29 November 2017
Racing’s highs and lows of 2017
Time for the annual fitness regime to kick in. Short break in Washington DC over, now comes two of the most testing weeks of the year – The Awards Circuit.
We have ours on Monday – the Horserace Writers Derby Awards to be more precise, and the very next day an early plane beckons to the Horse Racing Ireland Awards, to which an invite is much prized. And, as if that is not enough, the very next day its back to the UK and to Gloucestershire for more ‘hospitality’ at the launch of the 2018 Randox Health Grand National – this at a yard which has had more cause for celebration (and by all accounts made the most of it) in recent weeks.
Even then we’re not done as the following week it’s the Go Racing in Yorkshire Awards.
We all have our own memories of 2017 and I won’t embarrass the guilty by naming mine for ‘Worst Transport Nightmare’ (though there is a runaway winner) or the ‘Worst Interviewee of the Year’ (in fairness a very small field), but here are a few of my 2017 highlights which will stick in what’s left of my brain long beyond the Big Ben chimes of midnight.
BEST INTERVIEW LINE OF THE YEAR
No question. Winner: Sir Mark Prescott. Good enough to speak to me about the chances of his brilliant filly Marsha before she went to the Breeders Cup – the first time Sir Mark was planning to race there himself.
“She was fantastic down the 5 furlong straight at York.” I said “How hopeful are you she’ll be as good round a bend?”
“No problem,” the legendary Baronet replied “After all, she’s handled Catterick!!!”
BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Tough, but probably seeing Jessica Harrington, for whom my respect is only matched by my admiration in the winners enclosure after Sizing John’s Gold Cup win at Cheltenham. At the age of 70 she had struck gold with her first runner in the Blue Riband.
WORST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
And for some years – Many Clouds, brave and courageous to the end at Cheltenham. Enough said.
THE ‘IF ONLY’ MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Jockey James Doyle is one of the most personable, helpful and articulate of all the flat jockeys, to such an extent that he emerged before racing at Royal Ascot one day to do an interview for ITV at the entrance to the weighing room clad in a top and with his bottom half covered in a well fitting towel, which he was holding in place while doing the interview. The ‘opportunity’ this presented was seized by the Jockeys Room mischief department who got to the scene seconds too late. One more question to that nice Mr Doyle and things would have got, shall we say, interesting.
NAME FOR THE FUTURE
The next generation always take their time to adjust to media demands, that’s understandable, but in more years than I care to admit doing this job few have proved a better interviewee than teenager Harry Cobden. Sensible and mature way beyond his years he made a great impression and he’s shaping as a rider with the potential to go to the top.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2017
Here’s the contentious bit – to paraphrase the great Bill Shankly – ‘to some punting is a matter of life and death, to us it’s much more serious’. Of all those that go racing or watch it, how many really care about ante post, spreads, exchanges, sectional timing and the like? The answer is a minority, but a very loud one if you believe the amount of coverage given to those rather than to the sporting interests of the majority. People talk through their wallets and not their heads, and to me it is just plain wrong.
So here endeth 2017 and if you don’t hear from me for a while I hope you will understand why!
by Mike Vince