Last weekend at Cheltenham, we raced on respectable ground for the first time this winter. Simon Claisse is an excellent clerk of the course, but this season he has seen the weather gods throw the kitchen sink at him.
The first two Cheltenham meetings in October and November were staged in horrific conditions, and the ground was very trying. So what a relief that last Friday and Saturday the sun was out and they had two fabulous days of racing.
There has been plenty of talk in racing over the past week about jockeys. Primarily, this is about the decision by the British Horseracing Authority to change the rules when it comes to jockey apprenticeships and the financial reward trainers receive for taking on an apprentice — the current system sees Flat trainers retaining up to 50% of an apprentice’s riding fee and prize-money yield in return for paying towards their expenses, but this is set to change.
It is incredibly hard for any budding young jockey to get on the ladder of becoming a jockey. But then it is equally hard for trainers to support and promote young riders — especially when owners pay the same for a top-class jockey.
Some of the top Flat handlers have been prominent in helping these youngsters get going and many of them, including Andrew Balding, have voiced their thoughts, pointing out that they will now have to stop helping these jockeys. There has been much debate about this, but I am sure that when the dust settles, sense will prevail.
Rules are rules
Sandown Park witnessed a fiasco a fortnight ago during the London National Chase. The race was declared void after the jockeys failed to stop riding when a yellow flag was being waved at them — due to a stricken horse on the track.
Most jockeys carried on and finished the race, while others rightly pulled up. Understandably, the stewards reacted with a heavy ban of 10 days each for the seven jockeys involved — all of whom will now miss the lucrative Christmas racing period.
The jockeys have the right to appeal, but frankly they shouldn’t as it is drummed into them that when they see a yellow flag being waved, the race must be stopped. All jockeys know this — it is no different to drivers passing through a red light. Rules are rules and there is no excuse.
We now roll onto the festivities and the headline racing heads to Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The King George VI Chase is the biggest race of the Christmas period, but sadly it looks like Altior will be missing it — what a shame.
Happy Christmas. Enjoy, and remember that horses need humans to look after them — even on Christmas Day.
Ref Horse & Hound; 19 December 2019