race, but if you are allowed to carry a whip and everyone else is using them to achieve the stated aim of achieving the best finishing position whaddya gonna do?
Asking someone to count the times they use the whip, and confine yourself to only 5 uses in the last furlong (the one where you ride the finish) is asking people to distract themselves from the task in hand. Pass the final furlong pole, ask or keep your horse up to its effort, bring it wide or find a gap, keep it straight and count, count, count, count, count. Richard Hughes used his whip 6 times – you can use it for a total of 7 in a race, but no more than 5 of those must be in the final furlong – so he’s in breach of the new rules.
He’s one of our most experienced jockeys and I am sure he can count, but expecting people to work one way for years and then just switch to another is asking a lot. Hughsie said on the radio this morning jockeys had been trying to practice it a bit in the run-up to the new rule; clearly it’s not worked.
When I was first into racing I was in a racing club where the horses were raced without shoes and the jockey was not allowed to use the whip. The jockey had to carry one in accordance with the Rules of Racing, but the trainer and owners stipulated it was not to be used. Incredibly, for those people who couldn’t countenance racing without hitting horses, sometimes these horses won races. And I can tell you as a spectacle and as someone who respects and appreciates animals it’s far more attractive and enjoyable to pick up some winnings without your jockey picking up a whip ban.
Just get rid of the damn thing and have done. Good riders will manage without them perfectly well. Lazy horses might be more lazy, but so what? Horses might run straight when they aren’t running away from the whip, so we might see less inteference in finishes and the wider public will have to lose the perception that animals are beaten in the pursuit of entertainment and money.
Asking professional riders to count up to 5 in the final furlong is a multitask too far it seems.