Groom's day despite shortage of partners

Glorious Goodwood: The racing highlight of high summer commences with many of the leading riders exiled by the Jockey Club
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The Independent Online
If the Government's statisticians are looking for a new way to massage the unemployment figures, perhaps they should start by removing jockeys from calculations. Suspensions are currently spreading through Britain's riders like the 'flu, and almost 20 will be banned for some or all of the Glorious Goodwood meeting which opens this afternoon. They seem to be misbehaving so regularly that it will start to affect the crime figures, too.

It is a situation which helps no-one. The jockeys themselves lose their income, trainers and owners must find replacements, and punters are deprived of such valuable allies as Michael Kinane, Pat Eddery and Darryll Holland at one of the season's finest meetings.

Of course, if jockeys commit a serious breach of the rules then they must expect to be punished, but what is worrying some observers is the possibility that riding standards are not the problem. Instead, they fear that the stewards are now enforcing the rules with a ruthlessness previously restricted to public schools and the Marines.

"At the start of the season I foresaw that there might be a problem at this time of the year," Michael Caulfield, secretary of the Jockeys' Association, said yesterday. "The local stewards have been given very little discretion in how to administer the rules, so I was worried that the rules would be policed with more vigilance without this policy being explained to jockeys."

A particular problem, Caulfield feels, is the system which requires riders to report to the Jockey Club for punishment after three offences, no matter how minor. Referral to Portman Square generally results in a significant "holiday", which can sometimes be "like losing your driving licence for parking on a double-yellow line", Caulfield believes.

At a seminar in Newmarket two weeks ago, "the Jockey Club told jockeys to their faces that stewards are being tighter on rules regarding interference this season," Caulfield said. "Meanwhile, the number of fixtures has grown in recent years and jockeys are having more rides, but the referral for the third offence has remained the same."

The Jockey Club agreed that the structure of the disciplinary system is in need of review. The bonhomie deteriorated, however, when the Club subsequently claimed that just 12 riders were responsible for almost half of all offences. This group was swiftly dubbed "the dirty dozen" by the trade papers' headline writers. Just as predictably, Caulfield was outraged by this descent into name-calling.

"I found those comments unforgiveable," Caulfield said. "It really was uncalled for when we're trying to communicate between the two groups, and I will expect them to apologise."

An obvious opportunity for any apology would be at a second seminar, for northern-based jockeys, to be held at Doncaster this Thursday. Meanwhile, jockeys at Goodwood and elsewhere will return to the difficult task of walking the line between doing their best and trying too hard, a balancing act which is not any easier when the racing is as rich and competitive as that at the Sussex track today.

The fascinating mixture of handicaps and Pattern races appeals to the wallet and the mind, with the Gordon Stakes in particular satisfying the requirement of both. This is not always a fiercely contested event, but this year is has everything. Painter's Row, the Craven Stakes winner, needs to pick up the threads of what seemed sure, just three months ago, to be a promising career. Presenting, the Derby third, is there too, along with such promising and admirable performers as Don Corleone, Istidaad, In Camera, and Kalabo, who finished third to the excellent Pentire on his seasonal debut at Royal Ascot.

Kalabo's performance was most encouraging, but this is another hot race and Don Corleone (3.10), fourth at Ascot when his stable was out of form, may reverse the positions now that Roger Charlton has rediscovered the winning touch.

Struggler (3.45), with just six races behind him, has the potential to take the card's second Group Three event, the King George Stakes, while Brief Glimpse (4.45) may now have found her level after running in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot last time.

The day's richest event, the William Hill Handicap, is understandably well-contested, but the name of SILVER GROOM (nap 4.15), or rather that of Reg Akehurst, his trainer, catches the eye. He travelled superbly without ever seeing daylight at Sandown on his first run of the season, and can improve Akehurst's record in handicaps still further.

Caleman (next best 2.30) will also go well on a track which suits front- runners, assuming, of course, that Ron Boss can find a jockey to ride him.

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