They say timing is everything. So it would be hard not to feel there was an ulterior motive at play with the timing of the broadcasting of the recent Panorama programme on BBC entitled Racing’s Dark Side. Coming as it did in the lead up to both Gordon Elliott’s return from suspension and the Galway Festival – arguably one of the biggest events in the sporting and hospitality sectors in Ireland each year.
Look, nobody wants to see animals mistreated. Nor would anyone condone such practices or persons who knowingly engage in same. Knowingly being the most important preceding word. Gordon Elliott made a mistake, admitted as such and continues to deal with the consequences of his actions. Both by way of the suspension of his license and the withdrawal of stock belonging to some of the leading owners in National Hunt racing.
Now, with reference to Cheveley Park Stud drawing stumps on their relationship with Cullentra House, it is my belief – and only that – they were pressured into that case of knee jerk reactionism at its worst. To me, those who have stayed loyal to Gordon speaks a lot louder than those who chose to kick him when he was down.
Moreover, you must also remember that the other trainer targeted in the covert operation, Gavin Cromwell, was for a long time, Gordon’s farrier. Anyone that tries to tell me that was pure coincidence must still be putting a fiver under their pillow for the Tooth Fairy. Aside from misgivings about the broadcast outlined above, there are to my mind at least, more questions than answers after the event. For example:
- Why were they the only two trainers mentioned?
- Why was it only the Irish scene which was being focussed on?
- How many instances are there of UK based trainers having horses either currently or previously in their care slaughtered?
- What if any knowledge of the horse racing and/or bloodstock industries did the producers/presenter of and contributors to the programme have?
- In view of the fact considerable airtime was afforded to anti-racing sensationalists, why were there only a couple of paragraphs of quotes supposedly from those representing the racing and bloodstock industries?
- Who facilitated the covert recording of footage inside people’s placez of business?
- What action can and will be taken against those behind the covert recording?
It might surprise some to know that it’s actually the last point made which angers me the most. It’s lazy, sloppy ‘journalism’ – sh** stirring more like. And those who aided and abetted such product obviously forget what side their bread is buttered. As one fairly high profile figure within racing put it to me whilst researching for this piece “Sensationalist Paddy-whackery”.
That is not to say there are not bad apples in racing’s barrell. Unfortunately there are, as is the case in every walk of life. But there are many wonderful people doing marvellous things with injured, retired or older horses. Look no further than the likes of the Blue Cross or the National Stud or initiatives such as retraining of racehorses.
Witness former greats of the game such as Hardy Eustace and Harchibald and Brave Inca and Beef Or Salmon found new lives in events such as the Dublin Horseshow. Tarring an entire industry and those devoted to it is unjust and highly unfair.
Ultimately, horse racing – and jump racing in particular – is the people’s sport. They vote best with their feet and I guarantee there’d be a lot than 1,000 per day in Galway if they were permitted.