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Johnny Ward: Goodwood farce shows lack of respect for one of Irish racing's big days

British racing must confront the reality that far too many of its races go off late, writes Johnny Ward.

Tudor City and Robbie Power won the Galway Hurdle on Thursday - but a delayed maiden hurdle at Goodwood clashed with Europe's richest hurdle race.
Tudor City and Robbie Power won the Galway Hurdle on Thursday - but a delayed maiden hurdle at Goodwood clashed with Europe's richest hurdle race.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

SOCIAL MEDIA IS a dangerous place in how it frames your take on how others see the world.

Prior to Ireland’s Repeal The Eighth Amendment vote over a year ago, my Twitter timeline became so loaded with pro-repeal propaganda, many so deeply entrenched, it seemed impossible to think that anyone other than a lunatic fringe was going to vote against the amendment. This, of course, was not true.

Similarly, now, my timeline has endless tweets about Brexit, many of them written by Irish people revelling in schadenfreude, happy to point out the mess the Brits have somehow gotten mired in. Those with deep sympathy for the normal Briton, Brexit having been the product of many, many complexities relating to modern life, seem either silent or not heard.

A familiar refrain on Irish social media is that Britain still looks down on Ireland, and Boris Johnson’s blustering over the backstop illustrates grave indifference to this country. This may or may not be true but in terms of our sport, there is no getting away from the deep respect for Irish racing the average fan has in England, be that Flat or jumps.

That is why what happened on Thursday at Goodwood was so disappointing, suggesting an arrogance that was deeply irritating for anyone trying to watch both the Glorious meeting and Galway, the best-attended Festival on the Irish calendar. British racing must confront the reality that far too many of its races, especially big races, go off late and badly late.

Whilst a lot of things went wrong for Goodwood on Thursday, many of them were its own doing. Only the first race went off on time with the other six were late to the tune of up to 14 minutes following a succession of incidents. 

The Richmond Stakes was tardy because Volatile Analyst had to be re-shod and the same issue preceded the Nassau Stakes in the form of Maqsad needing the farrier too. 

Then London Calling came down to the start for the nursery still wearing a hood, which he was scheduled to wear in the paddock with the permission of the stewards in the knowledge that it had to be removed before leaving the parade ring. 

There was also a delay because the Deirdre celebrations post-Nassau went on too long but, with 35-minute gaps throughout the card, Goodwood could surely have managed the problems better.

Over in the west of Ireland, colourful racecourse PA Paul Quish told patrons that Galway had to get on with things, even if Goodwood seemed to be operating “from a different timezone”. Irish racecourses’ time-keeping is excellent and the Galway Hurdle, Thursday’s feature, went off on schedule at 4.55.

Back at Goodwood, they still had not realised the 4.45 race, a calamitous delay meaning that they were still some way from jumping off after Galway’s runners had negotiated the first. They then decided to start the race at 4.58, essentially around the final half-mile in the Galway Hurdle.

They were so late at that stage, could they not have waited a little longer? To extend the theme of Anglo-Irish relations, Michael Collins’ tardiness at Dublin Castle comes to mind: “We’ve been waiting over 700 years, you can have the extra seven minutes.”

Notwithstanding a primary care for horses having already loaded and how shambolic time-keeping had been all day, the disregard for Galway to have a maiden start off when everyone here was immersed in the richest hurdle race in Europe was downright insulting.

Clerk of the course Ed Arkell told the Racing Post that attempts had been made to make up time, but it had proved difficult. He added: “There were three or four incidents which compounded the original situation, which was unfortunate.

“Obviously we’re very concerned with making sure races run to time and will be making every effort to ensure they do for the rest of the meeting.” 

Each year, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Body publishes stats on off-times. In 2018, 53.7% of Irish races got off on time, just under 25% one minute late. However, these statistics do not do justice to a concerted attempt in Ireland earlier this century to improve punctuality, which saw a sea-change in our attitude to off times.

“The off times mean less and less nowadays as we regularly get requests to delay off times from Racing TV,” said the IHRB’s Denis Egan – and it was Racing TV which was left to deal with a mess on Thursday, somebody rightly making the decision not to show Goodwood’s maiden race until the Galway Hurdle was over.

Without having the stats to support this, far too many races go off late in Britain, particularly at major Flat meets, and this simply has to improve. But if a collection of mishaps do occur as befell Goodwood on Thursday, it would be nice if British racetracks could show some respect to their Irish friends, especially during our most popular festival.

Galway’s final three days await, followers of this column narrowly denied a nice double when Arch Melody won but Iron Blue was chinned last weekend.

Take Munaajaat to score for Joseph O’Brien in tonight’s 5.55 (5/1 with Betway), while on Sunday Ilikedwayurthinkin should follow up Wednesday’s win in the opener (2.15).

 

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Johnny Ward

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