14 September 2017

Mike Vince Racing UK Blog 

There’s one thing that stands out about this job- variety and the need to deal with all sorts of emotions.

First there was the honour of being Racecourse Commentator as 30,000 packed Ascot for the DDF Shergar Cup, regarded as the world’s premier jockey’s challenge. Calling 12 of the world’s greatest is special enough but the fact they all wear team colours makes it a challenge. But although my rooftop eerie can be lonely, the atmosphere generated by the crowd as the race reaches its climax- hopefully lifted by a few well chosen words- is amazing. (you might understand by watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93jNbBqfo2E)

Then came 4 days of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Four magical days in Gods Own County where the horses who stole the show were Ulysses, Enable (our best of the year) and Marsha but the first day welcome was one of the most spectacular if happily short lived cloudbursts I have ever seen. York is famous for the successes of its summer music programme but it really did seem Wet Wet Wet had made an unscheduled appearance.

There have been trips to Ireland in between- notably for the first day of the Longines Irish Champions weekend, but in recent days two tasks that really made you realise why racing is more than just a sport to countless thousands.

It was back to York on Sunday for a day which featured the first running of the Tom O’Ryan Apprentice Handicap, named in memory of the man who was my Presentation colleague at York in 2016 until he was stricken in late July which claimed his life just five short weeks later.

How Tom would have loved that the race was for Apprentices. He mentored many, who sought him out as his advice was solid gold- just as his friendship was to people like me. Yorkshire was his adopted home and he would have been thrilled that a young man named Callum Rodriguez, who spoke with a sincerity and dignity of how everyone had talked about Tom that did him enormous credit, should have won the race.

Just 24 hours later I found myself interviewing jockey George Baker. A year ago he celebrated his finest hour when he rode the winner of the world’s oldest classic, the St Leger, at Doncaster on Harbour Law, the first victory in a race first run in 1776 for a woman trainer.

This weekend he will be back on Town Moor, just pleased to be there after life threatening injuries in the most horrific fall at St Moritz where horses race on ice. He talked amazingly about how watching that Leger DVD has helped so much in his recovery and in a 3 minute interview used the word positive no less than 5 times. There have been few more popular jockeys in the flat racing world in the past decade. His courage does him huge credit.

It was, of course, Bill Shankly who once said ‘Football to many is a matter of life and death- to us it is much more serious’.

What a shame no one in racing has ever encapsulated what the sport means in such memorable prose.