15th Mar 2012
Mallory: “Sam, don’t play dumb with me!”
Sam: “Mallory, I AM dumb, I sometimes play clever”
The West Wing
@dredvers has accused Osblog of posing too many questions and not enough answers. It is flattering that the great nobleman needs answers, although I am sure he just wants confirmation of what he already knows – everything.
It is Cheltenham week and most people just want to know the name of the winner of the next big one. It is a huge festival which dominates the calendar like no other. No race winner during the Winter escapes the connecting questions and all roads lead to the Cotswolds. It may overshadow many great achievement along the way, but the future of the sport lies in the big days getting bigger, not in the doubling of the weekday crowd from 800 to 1600, but of getting the six figure crowds fixated on horseracing, even temporarily. Tennis is a massive global sport which concentrates on a smaller number of elite events to retain relevance in a crowded world.
The Flat programme is trying to rearrange itself similarly. We have some geopolitics here, with the racing jurisdictions holding territory. The Irish Champion Stakes has been a great success since the Phoenix Park days and Sadler’s Wells (the race was the Joe McGrath Memorial before that 1984 inauguration). I hope The Irish Champion Stakes can retain its prestige through the various reshuffles that are discussed in the context of the Autumn programme.
One difficulty for the Flat in its pursuit of a Cheltenham-shaped season – there will often be an uneasiness on the part of many owners at the prospect of getting beaten. Every owner of a National Hunt horse seems to understand that “this is the day”, knowing there may be no tomorrow. The Flat programme remains under the spell of the Breeding Shed and the Sales Ring, the temples where the dreams of many are realised by few. If subsequent valuations were entirely ratings-based then defeat would not matter. Second to Frankel gets you a higher rating than a win in several Group 1s you might mention. Giant’s Causeway is the great example of a horse whose reputation was enhanced in defeat, the epic struggle with Tiznow at the Breeders Cup.
Healy photographers have launched their new annual of racing images, “Off To The Races 2011”. If you want to know what makes racing great, get it. On every page you see why the sport captures us and never lets us go. When we are finished asking esoteric questions and tired of clichéd answers, Pat Healy & Co remind us that horse racing is a heart thing not a head thing.