Racing: A sport courting bad publicity

COMMENTARY

RACING starts humiliating itself again at nine o'clock in the High Court this morning as the case of Mirror Group Newspapers v the Ramsdens and Fallon v public perception continues.

There will be a financial winner when the case concludes, probably on Wednesday, but the victors will not celebrate with the sport they represent. Football too has had its courtroom dramas recently but there we were dealing with a flourishing sport. Racing's breathing passages are barely above water, and this episode, following doping and race-fixing allegations, is hardly the design for progression.

It has been a little wrenching to observe the High Court machinations this week. Racing, above just about all sports, is a pursuit of a sealed community. Very early on you learn not to condemn a turf participant in a lounge bar in horsey territory as there is almost inevitably a relative or spouse within earshot.

On Friday, we saw the appearance of two men, Kieren Fallon and Derek Thompson, who are most comfortable on the turf but less conversant with the highest civil court in the land. If you are not flummoxed by the towering and formal building on the Strand that is the High Court you were not created on planet earth. The atrium of this edifice is so high that you feel deeply sorry for the moths that have to flap up to the lights. There is only little less sympathy for the people who are drawn by necessity to the cases.

To put witnesses in these courts at the mercy of barristers is like tipping goldfish from a fairground bag into a shark tank. The pool for this case has been court No 13 (a fact not lost on the crazily superstitious realm of racing). This small arena is a blend between a Shakespearean set and a public school library, weighty legal tomes fringing the auditorium. They may be authentic, but the temptation is to pull one to establish whether the whole lot are glued together.

It was not a natural home for those stuck in the box on Friday. Fallon is a man used to expressing himself with something more lively than the dock cushion underneath his bottom. He'll probably tell you that dancing with words is not his strong point. Thompson, at least, is more comfortable in an interview setting, though it is usually him setting the agenda. The nearest he gets to gravitas is the picture puzzle, hoofbeat and turf trivia of the Morning Line.

Both naturally earned our pity, but only one is truly deserving of it. One of them has told a most tremendous porky.

Both Thompson and Fallon were back at what they do best on Saturday. The presenter did his stuff for Channel 4 from Warwick, while Fallon was on horseback. During this respite from the courts, another set of judges, the Wolverhampton stewards, banned the champion jockey for three days for careless riding.

There has been a courtroom dispute about the relationship between the duo this week. Regardless of the jury's deliberation, it will never be the same again. That is one of the small sadnesses in a rather sorrowful episode for their sport.

There will be the traditional cork-popping celebration on the pavement of The Strand on Wednesday, but then the mud will most likely be restirred. Racing's own police are watching and ready to react. "After the case has been completed questions may be asked," John Maxse, of the Jockey Club, said yesterday. "Lots of things have come up that may require attention."

The final outcome, and three witnesses for the Ramsdens are expected to continue the theatre this morning, will be decided by the 12 good men and true. Well, of course, there are women as well, and it is to be hoped they come up with a more considered and weighty judgement than the occasion when I acted as foreman of a panel. Then, some of the members spent most of the time worrying about getting back for a drink or preparing supper for a partner, and one made his adjudication on the basis of the accent of the defendant. Roll on, or role on, Wednesday.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of English for this co...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Service General Administrator

£16000 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance & IT Assistant

£20200 - £24800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior PHP Developer - Zend Framework

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This number one supplier of Coo...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea