Irish racingâ€™s international image got another high-profile boost at Newmarket, something the industryâ€™s administrators will no doubt use as another example to government of how its financial assistance pays off in headline-making success stories. But not everyone makes headlines, and not everyone it seems is sharing in the glory.
The argument for state assistance is that it trickles right down through the various levels of the racing industry, from the billionaire owner to the stable staff looking after that billionaireâ€™s horse. So in an industry that prides itself on its excellence and ability to provide rural jobs, is it acceptable in this day and age for stable staff not to have a pension fund?
They havenâ€™t had a fund in operation for over two years, since the old one was wound up. People of pension age are continuing to draw their due payments and younger people who had contributed are likely to get a lump sum when the old fund is eventually divided up. But anyone starting off now, or in the last couple of years, has nothing, despite trainers continuing to pay â‚¬45 per employee, and HRI paying a percentage of prizemoney to the Turf Club.
Estimates differ about how much money is held by the Turf Club but a figure of about a million Euro seems to be generally accepted. This is apparently sitting idle and unused, with thoughts of it being employed as a sort of â€śhardship fundâ€ť being bounced around. This is all well and good.
But for an industry which prides itself on its professionalism, itâ€™s hardly good enough.
With the old fund wound up, is it unrealistic to expect a new one to be organised for those precisely in need of it most by an industry that prides itself so much on the trickle-down effect?
In the midst of all the immediate Grand National fallout, a vital trump card for those defending the Aintree spectacular on the back of those two equine fatalities was a measured response from the RSPCA. But a significant change of tone from the animal rights group spells bad news for the historic race.
The RSPCA has a history of working with British racingâ€™s ruling bodies, a process that has seen many compromises over the years on the nature of the National challenge. The Society has certainly been in a different league to the more extreme animal rights groups, some of which want the National, and indeed all jumps racing, banned.
Having the RSPCA on board in terms of racingâ€™s overall image is hugely important to the industryâ€™s credibility when it comes to defending itself against accusations of animal cruelty. But there appears to have been a serious change of tone in the Societyâ€™s stance on the National.
A report calling for seven key changes to the race is one thing. However using a phrase like â€śkiller fenceâ€ť to describe Bechers Brook is dangerously emotive and displays an eye for a headline that is hardly helpful. But the seven recommendations also reveal a worrisome ignorance of some key details.
An automatic withdrawal for all horses that get loose before the race – like Synchronised – makes no sense. Is the RSPCA trying to make a link between Synchronised getting loose and his subsequent injury? If so, theyâ€™re simply wrong.
Recommending the start procedures be changed is like recommending that world hunger be changed â€“ the question is how.
Cutting the maximum number of runners from forty has been heard before but making the fences â€śmore forgivingâ€ť is likely to achieve little else other than speeding the race up even more. And it is speed that causes most falls.
Eliminating drops at some fences would infuriate National traditionalists but might be worth considering in the overall context, were it not for the RSPCAâ€™s other recommendation that the most famous drop fence of all, Bechers, be eliminated completely.
Without the drop, Bechers is just another fence. Why finish with it?
Making the link between Bechers and the deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete is too pat. Synchronised got up from his fall and picked up his fatal injuries on the loose. According To Pete was fatally injured when brought down, something that could happen in any race.
This corner has argued in the past that keeping the RSPCA onside is hugely important to the preservation of the National. But its latest stance makes the Aintree spectacularâ€™s future look a lot more uncertain.
The dangers inherent in any form of equine activity were stressed by the grisly scenes at the start of the 1,000 Guineas when the unfortunate Gray Pearl sustained fatal injuries trying to get out of the stalls.
However it was Ballydoyleâ€™s weekend overall with a Guineas double completed by Homecoming Queenâ€™s remarkable success and a victory for Camelot that could be the start of something very special.
Plenty of us who doubted a son of Montjeu ever defying his pedigree to win a mile classic are tucking into sizable quantities of crow right now. Camelot had to be freakish to win the Guineas, especially in the way he did, and if he can complete the Guineas-Derby double he will qualify as something very special.
Only the real top-notchers pull off that double and on the face of it, Camelot looks to have done the hard part. There remains a niggle though. After all the same â€śhard part doneâ€ť line was used about Entrepreneur, and Refuse To Bend, and Pennekamp, maybe even Dancing Brave and El Gran Senor.
And the old chestnut does arise. After wondering if he had enough speed for the Guineas, does the question now arise about Camelot being too speedy to truly stay a mile and a half?
We have been before!