Simon Coveney’s declaration that money raised by the proposed new betting regime was never ring-fenced for racing has been greeted by sage nodding and expressions of earnest realism that such a move was never on the table. Instead the great and the good at last week’s HRI awards were assured of the Minister for Agriculture’s good vibrations for racing. Basically, trust him when he says he loves the game and will fight for it at cabinet.
And maybe Coveney will come through. Maybe actions will match words. But politicians asking to be trusted can often be a signal for alarm bells to start ringing. Certainly depending on the spirit of what they say is often less satisfactory than having them put it in black and white.
Brian Cowen’s speech at an Irish Field dinner in 2010 for instance made no black and white mention of ring-fencing any off-shore revenue for racing but more than a few shrewdies attending the function were left in little doubt that was the sub-text: trust me and all that, love the game, own a bit of Donna’s Palm, don’t you know.
It could be that no one really expected ring-fencing, but it’s a stretch to say it was never on the table. You might not find it on any official document but since when did that rule anything out in Ireland?
However if estimates of off-shore tax collection raising no more than E15 million in a full year are correct, it could be argued anyone expecting a seismic change to racing’s finances on the back of new legislation without some sort of ring-fencing is indulging in wishful thinking. And E15 million in itself is hardly likely to bring back the beano times.
More likely is that racing’s finances are set to continue to be dispensed at the whim of an individual Minister and his officials for the foreseeable future. Talk of multi-annual planning sounds good but politicians usually do sound good. Like enthusiastic karaoke singers, the volume can be prodigious but the delivery a little shaky.
That was an extraordinary Irish debut by Pont Alexandre in the Navan Grade 1, making all in desperate conditions and running Don Cossack ragged.
The latter was beaten before he came down but that was a very tired fall and that sort of exertion, especially if the horse was ailing in some way, is capable of leaving its mark in a big way.
Instead it was the other German bred in the race, one making just his second career start, and in a top-flight race to boot, that looked superb.
Willie Mullins doesn’t normally over-egg his charges in post-race discussions but he had the air of a vindicated man afterwards. Clearly the size of the cheque forked out by Rich Ricci on the back of the champion trainer’s recommendation must have been considerable.
Britain’s champion trainer Paul Nicholls believes last week’s saga surrounding Kauto Star was “embarrassing” and as always it’s hard to argue with him.
Clearly someone who wears his heart on his sleeve – he admitted to wanting to stick one on Martin Pipe after See More Business got carried out in the Gold Cup – Nicholls’ investment in Kauto Star’s career was huge in terms of time, effort and emotion.
But Clive Smith’s investment in the great horse was financial, and while sentiment is pervasive in the racing game, and hardly unwelcome, the game is also a business where he who pays the piper really does get to call the tune.
And managing to forget that really was embarrassing.
Having started off at the HRI awards, let’s finish there too.
One image stands out and it was the height of Ireland’s new champion jockey Joseph O’Brien. If there’s change from six foot in the nineteen year old, it isn’t much. How he manages to keep that frame at under nine stone really is a miracle of determination and discipline.
Having achieved in one year what most riders only dream of – winning the Derby and being champion jockey – it really is hard to see how much longer young O’Brien can keep putting himself through the wine-gum and fresh-air wringer.
Because if there’s one thing sure: you don’t get lighter as you get older.