Saturday, 12 August 2017


We have seen some outlandish articles penned by writers connected to the Racing Post in recent weeks, the latest being a piece by Simon Holt who claims to be in favour of discontinuing all races for two year olds, an arm of the sport that generates much attention and anticipation from fans, and huge involvement from those with investment in the industry.

Now, apart from being unworkable, not wanted by almost all involved in the sport, and totally ludicrous too, it is furthermore hard to believe that Holt is sincere in his feelings and is either trying to create a 'niche' for himself, or possibly but less likely when you consider that this follows closely behind a couple of other strange articles, he has been summoned to write an eye catcher in a continued attempt to spice up things under the Racing Post banner.

As with the article calling for the whip to be completely banned, and the call for time trial contests between races, this latest achievement by a writer connected to the publication to make himself look a tom fool achieves zilch kudos for the person or publication.

Even more surprising is the fact that Holt, established first and foremost as a race caller, risks damaging the image of a balanced individual more than the other two who are staff writers with not much to lose. 

Or maybe it's just what happens to you when you become a 'personality', which within the confines of the sport Holt undoubtedly is. Does he wrongly believe that this 'fame' bestows a power upon him whereby he is taken seriously no matter what claptrap he spouts?

A winning point for horse racing in countries where it has a long history is the general rigidity of the calendar allied to the structure of the sport. This is something that enables us to make pretty straight comparisons with the past, whether it be ten, fifty or even one hundred years back.

The general format of the flat racing calendar has not changed dramatically in all this time. Admittedly, we've had some clueless entities doing their best in recent times to make a mess up of it to justify their easy incomes, but thankfully all they've done so far is taken some bricks from the building and replaced them in wrong positions, so to speak.

Many would have you believe that a calendar that has remained much the same for years is one reason why the sport is in decline. These are  the people who would support a total revamp as what has happened in top level football in much of Europe. They would revel in a statistic that boasts that a certain player has made a record number of appearances for his club in Champions League matches and compare it favourably against the old European Cup competition where they would play a fraction of the games they play in the mini league format that now exists.

They would have you believe that football only began with the invention of the Premier League and forget all comparisons of achievements prior to this dangerously powerful and potentially self-damaging monster.

They would want the Timeform ratings of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Sea Bird revisited and revised.They would of course never question the ratings given to Frankel or Harbinger, and would have been gutted that their latest object of endearment, the over hyped Arrogate, was beaten the other week.

In their eyes the present is always an improvement on the past. Change and modernisation are always for the good and must be encouraged while the rose tinted spectacle brigade must be scorned upon.

Two year old racing is a pivotal part of the sport. It does not require a revamp let alone a prohibition. Newbury and Newmarket maidens, questions and predictions as to how the form will work out, classic contenders or merely handicappers, the hype and excitement generated over a visually impressive 'that could be the one' display.

Even the flops linger in the mind for years on. Remember Michael Stoute's Classic Tale in the mid 1980's? Headed the market for the Guineas after winning at Ascot then reappeared in the Acomb. There was a definite buzz surrounding the colt that day. Like many I was taken in by the hype and even took a picture of him in the pre-parade ring.

But alas the bubble burst minutes after when he trailed in well beaten and the talk was silenced for good.

Holt is a supporter of the over played nonsense regurgitated about speed taking over pedigrees. He is forgetting that at the moment our top class middle distance events are flooded with Galileo's. The same happened with his sire Saddlers's Wells during the nineties and noughties. He has now become a significant influence in jumping pedigrees. 

The St Leger is likewise often brought up in these debates as though its decline is a very recent circumstance. Truth is it was losing it's mojo many years ago but on the plus side we've had Camelot attempting the Triple Crown in recent years, something that most of us were convinced would never happen again.

And what of the Ascot Gold Cup - fact is in Yeats we've had a multiple winner during the last ten years who has been the best since the Sagaro, Le Moss, Ardross run of winners.

Holt adds that damage is inflicted upon the pedigree pool with horses retiring to stud not fully proven. He believes this is weakening the breed and lessening durability. Well, oddly enough, he use to revel in commentating on races involving the 'iron horse' Giant's Causeway who was from a Northern Dancer branch started by Storm Bird, who himself never trained on at three

While it's not pleasing to see horses retired at the end of their juvenile career to go to stud this happens rarely and there is actually a genuine success story unfolding for one such animal at the moment in the shape of the thriving Dark Angel, who could even go on and leave a permanent male line and a mini dynasty of his own.

I would expect Holt is a fan of the German modus operandi whereby stallions, in addition to achieving a certain level of form, have to pass soundness and durability tests to be 'approved' and eligible for breeders premiums. Furthermore they must have never raced under medication.

There have undeniably been some success stories from German standing stallions in recents years, most notably with Monsun, fully tested as a racehorses and one who passed his class and toughness down to many of his offspring.

However this is not so straightforward as it may seem. As an example Danzig only made three racecourse appearances and is responsible for one of the most successful Northern Dancer line dynasties. Truth is, for every successful stallion that one would expect to fit the Holt approval you match it with an equally successful one who started his breeding career with 'flawed' credentials.

Holt is in a position of privilege to be given the top platform to air his views on all things racing.With that comes a responsibility to speak sense and to back up any would be controversial opinion with solid supporting evidence. He has failed abysmally to do this with his latest offering.

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