Cooler this morning, expecting a brief cold snap so goodbye spring, hello again winter. An excellent run from Calivigny at Carlisle yesterday to finish 2nd only beaten by a blot on the handicap from the South, pleased that yesterday’s theory that he would improve for a return to better ground proved correct for once. His jumping wasn’t as slick as it had been on his first two starts over fences, I think a little nervousness may have crept in after running on bad ground and I would hope that he will be more confident in future, he should have a good future over fences now, God willing.
Brian Hughes was delighted when he jumped off him and just said “it was a shame he’d bumped into one” – agreed, and it was noticeable that 4 of the 5 handicaps at Carlisle yesterday were won by Southern trained horses, I’ve never been a huge believer in the theory that there is a bias in their favour and the detailed analysis of the statistics that we carried out as part of the Northern Review Group indicate that this exists but it is very marginal, the handicappers are monitoring this closely and promise to make adjustments if they deem them necessary, time for an update I feel.
Their work on this has been led by the senior handicapper, Phil Smith, who last week was subject to a sustained and personal attack from Ryanair and Gigginstown supremo Michael O’Leary following the announcement of the Grand National weights. Whilst I suspect many found the spat mildly entertaining what I found totally extraordinary was O’Leary’s apparent lack of understanding of the way in which the Irish and British handicap systems inter-relate and his equally poor understanding of the basic mathematics. Well he certainly isn’t stupid and in my opinion he was being a disingenuous bully, no surprise there and his outburst was thoroughly unbecoming of a leading racehorse owner. I hope most will side with with Phil Smith who deserves credit for his work in turning the Grand National into the exceptionally competitive top class handicap that it has now become, he mustn’t feel intimidated by this ignorant tirade. Good news for Lucy yesterday as her consultant decided that no operation is required on her cheek-bone, she needs to allow the fracture to heal and will hopefully be back riding in a few weeks. No runners this week until Newcastle on Saturday and the Corbridge point-to-point on Sunday, a quick flit to London required for some industry meetings. To be honest it is difficult making time to go down there when we are so busy here and I don’t enjoy sticking my oar in but I am passionate about jump racing in the North and somebody needs to go down and attend these meetings otherwise there is a real danger that Northern issues will be overlooked, there is a momentum behind raising the game up here and thanks to the hard work of a lot of people the picture is improving all the time but we need to keep at it….