Another Year Over

Well as we slowly skid our way towards the end of another year it is traditional to look back at another year and I am going to be no different.

I suppose if we are going to be pedantic I could say it is a look back at ten months of racing as both the January and December fixture lists ended up being decimated by the weather.

Indeed it could be argued that Mother Nature is doing what the BHA have singularly failed to do, namely cut back the fixture list.

2010 saw an embarrassing dithering and the exemplification of how divided racing is, with the 2011 fixture list farrago.  

With a realisation there would be a massive reduction in the Levy yield it soon became clear the BHA board had no plan B in terms of funding or how to manage the situation.

Out came noises that the 2011 fixture list would face a massive pruning, not before time said many of us. Yet when the fixture list was finally published the reduction was minimal, so small it would hardly be noticed.

What would be noticeable would the a massive reduction in prize money with minimum prize values being reduced or even scrapped.

All the fiasco did was underline how impotent the BHA is when it comes to running the sport and it again underlined how much power the bookmakers have as they continue to leech the sport.

The situation at the BHA is not helped by the attitude of its Chairman Paul Ray, a man with a such a massive ego he has, himself, become the story to the detriment of the sport. Indeed Roy must be the biggest single obstacle to a meaningful Levy replacement being negotiated, yet he somehow manages to remain in post.

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At the beginning of the flat season it was being asked if 2010 could surpass the excitement of 2009 where Sea The Stars became the 21st century’s first flat equine superstar.

The atmosphere was quite low on Epsom Downs the first Saturday in June as we gathered to view, what looked on paper, to be a sub-standard Derby.

Even as Ryan Moore crossed the line seven lengths clear on Workforce the initial reaction amongst us media cynics was “impressive, but what has he beaten.”

It was only when judge Nick Bostock announced he had won in a course record time that we suddenly began to ask were we watching another equine superstar?

The illusion was shattered at in the King George VI at Ascot when he put in woeful performance, coming home fifth of sixth, even his handled Sir Michael Stoute was at a loss to explain the drop in form.

His next appearance was at Longchamp where Stoute was bullish about his prospects although many, myself included, had our doubts.

It is, of course, dangerous to question Sir Michael as was shown as he returned to take the Arc, winning what was a very rough renewal.

Stoute admitted after the victory he had managed to get the horses training wrong earlier in the season.

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Over the sticks we had another round of the Kauto Star / Denman battle as we headed towards the Gold Cup.

Again the weather has some say as after three and a half days of lovely weather the rain arrived just before the big race. However it could not dampen the spirits of the sell out crowd, many of whom were adorned in either Denman or Kauto colours.

The burning question was which of Paul Nicholls stars would prevail.

Of course the joy of racing is the horses do not read the script. Kauto Star had one of his bad jumping days, eventually falling four out, having blundered earlier on.

Denman was prominent and finished best of the Nicholls four but offered no challenge to Imperial Commander who  came home an impressive seven length winner although he still has his detractors.

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Another case of the script not being read came at Churchill Downs when the wonder horse Zenyatta attempted to end her career undefeated and ensure her place in racing folklore. She will still remain in the hearts and minds of many but Blame came and spoiled the party and her immortality was denied.

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When you have been champion jockey for 15 years where else do you go?

Well AP McCoy showed us this year as he finally overcame his Grand National hoodoo and, in the process, proving wrong those who said he was unemotional.

His year was crowned, literally, by becoming the first jockey to win the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year.

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On a negative note Racing For Change continued to be a waste of money and resources.

The few excellent ideas it has had have not been followed up, whilst they continue to pursue pointless exercises and, worse of all, take the credit for things they have not achieved.

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On a personal note I, once again, set myself the target of visiting every UK racecourse in 2010.

Due to a combination of bad weather, volcanic ash clouds and family problems I failed by five courses.

Is it worth trying again in 2011?

Probably not, this is the third year I have attempted to achieve the “full set” in a calendar year and the third time I have failed.

This year being the most spectacular failure of all, the previous two years I failed by one and two respectively  …. perhaps if I don’t deliberately set out to achieve it in 2011 I may end up doing it.  


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