Friday, August 25, 2017
There are two sides to social media.
The good clearly outweighs the bad, for there are many more good people than bad people, but the negative side was horribly evident last weekend following the death of Permian in America.
Mark Johnston was quoted in the Racing Post talking about his shock and disgust at some of the reaction on Twitter in the aftermath of the accident that cost Permian his life. Mark was attacked for how he trained and raced the horse, while his son, Charlie, who was on duty at Arlington Park, was slated by some for the things he said.
The first thing to make clear is Charlie Johnston, a trained vet as well as a racing professional, made absolutely the right decision to have Permian euthanised as quickly as possible.
He did so only with the horse's best interests in mind. William Buick was able to tell people he had hurt his back. Permian could not talk for himself. In such circumstances we have to take responsibility for the horse. That is what Charlie was doing. It is what we had to do when Hell Of A Band sustained a terrible injury during Glorious Goodwood.
Those who wrote vile things on Twitter about the Johnstons represent a small minority but great hurt can be taken from their words.
I once received a tweet from someone expressing the hope that my kids would die.
I learned quite quickly you don't even respond to mongrels like that. You just block them and move on. Nonetheless, such wickedness no doubt encourages some people in racing to completely ignore social media. My natural instinct is to follow their lead and, for a while, that is exactly what I did. Commercially, however, I know I need to have a social media presence.
I or the girls in the office often send a Tweet when we have a winner. I know full well it is a corny thing to do, and I don't like doing it, but I also know I have to do it.
Self-praise is no praise. When I was riding I never expected to be told I had given a horse a good ride. Equally, I'm not naturally inclined to shout about having trained a winner, but if loads of other trainers and telling the world they've had a winner - and they are - we would be stupid not to do the same. If only a handful of people actually see the Tweet and take it in, it's better than nothing.
I don't mind having the odd debate on Twitter, either, even when it involves me being criticised. People are absolutely entitled to their opinions, and if I think they are expressing them fairly and honestly I'm not averse to entering into a conversation.
Those conversations are nothing new.
Long before social media was born, you would have found people in betting shops saying exactly the same things people now say on Twitter, with one guy accusing a jockey of being rubbish and another guy defending the rider. The words haven't changed, just the places where you might hear or read them.
In terms of people's opinions, I found it very hard to take seriously the survey that recently claimed one in two respondents believe races are fixed. I'm sure if you asked all those people the name of this year's Derby winner, very few would have been able to provide an answer.
In the same way, if you asked me to express any sort of opinion about cycling, I might say something like: "They're all on drugs."
Now, quite clearly, they won't all be on drugs, in fact very few of them will be on drugs, but as someone who knows next to nothing about the sport, I hear the word 'cycling' and it makes me think of Lance Armstrong, which in turn makes me think of drugs.
You would be astonished how often I go to the races and get stopped by people who ask me if a horse I'm running will be trying.
Firstly they say something like: "Would he have a chance today, Richard?"
The next question will be: "So, will he be trying, then?"
I look at them like they've got five heads. Of course he's trying!
The problem is most horses simply aren't good enough to win the race they're in, no matter how hard they're trying. I know for a fact, though, the perception of numerous people is if a horse hasn't won, the jockey can't have been trying. The people who properly understand racing never ask me, or any other trainer, if a horse is trying. Tom Segal or Paul Kealy wouldn't ask questions like that - and they make a living out of tipping horses.
I was once trying to get to Leicester racecourse and ended up becoming a bit lost. I pulled over into a garage and asked for directions. They had no idea there was a racecourse in the city, let alone where it was, yet it turned out that garage was less than a mile from the track.
If you go into a garage in Ireland and ask how to get to the local racecourse, the people in the garage will be able to give you the directions not only to the local track but probably also to every other track in the country. They will also tell you their cousin has a leg in a horse. That's because horseracing is part of Irish culture, plus the fact Ireland is a much smaller country.
Sadly, in both countries you will find idiots who seek to ruin social media for everyone else. At times it can be hard, but we shouldn't let them.
Enable should stroll through the Darley Yorkshire Oaks but the Ebor festival's two other Group 1 races are desperately hard to work out.
I cannot wait for the Juddmonte International. It should tell us loads about how good the three-year-olds are relative to the older horses. We know there is one exceptional three-year-old in Enable, but she is a one-off.
I believe York will suit Ulysses perfectly.
Prior to running a great second in the King George, he won the Eclipse, in which Jim Crowley had to wait and wait. He would be a dream ride for me! Due to the Knavesmire being so flat and level, they often tend to start racing sooner than on other courses. Assuming they go a decent clip, that will help Ulysses.
Barney Roy, who came so close to beating Ulysses in the Eclipse, pulled hard at Sandown. That would not be a worry to me going into the International.
For a start, he was moving up in trip from two major mile races to 1m2f last time.
Just as important, in the Eclipse they start by running down a slight hill, while there are then ridges to tackle. Those factors can make it hard to settle a horse, even more so in a race like the Eclipse in which they invariably jump fast from the gate.
As for who will win, I'm sitting on the fence, while I'm also far from confident about predicting the outcome of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
A lot of sprinters need to be ridden with significant patience, as I know all too well through Sole Power. Those very different horses who are able to jump and run can head off in a straight line and simply gallop. Lady Aurelia and Battaash are two such horses.
It is going to be purely about speed and which of the two is fastest.
If we get fast ground I'd go for Lady Aurelia. On slow ground I'd go for Battaash.
If it's somewhere in between I'll be back on that fence!