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.

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