The vastly experienced racing writer John ‘Lucky’ Lingard penned a very interesting piece today that traversed a range of topics across similar terrain to what we have been exploring here on Its Not Normal for the past couple of months.
Now I’ve never met John in the flesh, but we have spoken on the phone a few times since our lines first crossed when I rang him (or he rang me, I can’t remember which because I just woke up and it takes about half an hour for the fuzz to clear) to sort out a Henry Lawson – Banjo Patterson like spat between us that erupted at about the same time five-second Racing Queensland board appointee and arch racist ‘Rocky’ Jim Rundle sank, and I hugely respect his knowledge, opinion and craftsmanship with the pen, even though we don’t always agree with what each other has to say.
The Damian Oliver affair’s the perfect example.
Lucky reckons he’s an out and criminal for that ride should have been hung rather than just being given 20 meetings in solitary, whereas for me Oliver is a criminal for a whole host of reasons – including of course the ‘backing another horse’ disgrace, but more particularly because of the off-course ‘one that got covered up’ in 2010 – but I reckon the case of his Cox Plate ride Oliver’s been hung, drawn and quartered by a jury filled with folk you wouldn’t want next to you in the trench at Gallipoli if you were keen on breakfast the next day.
Puh-lease! If Dean Yendall’s not a strong enough rider to hold his position one-off the fence when Ollie’s riding tough and trying to take the spot then that’s Dean Yendall’s problem, not Oliver’s.
It’s a $3 million race and it’s the WFA championship of Australia if not the world, not a game of under sixteen soccer. Of course blokes are going to ride hard, they want to bloody win don’t they? And if in the weird wonderland that is racing against Winx winning means running second, well finishing first behind the greatest horse any of us have ever seen is still a win isn’t it?
With Gailo Chop always a certainty to lead and set a cracking pace in the Cox Plate and Winx always a moral to sit 1 off the fence and back it was pretty bloody obvious that the spot inside or behind the champ was going to be the place you wanted to be, as Humidor proved in the end.
Now Dean Yendall on Royal Symphony – in the yellow colours at the back, just inside Oliver in the all blue on Happy Clapper – could have had the Humidor (green, at rear) spot any bloody time that he liked in the first 400 metres of the race, but instead of showing a bit of common sense like Blake Shinn on Humidor did and taking it, Yendall decided that he was going to muscle up, hold the middle position and keep Oliver wide.
So he started a stoush with Ollie, it went on for 800 metres, both riders rode tough, there was nothing dangerous involved – in fact Oliver actually pulled his horse off when Humidor suddenly darted up inside Yendall as he was trying to force that horse to the fence – Ollie rode tougher than the bloke who tried to take him on, and Dean Yendall lost the fight.
And that’s it. Big f*cking deal.
I wouldn’t have given Oliver a single minute, let alone 20 meetings. It’s absolutely ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as Tony McEvoy’s tirade after the race.
Can anyone seriously tell me how the hell McEvoy could possibly make a reasoned argument that Oliver’s riding cost Royal Symphony third place in the race? It was Yendall’s ride that cost the colt third, and maybe even second, not Oliver’s.
Anyone who has ever watched a race in their life knows that when Winx takes off she goes like a bullet, and the horse inside of her is always going to be able to get off the fence with her because no horse in the world can keep her back when Huey Bowman says go.
Blake Shinn knew it, that’s why he patiently waited for the moment when Bowman released the handbrake, and as Winx went whoosh he eased Humidor out from the pocket and began to follow her, before realising nearing the turn that Hardham had punctured and ducking back inside that horse to save valuable ground.
Yendall – who’s a character and a handy lightweight hoop, but not a Group 1 jockey’s arse – could have followed Shinn through, and if he did he probably would have got a saloon passage through on the rail when Gailo Chop wobbled off under pressure on the point of the turn. Instead though he hooked his horse out and around the field, running a suicidal 11.14 second split between the 800m and the 600m which juiced the inexperienced three year old colt and left him nothing in the tank but guts for the last 2 furlongs.
It was a great run from the top colt who would have won the Caulfield Guineas by panels bit for being slaughtered by Dwayne Dunn for the second run in a row – you didn’t hear McEvoy screaming about those rides did you? funny that – but if you rated Yendall’s ride in the Plate any higher than a 2 out of 10 you’re taking huge unders.
Yet Oliver cops 20 meetings, Yendall cops nothing, McEvoy blows up at the wrong bloke and spouts nonsense, and everyone points and says bad Ollie and pats the rider who ballsed the whole thing up on the head and coos poor Dean.
The super-competitive Pommy riders must be p*issing themselves laughing at the Melbourne steward’s determination to turn professional race riding into a sport for weak-hearted fools who can’t hold their own in fights of their own making. Real men and race-loving Victoria Cross winners like Albert Jacka must be rolling in their graves.
What a f*cking joke.
Editor’s note: This article was actually intended to be about something else, which is why it began with me talking about Lucky Lingard’s latest article. but I got distracted by my pent up disgust about the Oliver suspension. I’ll write about the other thing next.