A Funny Week
It’s been a funny old week has this week.
On Wednesday I had a day of contrasts.
On the racing front I attended what must have been the most uninspiring, uncompetitive race meeting in many a long day, all the more annoying because the card actually looked quite competitive the day before.
Matters were not helped by Haydock being hit by an overnight deluge, which significantly altered the going and led to many non-runners.
Only one of the seven contests produced anything approaching a finish to get the pulse racing.
Notwithstanding the poor quality racing the talking point of the afternoon centred around the “performance” of Nevertika.
Leaving the parade ring he was the 3/1 favourite for the contest, although quite why was a moot point as he was returning from a lay-off of almost a year.
However as soon as he emerged from the parade ring he bolted, ran away with his inexperienced rider Harry Haynes, who lost his irons and had to endure what, I imagine, was at best an uncomfortable, at worse an extremely painful ride as his mount did a full circuit of the mile and a half course at near racing pace. For good measure he also twice managed to almost demolish the running rails.
By the time he pulled up he was drifting markedly in the ring – at least the drift would have resulted in a smaller Rule 4.
He was eventually pulled-up in front of the stands with Haynes gingerly dismounting, soon to be joined by the horses lass and trainer.
The somewhat small crowd were expecting the horse to be returned to the stables and for the withdrawal announcement to be made.
They waited, we waited in the press room. The lass started leading the horse, however not in the direction of the stables but towards the start where the other eight runners were waiting patiently.
It has to be said there was absolute incredulity in the press room that the horse was going to be allowed to take part in the race.
The vet took a look at the horse at the start, it must be a withdrawal now - no it was allowed to line up, by which point it had drifted out to 7/1.
To quote the official form book Nevertika was “in rear, ridden along and lost touch after 4th, tailed off when pulled up before 6th” – Quel Surprise!!!!
There is absolutely no way that horse should have been allowed to take part.
Yes his price drifted on-course but what about those who backed the horse before the antics. They were never going to get a run for their money.
Some will undoubtedly argue “well that’s racing” or “horses have bolted before and still gone on to win.”
Both statements may contain some element of truth, however “well that’s racing” is not a justification. It doesn’t mean it is right, the same comment could equally have been applied when we had wooden running-rails and concrete posts.
At a time when racing is attempting to attract new blood incidents like this do not look good.
In response to the comment “horses have bolted before and still gone on to win.”
Well yes they have, but they are in a minority and very rarely when they have run a full circuit of the track flat out.
Common sense dictates, in the circumstances seen on Wednesday afternoon, Nevertika should not have been allowed to race.
It was not good for punters, it was not good for the image of racing and, most importantly, it probably did the horse little good either.
So all in all an unsatisfactory day at the races.
Anyway as I said at the beginning it was a day of contrasts and going racing at Haydock on Wednesday had an ulterior motive as, after racing, I was going to meet some long lost relatives.
Ironically this meeting came about, indirectly, as a result of racing, or to be precise non-racing.
I am not the sort of person who can sit at home doing nothing and when we had the prolonged cold snap in January I decided to research my family tree - after all there is only so much all-weather racing a man can take.
I knew Dad had a sister and I had four cousins but as with a lot of families they had lost touch over the years.
I have some very vague recollections of seeing them when I was about four years old, believe me that was a very long, long time ago.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I managed to track them down and to my utter delight I found out my Aunt was still alive, 90-years-old, and that she and three of my cousins all lived within four miles of Haydock Park.
Wednesday was the day to finally meet them again.
I have to admit I was, to use the venacular, bricking it as I drove from the course to my cousin’s house. I need not have been, they are all lovely people and four generations of the family were there to meet me … … I had a great evening and came away with loads of photographs and stories of when Dad was a lad. Something very special, as we have no photographs of Dad in his younger days.
Now contact has been made the next move will be to get Dad to meet his sister for the first time in 45 years, for what I expect will be a very emotional reunion and my "kid sisters" can meet part of the family they have never met before.
I didn’t get home until the small hours of Thursday morning but I don’t care because what happened that evening more than made up for any rubbish day at the races.
In some of my previous ramblings I have moaned about internet forums and in particular racing forums and especially anonymous posters who think hiding behind a nickname gives them the right to be gratuitously offensive with impunity.
Well I have to report I have finally finished with internet forums. I have to say I made my exit with mixed feelings but what I have seen on the forum in the last week has vindicated my decision.
I had been concerned for some time about the level of personal abuse being dished out on the forum, inevitably by the anonymous posters.
In addition there was one poster in particular who seemed to delight in twisting virtually everything I wrote and was seemingly intent on just stirring things up.
Needless to say he was hiding behind an moniker and, as it often the case, a wholly inappropriate one. In the end he made one comment too many and that was that, I decided to no longer post on the forum in question or, indeed, any other forum.
A couple of times since I have wondered if I was being rash in no longer posting, however as I said, a couple of subsequent events have, I believe, vindicated my decision.
First of all I was talking to a colleague on the press room, indeed the very colleague who introduced me to the forum in the first place, and told him I had stopped posting and explained why. He then told me he had also stopped posting because of the levels of personal abuse being dished around the forum. In his case it was a thread entitled “Derek Thompson Is A Tosser,” which stopped him contributing.
Derek Thompson polarises opinion, however no matter how much you may dislike his style making a comment like that on a public forum is not acceptable. Needless to say the thread was started by an anonymous poster – I wonder if they would have the guts to call Derek a “tosser” to his face. I suspect not.
For the record my view is his style may not be the most appropriate for the big meetings, however he is absolutely brilliant at "working the crowd." He is perfect MC or commentator for "family days" in he has the ability to engage with the crowd, the sort of person who can get the first timers to come again. And from my own dealings with him I find him a likeable, friendly man.
It goes without saying the thread attracted a number of personally abusive postings about Derek. Although it is perhaps unfair to single out Derek here, as there are equally abusive threads about the likes of Big Mac and other "personalities".
Now, even if I had not stopped posting when I did I would certainly have stopped posting in the past week.
After the Champion Hurdle a thread appeared with a provocative, indeed potentially libellous, title which questioned the integrity of a leading racing journalist and broadcaster.
I am not going to add further oxygen to the fire by repeating the details here, suffice to say the basic question being raised was a valid one but the tone and underlying implication of the original posting was wholly unnecessary and over the top.
Interestingly the original posting was from a normally anonymous poster however on this occasion he did, at least, add his name at the end.
The “debate” then became quite robust with, unsurprisingly, more snide comments being made.
To their credit the journalist against whom the allegations were made came on the forum and explained their point of view, addressing the points raised.
That should, of course, been the end of the matter.
Of course it wasn’t, the thread then continued with further sniping and abuse.
Robust debate is one thing – gratuitous offence is inexcusable.
It has to be said the journalist in question is more than capable of defending themselves and stating their case. That is not the point, they should not have to defend themselves and they certainly should not have to defend themselves from abusive posters.
The mentality of some of these posters is such they think they can make these offensive comments with impunity and they cannot be traced.
How very wrong they are, not only are they personally liable for what they post they can easily be traced – perhaps they should bear that in mind before posting any more abusive, defamatory, comments.
Or failing that they should just have the guts to say what they feel openly without hiding like the cowards they really are.