Things We Learned » HRI rewards

HRI rewards

It was all good news stories from the podium before the announcements of the annual HRI awards on Monday (which were also good news stories). We already knew about the reduction of just 1.7% in government funding for racing, a serious result in the face of swingeing cuts in funding to just about everything, but it was no harm that Minister Simon Coveney referred to it, and explained the rationale behind government’s willingness to minimise the reduction (government’s commitment to the horse racing industry, obviously). And it was good news when Denis Brosnan said that, as a result, he would be recommending to the HRI board that no cuts be made to prize money for next year.

It is not too long ago that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition was seen as something to be greatly feared by the good ship Racing. The reality, as it has come to pass, is quite the contrary. There is little doubt that the HRI chairman’s political nous has been hugely influential in this regard, in convincing the decision-makers of the worth of the horse racing industry and the significant benefits to be derived from governmental support. Consequently, there was more good news for racing when the minister confirmed, as had been widely suspected, that Denis Brosnan was not going to step down this month, as was originally intended, but was going to stick around for a while, probably until November 2012, until this external review of the horse racing industry has been completed.

We’re not sure how the minister is going to put the funding of racing on a sound footing, so that Racing Inc is not going back to the government of the day, cap in hand (the minister used those words and all) every year for the perennial dig out. We’re not sure that he’s sure how he is going to do that. However, the important thing for now is that the willingness is there, and it was obvious on Monday that it was.

Of course, the cornerstone result was that the minister was in attendance in the first place. Once you knew that he was intending to attend, to make a key-note speech, you could have bet long odds-on that the message was going to be a positive one. Thankfully, another favourite obliged.

Rubi Gold

So how come Rubi Light is a shorter price for the Ryanair Chase than he is for the Gold Cup? True, he has never been beyond two miles and five furlongs in his life, but he shapes like a stayer, and both his sire and his dam give him every chance of getting at least three miles.

Robbie Hennessy’s horse was third in the Ryanair Chase last March, which proved that he could handle the track and the good ground, and he stayed on up the hill in a manner that suggested that a step up in trip might bring about further improvement. He put up a huge performance in beating the high class Joncol in the John Durkan Chase last Sunday, clocking a top class time (a remarkable 15 seconds faster than the beginners’ chase run over the same course and distance on the day) on his first run in nine weeks and just his ninth ever chase, and there is every chance that he will progress again from that. He is only six, he will be seven next March, the ideal age for a Gold Cup aspirant, and there is no telling how high he could go.

His next intended run is in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in 11 days, and that suggests that his trainer is thinking more Gold Cup than Ryanair. The 20/1 available about him for the Gold Cup looks much more attractive than the 12/1 they are shouting about him for the Ryanair.

Henderson hand

Grandouet’s win in the Stan James International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday only served to further strengthen Nicky Henderson’s chance of landing the Champion Hurdle again this season. The Seven Barrows trainer – currently joint-winning-most trainer of the race with five, same as Peter Easterby – is now responsible for four of the top six in the ante post market for the race.

Sam sham

These things are easy in hindsight, but when Richard Pitman approached Sam Waley-Cohen with his microphone at Fakenham on Monday, after the rider had returned after pulling up Otage De Brion a circuit from home in the handicap chase, Sam should have walked past him with a no comment walk, and went in to talk to the stewards. Then he could have gathered his thoughts before coming out again to speak to the cameras.

If they had flat races at Fakenham, the five-furlong races would be a circuit and a half long, and professional riders with much more experience than Waley-Cohen have lost count and gone the wrong side of that rail at Fakenham in the past with a circuit to run. The amateur rider’s mistake – a little like Sean Gallagher’s in the Presidential Stakes – was essentially not in committing the act, but more in trying to hide the fact that he did. It is a pity, it is difficult not to feel sorry for him, we have all said stuff in the heat of a moment that we have regretted, but, like old Chinese ploverb say: a word, like a stone, once launched, cannot be recalled.

Name game

Complete the sequence: Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, Tripleprint Gold Cup, Bonusprint Gold Cup, Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup, Boylesports Gold Cup, Vote AP Gold Cup, Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup, X Gold Cup. Who knows? Any chance they could just call it the December Gold Cup and put the sponsor’s name in front of that for a couple of years, so that, when trainers talk about plans for the race, they don’t have to add, “or whatever they call it these days”?

© The Irish Field, 17th December 2011