Happy New Year?

New Year is traditionally a time to look forward and why should I be any different as I take a look at what I would like to see in 2011.

Of course one reaches a certain age where the hope and optimism of youth gives way to the realities of the real world and the level of cynicism rises exponentially with each increasing year.

If I were still in the optimistic flushes of youth I would hope to see a unified organisation running racing, as opposed to the disparate mish-mash we have now, all of whom seem to care more about their own self-interests than the overall interest of the sport they profess to care about.

Of course achieving such a united organisational structure would be on a par with resolving the Middle East crisis.

So we need something more achievable.

The first and most far reaching change is actually one of the easiest to implement and that is the removal of Paul Roy from the Chairmanship of the BHA. He has already shown his ego gets in the way of common-sense and the debacle of the Betfair shares must throw his ability to do the job into serious doubt.

Secondly we need a fundamental change to the fixture list for 2012 with not only a radical cut in the number of fixtures but a fundamental restructure in the funding of the sport. This is an area I have touched on before and one I do not intend repeating here. (For my previous musings on the matter take a look here)

The other changes I would like to see in 2011 are the decisions to race in inclement conditions being taken away from local officials and the appointment of fully professional bands of stewards, instead of the enthusiastic amateurs currently used, who seem to be unable to work with any consistency.

Racing For Change should be consigned to the fog of memory, an unnecessary expense which has made a great deal noise yet has delivered little for the benefit of the sport.

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They say honesty is the best policy and it was interesting to note some total honesty in front of the Huntingdon Stewards yesterday (6th Jan).

The Stewards were interested in the running of Second Brook in the Novices’s Hurdle and when they spoke to the jockey, Peter Hatton, he responded he had been told to “give the horse an educational ride” this was confirmed by the trainers representative.

Whilst in no way condoning schooling in public, how refreshing it is to actually hear a “confession” when caught out.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this new policy of openness extended right across the sport – then again I think there is more chance of my wish list above coming to fruition.

I also had to smile when I saw the Chairman of the Huntingdon Stewards was Tommy Cooper. How did they come to their decision – just like that!!!

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It’s a shame the televising of Stewards Enquiries is not more widespread. I would have loved to have seen the Stewards Enquiry at Kempton on Wednesday evening.  

In case you have not seen it there was an objection in one of the races where the winner, Caprio, tried to give the runner-up, Jake The Snake, a love bite on his neck as they approached the line.

As only a nose separated the duo the rider of the runner-up raised an objection.  

It must have been an interesting enquiry, especially as it was the horse who was the miscreant and not the rider - would the Stewards have interviewed the horse?

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Stewards report is not available online, I look forward to reading it with interest.

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The 2011 racing year got off to a miserable start at Cheltenham on New Years Day, with the terrible accident that befell Joe Lively.

There was a lot of ill-informed criticism on the internet, specifically attacking Colin Tizzard for letting Joe Lively run as a 12-year-old. I think that criticism is unjustified.

What happened to Joe Lively did not happen because he was a 12-year-old, it happened because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was simply a racing accident, which could have happened to any horse in any race.

What made it worse was it happened to a popular horse, at a prominent meeting and immediately in front of the packed stands.

It was a horrible accident, I have to confess it was one of the worse injuries I have seen on a racecourse for many a long day. I certainly regret panning my binoculars back to check how he was – I felt physically sick when I saw his injury.

Sadly though, it is a fact of life of National Hunt racing. It does not mean we do not care, the day people stop caring is the day we should pack up the sport and go home.

It is grossly unfair to attack Tizzard for running the horse and if people really cannot accept such  incidents then they should, perhaps, find another sport to follow.

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On a personal note I was looking forward to a better 2011 after 2010 was easily the worse one of my life.

13 really was an unlucky number last year was we worked out 13 people we know died during the year, including my Dad.

Just when I thought 2011 could not be any worse, it does get worse.

As I write this, my best friend’s wife is in a hospice with days, possibly only hours left to live. (I am writing this to try and keep my mind off things)

She is only 48 years old and they have two lovely daughters age 13 & 9, life is so, so unfair.

Twelve years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer but fought it and had been “clear” for the last ten years.

Then early last month they discovered the cancer had returned, this time in her liver and elsewhere.   
 
Initially the prognosis was she could well have five years left but she has deteriorated rapidly to reach the current situation.

It is strange I have lived fifty odd years without having to deal with cancer first hand, as it were.

My father was the first person I had seen die from the disease and it was an horrific experience, watching him deteriorate and end up effectively stripped of his dignity. At least he lived to a good age, he was 85 when he passed away.

No dear, lovely Jules is going through exactly the same thing but is seems so much worse somebody her age has to go through that. I cannot even begin to comprehend how my friend is feeling, how his daughters are.

I can only hope the end now comes quickly and peacefully for her.

I will never understand why life can be so cruel.

One thing is for certain though, events like this certainly put a bunch of horses running round a field into some sort of perspective.

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