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Having glanced through some of the comments on social media, it looks like I may be in a minority of one in concluding that Jason Watson’s 7-day ban at Nottingham on Tuesday was fully justified.
Watson’s mount, Noisy Night, blew all chance of making a winning debut by veering markedly to his left coming out of the stalls, which is fair enough. These things happen, especially to inexperienced horses.
However, it’s what happened thereafter that I have a problem with, although it is very difficult to gain a complete picture of events because Noisy Night was out of camera shot for large parts of the contest.
At no stage during any of the brief glimpses we got of Noisy Night through the race, was Jason Watson making any effort to improve his mount’s position.
I know this is a first time out 2-year-old, but the rules of racing are no different for juvenile debutants as they are for 10-year-old’s who have raced over a hundred times. The best possible placing must try and be achieved. It is a very simple and basic premise that underpins the integrity of racing.
The subsequent stewards report reads like this: Watson was suspended for seven days for failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure Noisy Night was given full opportunity to obtain the best possible placing, in that after being very slowly away he had failed to ride the colt in such a way that he could be seen to ask Noisy Night for any form of effort or encouragement to get competitive or improve its position in the final stages of the race.
Now, those people calling this out as a scandal must have been watching a different race to me because everything in that statement rings true.
Such a rule exists so that that the integrity of the sport is upheld. So, why should Jason Watson be allowed to canter a horse up the Nottingham straight course just because it blew its chance at the start? Horses blow the start of a race every day of the week, but most jockeys still try and gain the best possible position for their horse. This is called sporting integrity.
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Crystal Palace can’t win the Premier League but sporting integrity dictates that they cannot just turn up at Selhurst Park and wander around the pitch making no effort at all to win a game.
If a golfer shoots a 12 on the first hole of a round, are we saying it’s acceptable for him to say ‘I can’t win this tournament now so I’ll just go through the motions and get round’?
Jason Watson appeared to effectively decide that he didn’t want to make any effort at all on Noisy Night which flies in the face of sporting integrity.
If the horse was deemed well enough to run all the way up the straight – the rider obviously deemed him to be and the subsequent vet’s report found no abnormalities, then there is no valid reason why the horse shouldn’t at least have pushed out through the closing stages. Instead, he was allowed to coast home in his own time, trailing in 26 lengths behind the winner.
Maybe the rules shouldn’t be as blanket as they are and inexperienced 2-year-olds should be given more leeway. But some people appear to be intimating that it would be wrong to even attempt to push out an inexperienced juvenile after some initial adversity, which seems extraordinary.
If a juvenile is so delicate or immature that it reacts adversely to even being pushed out, then it shouldn’t be anywhere near a racecourse. Horse welfare is one thing but racing horses that aren’t ready to be raced is another. That in itself is a great danger to racing integrity, never mind jockeys not making sufficient effort.
Of course, I don’t believe that was the case with Noisy Night. Jason Watson made a choice not to try and improve the horse’s position and that’s the reason why his ban is justified.
Also, it is nearly always the case that connections of unraced horses want them to learn something on debut. After blowing the start, Watson effectively decided he wasn’t going to teach his mount anything about racing. The colt was allowed to just canter up the course just as he would any work morning at Roger Charlton’s Beckhampton base.
I Know Plenty Disagree, But A Ban Looks Fully Justified On This Occasion. Sorry, Jason.
Marmite Jockey Spencer Right To Hit Out At Detractors
Jamie Spencer is the ultimate ‘Marmite jockey’ and I’m firmly in the ‘love him’ camp, so much so that I would happily set up a Jamie Spencer fan club.
This week, Spencer spoke extremely candidly in an interview with the Racing Post about his career and I thought it was one of the most interesting interviews I have ever read from a jockey.
Spencer’s career has been dogged by abuse from irate punters that have just lost out as Spencer hit a cul-de-sac while attempting to chart a path up the inside rail.
His oft-exaggerated hold-up tactics tend to either pay off handsomely or go very badly wrong, often turning his less understanding backers blue with rage.
The key takeaway line from Spencer’s interview was ‘if you don’t like the way I ride, then don’t bet on me’ and I couldn’t agree more.
It’s a bit like watching a show on TV and, rather than simply switching channel when you have decided you are not enjoying it, you instead head onto social media to tell your handful of followers how much you hated watching it. It’s a modern-day phenomenon driven by social media and I for one can’t stand it.
Spencer’s ability to settle a keen horse is second to none, and when I say none, I mean none.
Every day of the week I see horses race keenly under high profile jockeys but who can remember a horse over-racing under Spencer?
This such rare skill is totally undervalued by many punters but, thankfully it isn’t lost on those connections that still turn to him.
Spencer coming there swinging away on the bridle whilst all other jockeys are flailing their whips in desperation is one of the great sights in the sport and he will be a mighty loss to racing when he does eventually hang up those riding boots.
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