Tuesday, May 29, 2018
I was at Goodwood last Saturday – but I was one of the lucky ones.
I didn't see any of the horrible stuff that took place in person and thankfully none of my owners did.
However, I've watched the video clip that shows a man lying on the ground and being kicked in the head.
It was awful. It's the sort of thing I'd hate my children to see – and some people with children who have seen those same pictures will surely now be thinking twice about whether a summer day at the races is suitable for a family day out. That's terrible for the sport.
When you watch old black-and-white football footage it's apparent that fans from the opposing teams could, and would, happily sit together.
Times have changed and that doesn't happen now, and it seems times have changed with racing as well because I'm afraid to say what happened at Goodwood has been coming for some time. What was needed was the combination of a warm day and a lot of people who have taken a lot of drink on board. That's what we got.
I wrote in the column two years ago about a summer evening meeting at Lingfield, where my wife Lizzie and I witnessed two fights. In one of them a man was knocked out after he fell off the wall he had been standing on when hit. He crashed to the ground like a block of meat and ended up lying there, bleeding from his ear.
There are people in society who want to get involved in this sort of vicious, idiotic behaviour. The real worry is they now seem to see racecourses as a place where they can do it and a place where they seemingly also think they can get away with it.
A big additional concern is that the massive exposure Saturday's incident received will encourage these thugs. The coverage of the Goodwood fight was an advertisement that will have been seen by all the wrong people. They will go on YouTube and know if that's the sort of thing you want you can get it on a racecourse.
You can't ban drinking alcohol on racecourses. Loads of people go to the races to enjoy a drink but behave themselves impeccably. Unfortunately, because some people do not behave, and probably set off to the races knowing they want a boxing match, racecourses are going to need to do more than they have done up to now.
I don't blame Goodwood for what happened. This has become a snowball that just happened to land there. However, it's clear Goodwood and other racecourses do need to review their security arrangements on vulnerable days. They need to have more people on duty, working to make sure scenes like last Saturday's are not repeated or, at the very least, get stopped far more quickly than was the case on this occasion.
This sort of thing didn't happen on British racecourses ten years ago. It happens now. We have to stop it because the damage this could do to the sport and its reputation is enormous.
Billesdon Brook winning the Qipco 1,000 Guineas was a brilliant result, not just for her many owners, Richard Hannon and Sean Levey, but for all those owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys who don't spend the majority of their time with horses sired by Galileo or Dubawi.
Her Classic triumph gave those people – and I'm one of them – hope it can happen to any one of us.
Here was a filly who had competed in a nursery off 87 and was defeated in the Nell Gwyn on her reappearance, yet she still won the Guineas with daylight to spare. Many sets of connections might have decided not to run her but the Billesdon Brook camp quite rightly took the view that if you're not in you can't win.
So many Group 1s these days cut up badly and are left to the superpowers because everyone else leaves them alone. In those circumstances we all make it even easier for the sport's big guns than it would otherwise be.
This was a big-race win that had the Hannon stamp all over it.
Richard snr spent his life with a licence buying affordable yearlings and taking a 'let's give it a go' attitude. Year in, year out he found cheap horses who consistently beat more expensive ones. His son now does the same – although he was as shocked as everyone else by what Billesdon Brook achieved.
The winning syndicate is headed by Jeanette McCreery, whose late husband Bob bred their future Classic winner. I remember once riding for Bob on a filly called Ronaldsay. She was consistently unlucky and on this particular day I got locked up on the fence in a small field. She passed the post without having ever come off the bridle. I should have won a minute and was mortified coming in to unsaddle. Bob's reaction was: "That's racing, Rich, don't worry."
The last memory I have of Bob was when we went over to Italy for the Oaks. I rode Middle Club for Bob and Jeanette and failed by a short-head to get their filly home in front. We were chinned in agonising fashion but the journey home was every bit as enjoyable as the outbound trip to Rome. That's the sign of proper racing people.
As for Sean, he is someone who has worked hard for years as an important cog in the Hannon wheel. It's great to see someone who works hard receiving such a fantastic reward.
Sean did not expect to win last weekend, but don't forget I rode top-class horses for about 20 years but won only two Classics.
Horses with the ability to win a Classic only come along now and again. You need plenty of luck to get aboard one on a day when everything goes right and the horse performs to his or her best ability. Billesdon Brook's odds on Sunday were 66-1 but Sean's odds of ever winning a Classic were probably even higher – and that's absolutely no disrespect to him.
It wasn't a fluky result, but it certainly was a fabulous result. Billesdon Brook's 1,000 Guineas victory showed what is possible. It was great for the sport.
It was fascinating to watch the Kentucky Derby build-up, not to mention the race itself.
I find it astonishing someone wasn't badly hurt or worse before the race even began.
I know they rave about the traditional 'walkover', when the 20 runners make their journey on the track from the barns to the saddling boxes, but why do the horses have to be accompanied by so many people? It seemed like the distant cousins of everyone associated with every one of the horses were trudging through the Churchill Downs muck.
Then, when the runners were making their way through the tunnel to the paddock we appeared to witness total mayhem. As far as I'm aware nobody has ever yet had their head taken off during this stage of the preliminaries, but at some point in the future they will.
I'll always remember watching on television as American Pharoah stood like a lamb with around 100 people surrounding him. Not every horse is like that. Maybe the US thoroughbreds are so used to the environment that it doesn't faze them at all, but none of it looked right, safe or sensible.
As for the race itself, it was obvious to me the winner was going to have to sit in the first four on such a sloppy track.
You had to feel sorry for Mendelssohn. He was leaned on coming out of the stalls by a horse who looked much bigger. He was left trying to hold him off and make up ground at the same time.
I think Aidan O'Brien will have another go and I think one day he'll do it.
We have only one runner on Saturday, with Great Sound going in Ascot's 1m4f handicap (2.15).
He made his debut for us last month at Kempton and finished down the field, but you can forget that run. It was his first run of the year and horses by Galileo don't have a great record on the all-weather.
He'll run a nice race, but 1m4f will be a bit sharp for him as he's going to end up wanting two miles. He's a work in progress.
Lady Of Shalott caught my eye when she won on her debut at Yarmouth last year. She'll run well under Jamie Spencer in the Lingfield Oaks Trial (1.55).