Conversions, crossovers and shifting goalposts

Whilst keyboarding a piece relating to Bill O’Herlihy’s retirement, yours truly erroneously referred to Gift Grub when the mimics it had been the intention to mention were the folks behind Apres Match. Both sets of people are exceptionally good at what they do, but, strange as it may seem, some recent goings on in racing provoked thoughts of another of their kin, Oliver Callan.

In the first episode of his new show, the Monaghan satirist did a send up of Queen Elizabeth commenting on the visit of President Michael D. Higgins. One can’t help wondering will Callan have to bring herself into his act again following the news of a Royal horse, Estimate – the sole steed of a living monarch to win the Ascot Gold Cup – testing positive for morphine.

It’s not a funny matter, though. Frankly, it’s the last thing racing needs. Bad enough with any horse, but, given the owner in this case, that such things might even flicker on the radar is incomprehensible. Clouds that hang over particular areas take far longer to disperse than accumulate and how this particular case pans out could be a watershed.

As with many facets of life I suppose, nothing should surprise in racing. Some happenings do, though, simply because better would be expected. Whether it be pertaining to circumstances such as the ones above or unnecessary instances like Davy Russell’s demotion by Gigginstown or John Oxx being similarly shunted by the Aga Khan.

Thankfully, however, much of what enabled the production of what you’re reading has been positive. With one glaring exception which – though infuriating – still wouldn’t be enough to sully some of the better – and quite intriguing – developments of late. Put simply, the past while would be best described as a cacophony of conversions, crossovers and shifting goalposts.

Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way quickly. At the outset, it must be said that farcical situation surrounding the start of the recent Irish Oaks should in no way detract from the classy performance of the recently retired winner, Bracelet. It may, mind you, be forwarded as reasoning for below par showings by some of the more fancied participants.

For those unaware of the scenario, the start of the race was held up for an elongated period as Volume – trained by Luca Cumani in England – had to be entirely re-shod. Here, it must be stated that no blame could or should be apportioned to the Curragh farrier. Contention arises in that (a) the trainer would’ve been well aware of the stipulations here and (b) there was an element of the goalposts be shifted in accommodating efforts that may not, you feel, be reciprocated elsewhere.

Many would feel they shouldn’t either. The excellent Kevin O’Ryan was forcibly blunt in his assertion that “This is not a 47 to 65 handicap we’re dealing with here, it’s a Classic”. Inference being firstly that such tomfoolery shouldn’t be tolerated and second that horses have been withdrawn from lesser races after holding up proceedings for a lot shorter time. Clearly, the comments carry much credence and, maybe more significantly, it’d be wagered that the same thing wouldn’t be allowed happen again.

Anyway, all of that messiness cannot take from the positive vibes that have been pulsing through on course action of late. Most notably as the Ballydoyle crossover between flat and jumps activity continues and, indeed, gathers momentum. Namely, owing to horses like Shield, Plinth, Mac Bride and King Leon – who never really hit the high notes on the level – have proven more than adept when faced with obstacles.

Of even more interest, mind, was Jim Bolger intimating that some of his stock may be about to become more involved in jumps action. Already, products of  Coolcullen such as Morga, in particular, and Star Power have made their mark in National Hunt. That said, the mooted conversion of the admirable Chance To Dance – possibly in conjunction with JP McManus – would be fascinating were it to transpire.

The sense is, too, that, in ways removed from the positivity earlier referred to, racing needs every bit of interest generation it can muster. A recent piece in the Racing Post chronicled how on-course bookmakers are suffering in the current climate. Having experienced the atmosphere – or more pointedly lack thereof – of midweek fare, particularly at this time of year, it can be vouched that the gravity of the situation facing the rails operators is far from being exaggerated.

Thus, anything to attract new patrons – or lure disaffected ones back to the fold – could only be good for the sport. Bolger and Aidan O’Brien locking horns may be nothing new, but, were they to do so in the NH sphere it would, presumably, catch people’s attention. Were that attention to lead to action by way of attendances, it’d be a great boost.


Leave a Reply