An October Pantomime

I'm used to seeing a pantomime horse at Christmas time in Babes in the Wood or Jack and the Beanstalk. Yesterday the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) paraded its own October pantomime horse, "Review of the Rules", produced by a company of Bloody Hopeless Amateurs.

The plot goes something like this:

Act One: The Authorities are reviewing some of the rules of racing. There has been growing concern from the masses that some horses are being hurt because those nasty evil jockeys keep hitting them with a whip. The Authorities ask Tim Morris, a professor of equine science and welfare, and therefore Very Knowledgeable, to investigate and report in nine months time.

His report becomes more important when Jason Maguire, the jockey riding the winner of the Race the People Love, is seen to hit his horse 14 times. And even more so when the lovable li’l Italian is a bit heavy-handed during a race the Queen is watching.

Act Two: Professor Tim speaks to lots of people who care about horses and care about racing about his ideas. The Really Scary Peoples’ Campaign for Animals (RSPCA) say that jockeys use the whip too much, but agree we shouldn’t throw it away altogether. The Phantastic Jeremiahs Agency (PJA), who represent the cast, are able to see doom and gloom in everything. When their shop steward, Kevin Darley, speaks to Professor Tim, he doesn't know whether to emphasise the doom or the gloom, but is pretty sure it must be one or the other.

Act Three: The Authorities announce that Professor Tim has come up with some ideas that everybody is happy with and so they will introduce them in three weeks’ time. Any of the actors who can't abide by the rules will have to miss 5 performances the first time they get it wrong, and 10 performances on the second occasion. They will also forfeit their performance fee and any share of the takings (this is a co-operative venture). The PJA ask for more rehearsal time, but the Authorities say that a date has been fixed for opening and cannot be changed.

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Act Four: A Day at the Races. The new rules are in place and all is going well until scene seven, when the horses ridden by principal boy Richard Hughes, and his apprentice Kieren Fox, forget their lines and have to be reminded with the whip. Hughes and Fox are told not to come in for five days later in the run. In the next three days more actors are sent home and the cast is beginning to look a bit thin. The People's Information Service (PIS) are broadcasting a lot about this, which upsets the Authorities, because there is a Champion Performance taking place on Saturday, and they would like the PIS to build up excitement for this.

The PJA still can't decide whether to play the doom card (the rules are wrong) or the gloom card (the punishments are too severe), but they start to jump up and down because they sure that one of these is true.

Act Five: Thursday. The PJA ask the Authorities to look at the doom card, but don't say exactly which bit they think should be taken out of the script. Professor Tim, who wrote the script, says that the Authorities will not be changing it. "All our rules are under constant review but the short answer is no, we're not going to (change them)." Production director (of race day operations and regulation) for the Authorities, Jamie Stier, says they might do. Principal boy Hughes says he has had enough of this silly pantomime and isn’t going to play any more part in it.

Friday. Chairman of the Authorities, Paul Roy, says that after four performances it's clear that the script might need some tweaking. He said that the Authorities had spoken at length to the PJA, and that they agreed the script was broadly right. "However, they have a certain concerns, particularly in relation to the penalty structure (gloom card), and we expect to receive further formal written submissions from them shortly."

The final scenes in this pantomime have yet to be written.

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3 replies
  1. Paul R - says:

    Why does horseracing in this country get everything so wrong, when its got so much going for it?

  2. Jim says:

    and the comments after Saturday’s farce add to the nonsense.

    Interesting that it takes a French jockey – ESOL trained no doubt – to explain the effect on top jockeys in top races.



  3. ColinB says:

    I have cou nted to ten so will calmly make the following points without sarcasm.

    In the period up to Friday I would guess there were some 1400 rides. In that time only 4 or 5 jockeys were punished, and I believe only one, Mr Hughes, had the double ban.

    So most of the jockeys showed they could count. But Mr Hughes considered it, quote “a trap”
    One which most didnt fall into.

    In an interview prior to the first ban, he stated along the lines of “my races today are maidens, I go gentle on them”

    Yet the race on which he received the second ban, which incidentally he did not win even though he cheated by breaking the rules (A lesson for him there perhaps) was an unraced horse if I read my racecard right.

    In a later interview he stated you need to whip a horse for safety. Is he stating that the hands and heels races that are a fairly frequent feature of our racing calender is unsafe. If it is , then surely those races should not be run. He cannot have it both ways !

    And the good Belgian “robbed” of his purse on Saturday throws his toys out of the pram too making the wonderful statement “This is 2011 not 1800”
    Exactly. Time we stopped beating up horses..
    The last furlong rule /last fence in jumps, is when the horse is most tired. The disgrace of the National when the winner was heavily thrashed in the closing stage to the extent it had to have oxygen – OXYGEN, really puts it into perspective.
    Are we that greedy.

    I accept that, if you condone horse racing at all – but that is another subject entirely, a whip need to be carried and used for correctional purposes. to prevent the swerving of tired horses to avoid accidents But you should not beat it because it is not doing what you want. And don’t anyone tell me it doesnt hurt – if it doesnt, why do it !

    And if I went into any trainers yard, and gave it the 12 (or more) really hard strokes that Spencer gave his mount in America a week or so ago – remember the horse was retired after that race as being unfit to race again(, wonder why) – I think I would get lynched.

    The whole thing has not been done well. A “probationary” period in which the problems could have been ironed out would have been advantageous.
    We all have the benefit of hindsight, but we all also expected people to be able to count.
    I am sure that the stewards would be able to differentiate from correctional as opposed to “incentivised” hitting of a horse, and of course if the winning owners did not get their prize money, then they would soon stop the jockeys transgressing.

    But if we are to keep hitting horses then the rules must be observed to stop a win being the result of cheating ( unless your name is Hughes when even then it didnt work) and it is not only cheating the other jockeys and owners, but you and me, the punters, too.

    One last word on Mr Hughes – “I am not a whipping jockey” -in the run up to last years jockeys championship, both he and Mr Hannagen were very hard on their mounts, to the extent that even the hardened commentators on Timeform Radio ( my default daytime radio programme!) frequently commented on it

    Despite what I have written, I have nothing against Mr Hughes in particular – it is just that he has made so many ridicolous statements. And the Belgian Bun who does most of his racing in France I believe should observe ” when in Rome” The French Racing rules resulted in Lady Webbers horse being robbed of a properly won Group 1 prize.But we didnt threaten the authorities there with the law. We accepted “rules is rules”
    Just like if you are Welshman you think its o.k. to drop a man on his head. Happily the Frenchman was not hurt – but in the previous World Cup Brian O.Driscoll was seriously hurt and Ireland lost their inspirational Captain because of it.

    Do the proponents of hittin, suggest Mr Mancini should chase Mr Tevez along the touchline thrashing hiom with a stick every1 1/2 seconds because he didnt want to play football for him ( You may well, of course be inclined to make an exception in this case and, say yes!)

    I am well aware my views are opposite to most, but at least I know that far more knowledgible people than me e.g the likes of John Francombe – and he knows the safety requirements of needing a whip if anyone does, and Peter O’Sullivan, and many others including the respected jockey just retired ( who’s name I forget) are in concert with my views.

    But the wonder of Matt is that he allows us to post our opinions


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