AT Listowel on Sunday senior jockeys, Paul Carberry and Ruby Walsh, decided they’d had enough as far as starting procedures in this country were concerned and protested to the stewards, after riding in a handicap chase. They argued that they had obeyed the instructions of the starter and others had simply ignored him.
When the starter gave the field the green light to go both Carberry and Walsh maintained they were left at a disadvantage.
The stewards agreed with the jockeys and the matter, as well as the ongoing problem with starts in general, was referred onto the Chief Executive of the Turf Club.
The stewards did their duty, took decisive and much-needed action and, hopefully, have made the first move to resolve one of the great eye-sores of Irish racing.
And we have had many eye-sores over the past few months and, at times, what has been going on has been downright embarrassing.
Sit down any day and watch English racing and you will rarely see a false start. In Ireland you almost expect one to arrive at any minute.
How often, relatively recently, have we heard course commentator Des Scahill, or one of his colleagues, utter the words: “a false start?
The Turf Club knows this, knows there are problems and yet it takes the actions of two jockeys to get the debate raging.
There are clearly one or two starters in which the jockeys appear to have little or no confidence.
Indeed, one senior jockey in the summer, utterly frustrated after being summoned to the stewards’ room, reportedly said to the starter: “Do you not see that you are the problem?”
But the jockeys have to shoulder their share of the blame as well.
Frequently, we see many of them letting their horses go forward much more quickly than they should and literally charge the tape.
Ruby Walsh says that any jockey who allows his horse to break into a trot before the marker poles are reached should be heavily fined. And the fines should continue until a particular jockey has learned his lesson. In any case, perhaps the Turf Club will finally act and not have us cringing in our seats, at least on occasions, through the coming winter.
* THAT display by Christy Roche’s newcomer, Golden Ticket, in a bumper at Listowel on Monday was certainly interesting.
He finished right on top of the dead-heaters, Dont Tell The Boys and Eightybarackstreet, after Roche’s son, Padraig, had asked for very little through the final furlong.
A lot of people saw it, although the stewards didn’t think an inquiry into the performance was necessary.
To rider-Roche’s credit he got the retaliation in first and went to the stewards and told them his instructions were not to hit the horse.
He also said Golden Ticket was green and achieved his best possible placing. The stewards thought that was fine.
Now, I wonder if young Roche told them that Santa Claus was a cork man would they swallow that?
After all good old Santa does wear red!
ALSO at Listowel on Monday a contest called the ITBA Fillies Scheme Novice Hurdle was run.
I don’t care where the dosh to fund this came from, it really was most unsatisfactory.
It was a €40,000 race, with €26,000 to the winner, and was contested by bad horses who had no business racing for this kind of extravagant prize money.
* SALUTE HIM, partnered by Ruby Walsh, won a handicap hurdle at Listowel with any amount in hand, with the pilot doing well to keep the margin of victory down to four and a half lenghs.
The following day, in the weigh-room, there was a grand bit of banter between Walsh and affable handicapper, Noel O’Brien.
“I suppose you gave him 10lbs?”, quizzed Walsh, with more than a glint in the eye. “You got that when you looked between your legs”, retorted O’Brien as quick as a flash. Salute Him goes up 16lbs in the future.
* OH, and to get 27,000 though the gates on Wednesday, at an amazingly successful Listowel, was extraordinary and shows that good old-fashioned tradition still means a lot in this country.
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