Saturday, 5 August 2017


'Knowing what side your bread is buttered on' is an apt expression when it comes to the racing media handling delicate situations. They may proclaim to 'say it as they see it' but at the end of the day it all comes down to who the recipient is, who he is connected to, and the fear of the possible consequences of upsetting those beyond criticism.

The incident this week of course which led to restrained (they would call it constructive) analysis was the ride William Buick gave to Ribchester in the Sussex Stakes. The ride looked a moderate and indecisive one at the very best but no one on the ITV team was willing to do the deed and say so with one of the team even of the opinion that the horse may be 'claustrophobic' , something I can never recall being used to excuse a jockey's questionable ride.

The controversial Betfair Forum reacted accordingly to the ride and a thread was created which up to now has had nearly 5,500 views. Not all were of the view that it was a bad ride, but the large majority were critical and there were some well constructed points of view put forward.

A peculiarity of this forum is that while it is constantly smeared by many of the self important, thin skinned characters in the racing media, some of the threads will have more viewers than many of the articles they themselves write.

When you look at how many Racing Posts are sold each day, then consider how many reader actually read every article, then it's almost certain that many pieces in that publication get less than 5,500 views. If you've ever paid attention to someone with a Racing Post, it's nearly always the race card to the exclusion of everything else apart from maybe the footy and Pricewise.

The Ribchester case is not one that would leave so called balanced journalists in trepidation over possible libel action. Not a Top Cees at all as no one is being accused of purposely preventing a horse from winning. This is merely the case of a poor ride in an important event that is in most peoples minds deserving of critical scrutiny by those being given a platform and paid to offer an unbiased opinion.

Given it was the marquee Group 1 event of the meeting, this morning's The Opening Show or later during live coverage were ideal opportunities for them at the very least  to have revisited the incident, though I suppose if they were not prepared to question the indecision of the rider then they probably thought best not to cover it at all. Come what we now expect from them it was not such a surprise after all.

Comparisons are often made with the football media and the general willingness in that sport to speak from the heart. Players performances are often labelled inadequate, opinions clearly stated that they are not capable enough to be in their team, even on occasions dubbed as not capable enough to be playing in the league they are in.

In racing a touchy feely skirt around the issue atmosphere exists. And when it comes to praise those with the right connections receive it, often unjustly.

John Francome would sometimes speak before thinking, but even he knew when not to cross the threshhold. He frequently made reference to how well Mr J P Magnier rode the high class hurdler Rhinestone Cowboy, even when the horse was given a lot of ground to make up in the Coral Cup.

When David Wachman's  Again won the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2009 another character who supposedly speaks his mind, James Willoughby, wrote something about Wachman being the trainer of the future when general consensus would have probably concluded that he was fortunate through connection to have the quality of horse to train that he did and was not necessarily over performing with them.

There are of course those that are considered expendable by the media. Remember how the Racing Post reported on Mick Quinn losing his trainer's licence. This was an episode where you could either allay much of the blame from the trainer on the basis of delegated responsibility, blame it all on him as the buck stops at the top, or produce a reasonable balanced argument.

Their report was unforgiving, showing the trainer in the poorest light possible.If the culprit had been one of many other certain trainers then the whole affair would likely have been reported with a different interpretation.

Of course, when it comes to foreign based riders who they will not encounter on a daily basis the tongues are loosened. Remember how The Fellow's rider  Adam Kondrat was treated. Similar to a few other French based riders including Jacques Ricou.

In fact I remember watching the runners come off the course after the 2003 Sun Alliance Chase after Ricou  appeared visually to have asked Jair Du Cochet  to make up an impossible amount of leeway on the eventual winner One Knight.

A well dressed well spoken late twenty something gent barked, ' You bum hole !' at the passing rider, to which Ricou stared directly back at him, clearly inflamed. Heart having clearly missed a beat or two the gent then added, 'You 'erm, gave it 'erm, too much to do'. No doubt a little too shaken to add the name on the end for the rhyme.

We don't expect those employed to report the sport to be abusive, but at the very least we would appreciate some fault finding where and when it's due. Wasn't it Salman Rushdie who said something about freedom of expression ceasing to exist without the freedom to offend.

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