Donn's Articles » Black day

Black day

Saturday was a black day for racing. The fallout from Newbury’s unprecedented events is still ongoing, and will no doubt rumble on for a while. There is a lot that is not known yet about what happened, but what we do know is that we lost two young horses, Marching Song and Fenix Two, and that is a sad reality.

At Warwick just over an hour later, Kilmurry was putting it up to erstwhile Arkle favourite Finian’s Rainbow. He probably wouldn’t have beaten him, but he was much closer to him on landing over the second last fence than many thought he would be, when he went wrong and had to be pulled up. Later, the news that you semi-expected and utterly feared was confirmed as actuality.

Just over a half an hour later in the parallel universe that was Leopardstown, Money Trix was doing what Money Trix does best, bowling along on the soft ground, jumping from fence to fence, his distinctive grey form striding out to grab the ground, his hooves in an easy rhythm, when suddenly and inexplicably, on the crown of the turn that would take him up over the last fence and past the Leopardstown crowd that knew him as one of their own, he went wrong and was pulled up. It says much for the priorities and concerns of the racegoing public that there were as many sets of binoculars in the stands trained on the stricken horse and rider Davy Russell down at the bottom bend as there were on the rest of the runners as they made their way towards the first fence on the second circuit. Sadly, Money Trix couldn’t be saved.

A circuit later, Glencove Marina appeared to be travelling as well as Kempes as they rounded the home turn, they were the only two horses with motionless jockeys on the run to the final fence. Eoin Griffin’s horse couldn’t match Kempes’s finishing surge up the run-in, but he kept on gamely to finish second, recording the joint-best Racing Post Rating of his career in the process. Robbie Power on Glencove gave winning rider David Casey a playful congratulatory tap with his whip on the way past as they pulled up, delighted with his own horse, gallant in defeat. Then, before he could even make it back to the chute that would take him back to the unsaddling enclosure, Glencove Marina collapsed and died.

It is difficult to find the silver lining in the cloud that enveloped racing on Saturday. The supreme glass-half-full man will tell you that it was a miracle that only two horses lost their lives at Newbury. Kid Cassidy may have been lucky, The Merry Giant may have been lucky. Imagine if the first race on the day had been a 22-runner maiden hurdle instead of a 10-runner Class 3 event, how many horses would have been down at that end of the parade ring when the phantom electric current struck? And how lucky were we that no humans were affected?

Owner Craig Bennett said that he would have done anything to save Money Trix if he could have. Unfortunately the horse’s near-fore was so badly broken that there was nothing anybody could do. Glencove Marina was the best horse in Eoin Griffin’s yard, the best horse that the trainer has had in many years, possibly ever, his flagship horse. Everyone in the yard was looking forward to the spring when the horse would get to race on his favoured good ground.

It is difficult for those of us who have not spent any appreciable time in a racing yard to properly understand the impact that the loss of a racehorse has. The owners, the trainers, the lads. A head collar going home from the racecourse, a space in the horse box, no head peering out over the half-door. It is desperately sad, it brings grown men and women to tears, but it is not a tragedy. Six people killed in a plane crash in Cork is a tragedy. Jack Tyner’s death is a tragedy. The loss of a racehorse, a beautiful animal, is a terrible thing, but it is not tragic.

Of course racing made the headlines on Sunday. Kempes winning the Hennessy is not mainstream news, Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power winning two Grade 1 races is not mainstream news, but two horses electrocuted as they parade before the first race at Newbury most certainly is. That’s the nature of mainstream news.

It is imperative that racing is comfortable in the face of the inevitable scrutiny that follows. The freak events at Newbury notwithstanding, racing is a dangerous sport, no question. However, it is not unique in that regard. The important thing is that every possible measure has been put in place in order to minimise the risks to the health and wellbeing of participants. In that regard, these days, thankfully, racing can sleep easy.

© The Racing Post, 15th February 2011