It was Liz Taylor who said the best deodorant of all is money, a line that explains best the rising whiff of irrelevance around the Turf Club’s policing role, something that right now is perhaps Irish racing’s greatest shame.
A common question asked on the ground recently is what would have happened if Damien Oliver or Frankie Dettori had got into trouble in Ireland? And the general response is that an Irish solution to an Irish problem would have been found: in other words, a fudge, one that probably would allow a perception of something being done but crucially wouldn’t create real headaches for anyone.
Practically no one believes the clear-cut punishment meted out to Oliver by the Australian authorities would be replicated here in such a scenario. There are any number of reasons for that, a lack of conviction and an excess of expedience among them, but primarily it boils down to a lack of money.
How any policing organisation can be effective without resources is a mystery to everyone bar those holding Irish racing’s purse-strings. And since HRI don’t appear in the least perturbed, don’t expect answers to the mystery from Ballymany any time soon. But the potential for not so much a headache as a raging migraine remains.
It doesn’t require any great leap of the imagination to picture a Dettori/Oliver scenario here, or indeed one where a leading owner or trainer is in hot-water with the Turf Club for whatever reason. And it doesn’t require a much bigger leap to envision how said person might take their case to the High Court. And it is that which must keep Ireland’s beleaguered stewards awake at night.
Because going down the legal route costs money, the sort of money the Turf Club ain’t got right now. That’s a reality that must make fudging, or even ignoring a problem completely, all the more appealing.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine the Turf Club has a cast-iron case and decides to fight in the High Court. Who does it go to for money? That’s right – HRI. And who do HRI want to avoid fighting at all costs? That’s right – the leading owners and trainers. So what are the chances of them ponying up? That’s right – slim to none. And everyone knows it’s really none.
We’re now approaching the time of year when racing’s great and good congratulate themselves on another good year and dollop out awards amid much back-slapping and flowery rhetoric.
To those who want to see nothing but the positive, it will be a festive time, with the prospect of racing’s finances looking set to get fixed up legislatively. And those who want to see nothing but the positive will continue to ignore the potential minefield waiting in store due to the lack of a properly resourced, professional and effective stewarding system.
Mind you it isn’t just in Ireland where stewards can baffle. Considering the usually strict censures in Japan, how on earth did Gentildonna hang on to the Japan Cup after delivering Orfevre a hefty bump and only just holding on by a nose?
Sure the horses are in the same ownership but it’s nice to think even some of our more myopic stewards might have got that one right.
Advertising is usually the preserve of the glib but it is biting the Aintree National where it hurts after Heineken’s decision to stop its John Smith’s sponsorship of the world’s most famous steeplechase.
The fact it will continue flat race sponsorship tells you everything you need to know about the reason for dropping the National. No sponsor wants to be associated with the sort of negativity that has plagued Aintree in recent years. And that is as blunt a verdict on an event as is possible.
Much less significant is Channel 4’s announcement of their “new technology” for their new dawn of 2013 coverage, an announcement made in typically florid PR speak.
This revolution consists of a travelling studio, a touch-screen table, an overhead camera to “enhance the viewers experience” and, wait for it, a new logo.
So that’s a truck, a table, a view of the top of Claire Balding’s head and a sign. Now that’s cutting edge. How long before there’s an RTE press-release along the same brave new lines.
Finally a sneak preview of this Wednesday night’s “Jump Boys” documentary on TG4 means an enjoyable hour can be guaranteed in store for fans of Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Davy Russell.
The three top jockeys were followed around for a season by a camera crew that enjoyed unusual access to behind the scenes and will prove informative for those not already in thrall to the game.
Russell – in all his glory too – is the undoubted star of the show, proving an honest and forthright guide to the extraordinary lives these bravest of sports people lead.