Things We Learned » PR lesson

PR lesson

We learned lots about the whip and the new whip rules this week, just as we had the previous week. (Is this only going on for two weeks? Feels like months.)

We learned that the BHA weren’t really to blame for the debacle. We learned that, contrary to common perception, the new whip rules have actually been commended by everyone in the sport through a very thorough consultation process, the result of which was a very long document, and we learned that the recommendations contained in this very long document were endorsed by everyone in the sport, all the stakeholders.

We learned that the timing could perhaps have been better, and that if there was someone who had to take the blame, then the BHA chairman and acting chief executive was more than happy to do so, that he wasn’t going to pin the blame on one of his minions, no way, because he can’t really remember the detail, he can’t recall who was in favour of bringing in the new rules five days before the richest day’s racing ever staged on British soil and who was against it, because that’s just the type of guy that he is.

We learned that putting the new whip rules in place was like buying a car, thinking that it felt great (sic.), then bringing it in for a service and realising there were some tweaks that needed to be made. Just tweaks, you understand. Not a new engine.

And we learned all of this from one interview.

October Fest

Last Saturday at Cheltenham was a good day for Irish trainers, with Gillian Callaghan and Sabrina Harty doing it for the girls with Ongenstown Lad and Kalann, and Shark Hanlon chipping in with his bumper winner Clondaw Warrior. Also, if the Gordon Elliott-trained Chicago Grey hadn’t managed to unseat his rider at the second last in the three-mile handicap chase, the fence at which he fell in the three-mile novices’ chase at last year’s November meeting, it probably would have been four out of seven on the day for Irish trainers.

Put that with wins on the Friday of the two-day meeting for Henry de Bromhead, Gordon Elliott and James Nash, and that’s six out of 14 for Irish trainers at Cheltenham so far this season. We’d settle for that strike rate at the Festival.

Sheikh up

On this day last year, one of the handful of juveniles that Sheikh Mohammed had in training in Ireland, sporting his famous maroon and white silks, went across the water and won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. The same thing could hardly happen again today, could it?

Just Champion

Whip rules aside, and barring the negatives that were the decimation of the calendar in order to accommodate it, and Richard Hughes’s absence and Christophe Soumillon’s ban (they would have got away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids), Champions’ Day at Ascot was one of the good days. The sunshine helped a lot, Frankel helped even more (how many flat horses these days receive a spontaneous round of applause when they enter the parade ring before a race?), and the presence of Fame And Glory and Deacon Blues and So You Think added hugely to the day. If you are an optimist by nature, there was an awful lot about Ascot last Saturday about which to be optimistic.

In terms of the quality of the racing, it was up there with Breeders’ Cup days and Irish Champion Stakes days and Arc de Triomphe days and Royal Ascot days. There were only two Group 1 races, but the two Group 2 races and the one Group 3 contest were so high in quality, that they could easily have qualified as Group 1 contests. (The average official rating of the four highest-rated horses in the two Group 2 races were 118 and 116 respectively, while the two best horses in the Group 3 race were rated 120 and 116 respectively.)

Above all, though, there was a real feeling of bonhomie about the entire day, and racing needs all the bonhomie it can get these days.

Katie Nugent Fund

The sun also shone on Ballinlough last Sunday for the inaugural Katie Nugent Fund Duathlon, which was appropriate. We learned about the need to train and the need to hydrate, and we quickly learned that the bike section was two circuits of Ballinlough’s perimeter, not just one. More importantly, however, we learned about the poignancy of the loss of a life that was barely six years old, and we learned that it was difficult not to well up as you read A. A. Milne’s lines on Katie’s memorial card and on

When I was one, I had just begun.

When I was two, I was nearly new.

When I was three, I was hardly me.

When I was four, I was not much more.

When I was five, I was just alive.

Now I am six, I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six now and forever.

© The Irish Field, 22nd October 2011