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A THORNY ISSUE: Christmas racing brings back buzz


ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Christmas racing brings back buzz

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BOXING DAY racing is sure to put the smile back on the face of the sport of kings.

The festive, seasonal mood creates a natural backdrop to a setting that always draws a big crowd. The Grand Stand has a Gold Cup look about it with visitors supplying significant numbers to the patronage.

The huge Saturday crowd confirmed that Boxing Day is second only to the Sandy Lane Gold Cup if only on account of its following. You observe there is a buzz and something big is about to happen when you see the long line of spectators queuing to get in the stand.

I find that Boxing Day racing starts building momentum for the premier spectacle which is approximately two months away.

Usually the eyes are focused on the performance of the top class horses, which are in line to be nominated for the Gold Cup and some early evaluation about their form, even though they don’t tackle the distance they will have to travel going for gold.

It matters little to the pundits who are extremely knowledgeable, especially those who form the Grand Stand Posse and whose muscular debate at times adds plenty of colour and flavour to the racing culture at the Garrison Savannah.

It is among them that you can find some of the better informed, oral historians of the sport.

I don’t think, though, that they had too much to analyse in respect of the featured event, which had some of the leading animals running over 1570 metres.

Daunting David appreciated the give in the going and was a deserving winner. However, I believe that even commentator Lindon Yarde agreed that the second-placed Just A Fashion, provided the biggest talking point in the race.

At one stage he had posted ten wins from 13 starts, but has been a shadow of himself since scorching the pack in the Coolmore, which is seen as the trial stakes for the Gold Cup.

This shocking loss of form had many pundits writing him off as “Just Another Fashion or No Fashion at all.” However, you could concede there was some justification for the words being spewed from the mouth of the naysayers because he inexplicably went from hero to zero and you can only judge based on performance.

Hence, his Boxing Day performance may have taken some by surprise and even though his fans should be cautioned about speaking too soon about a speedy return to top form, it was still a very encouraging sign. I heard the paddock posse giving credit to his new trainer, Victor Cheeseman.

Indiano Jones, which had blitzed the field over the distance at the last time of asking, was very disappointing finishing last but I was told by owner Lewin Godding not to worry because his charge will be back to winning ways soon. I heard whispers that he was coughing throughout the assignment and that may have contributed to his showing. For now I am giving Godding the benefit of any doubt.

Top class jockey, Rickey Walcott, finished as champion reinsman and this is a fitting accolade for his renowned skills and fighting qualities considering he won it from a very competitive field that included second-placed Rashawn Latchman, Kyle Carter and Jalon Samuel. The latter two compromised their chances for top billing with three-month suspensions.

In terms of fairy tale endings, the script was written perfectly for ten-year-old Johnny Sad Boy, which won its final start in a blaze of glory. The euphoric response from connections and supporters painted more than the proverbial thousand words. What an exclamation mark to end a career!

In looking to the future, I would welcome more races for apprentice riders not only because they can use the exposure, but we must always consider a succession plan as the seasoned jockeys will not always be around and the ones to replace them must come well equipped, but that can only happen with experience.

I think the authorities can try to enhance the services they offer to patrons by installing an ATM machine and a lotto booth. I believe there’s sufficient activity, even outside of race days, to sustain such ventures. Open Wifi is another viable option to consider.

What may seem to be minor tends to mean a lot particularly if patrons need them as part of their comfort zone and convenience.

On the lighter side, where I sit the birds remind you that you are encroaching on their property and you have to take what you get. The increase in my laundry bill is all the evidence I need that there’s a price to be paid when nature calls.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant.

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