Friday, 18 August 2017

The Whip Debate

The whip can be an emotive subject and it is right to continually review our stance in the light of public perception. For that reason alone, I am quite sure that Nestle completed extensive customer research before they decided to rename their oldest confectionary brand – but I can’t help feeling that it is a mistake to remove the walnut from the Walnut Whip, first created in Edinburgh in 1910.
 
To draw an analogy, it’s a bit like taking a steeplechase and doing away with the obstacles. What are you left with? Oh yes... that’s right - it’s called Flat Racing.
 
But while Flat Racing still offers a great day out for the family (obviously – I’ve got to support my friends who happen to work at Flat tracks here), it’s not quite the same. Even Nestle have realised that they’re going to have to spice up their new range of Whips using a variety of flavours including caramel, vanilla and mint. What, I wonder, could we do for Flat Racing? Perhaps we should ask the jockeys to ride side-saddle, or make them face the horse’s tail, to up the stakes a little. Now that would be fun.
 
I don’t mean to scaremonger though - Jump Racing fans will be relieved to know that the Walnut Whip is not actually being discontinued, the plan is to continue selling it alongside its less nutty sister-products. Because, like Jump Racing, walnuts offer important health benefits – they’re good for the brain and the heart, help to fight cancer, stave of heart disease and promote fertility. I am fairly sure that the same has been said of racing at Cartmel, where we shall shortly be staging the final race-meeting of the season on Saturday 26th August and Bank Holiday Monday 28th August.
 
At Cartmel we’ve always stuck to the principle that variety is the spice of life. It’s why we like to make sure that there are always plenty of things to see and do. So, quite apart from the racing, visitors can take a tour of the medieval village, enjoy all the fun of the fair, participate in a jamboree of kiddies’ cricket matches and ball games, eat their picnics and have fun with their friends. There are also a number of trade-stands.
 
This August, however, we are on high alert. Following the theft of a lorry from Neustadt, in Germany, containing 20 tonnes of Nutella and Kinder Surprise Eggs, members of the public have been asked to keep an eye out for anyone offering suspiciously cheap chocolate in unusual locations. Could be the sort of thing that occurs in the Course Enclosure on Bank Holiday Monday – we’re preparing for a visit from Trading Standards just in case.
 
This week’s selection runs (over obstacles) at Perth on Saturday. I’m hoping that Caius Marcius will allow us to sample the sweet taste of success.
 
Psst… anyone want to buy some cheap chocolate?

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A Case of Mistaken Identity

There have been plenty of excellent people called Geoffrey: Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Palmer who appeared in the sitcom Butterflies and Geoffrey Boycott, who is apparently quite famous in Yorkshire. Geoffrey is obviously a marvellous name, but it isn’t my name – which explains why I didn’t respond to it when the furniture removal man shouted out from the kitchen, "Geoffrey, have you got a spanner to disconnect this washing machine?"
 
At least, I didn’t respond straight away. It finally dawned on me that the question was being addressed to me at the fourth or fifth time of asking, at which point I simply went and found a spanner. I refrained from pointing out that my name’s not Geoffrey which, given how stressful moving house can be, could easily have slipped out as a rude or irrationally irritable statement. Which is why I spent the next 48 hours being called Geoffrey – because if you don’t put these things right at the first opportunity, they have a habit of escalating.
 
It’s also why I have some sympathy for Charlie McBride, the trainer who saddled the wrong horse in a race at Yarmouth recently. At least Millie’s Kiss had the decency to respond to the jockey’s urgings as if she really was Mandarin Princess – by passing the winning post in front. It’s an unusual situation, one that will inevitably lead to the disqualification of the winner and the promotion of the second-placed horse – with most bookmakers paying out on both.
 
The problem is that, what starts as a simple mistake, soon escalates to become a major issue. Hence the subsequent questions: Was the saddling error really a mistake or was it intentional? When and how was the horse’s identity checked? Should anyone have prevented the wrong horse from running? Who’s lost out and will they sue?
 
I am convinced that the regulation surrounding the integrity of horseracing is second to no other sport. There will, occasionally, be individuals that are tempted to break the rules for financial gain – but I doubt that Charlie McBride is one of them. Every horse that runs at a British racecourse has an identity chip which is checked on arrival at the racecourse – and the BHA is trialling procedures for further identity checks before each horse departs for the Parade Ring.
 
Every race is analysed from a plethora of camera angles, jockeys are grilled by stewards and horses are tested for a myriad of performance influencing substances.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent approximately half the population from believing that horseracing is fixed – according to a recent survey of 2,000 people conducted on behalf of Portland Communications. I can’t say that I’m very surprised – if you stand in any betting shop long enough, you’ll hear enough conspiracy theories to explain away all the losing bets ever struck. It doesn’t mean they’re true – just that humans make mistakes, especially when they’re backing and tipping horses.
 
As for me, I’ve no need for conspiracy theories. If Autocratic doesn’t win the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock on Saturday, he wasn’t my selection – he was Geoffrey’s.