Racing: Commentary - Osborne laments lost reputation

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IT MAY have been purely chance, but then again the backcloth to Jamie Osborne's first interview since his arrest could have been rather illuminating.

As the "corduroy cavalier" in a BBC interview on Saturday outlined his wrath at having his reputation besmirched there was a rope and tyre swinging from a tree in the background, the sort of thing you get in a monkey cage. Some might suggest that is where the police and Jockey Club belong for their handling of the case of the "weighing-room three".

Jamie is rather uncomfortable with the way his honour has been impugned and is already wondering how to crumble the brickbats that have come his way. "My reputation has suffered hugely," he told Jim McGrath. "The fact that I haven't been charged seems to have no bearing on it.

"I'm confident that I'm going to be totally exonerated and no charges are going to be brought, but there is still the `no smoke without fire brigade' out there."

The Jockey Club turned up when the nastiness started at the burning scene three weeks ago, with hoses in hand. But rather than rescue the jockeys from the top floor, the Portman Square mandarins left them gently toasting, because they were afraid how the bystanders might react if the screamers were liberated.

Osborne believes the ugly pictures drawn of him will stain his professional life and beyond. "It's been unanimous support from the weighing-room, but there have been one or two people that have surprised me by joining the `no smoke without fire brigade'," he said. "A lot of people want to believe this is true. They like the sensationalism.

"What these people miss is that a lot of the time what they say will get back to me. I've had a love affair with this sport for 20 years and I've worked pretty hard to get where I am. To think that something like this could bring it down is upsetting, annoying and frustrating."

A seventh man was arrested on Friday in connection with the race-fixing and doping enquiry overshadowing racing, at the same time as a national newspaper suggested that there were up to 20 more jockeys about to hear a knock at the door. At this rate, they will be able to hold an entire meeting replete with a full weighing-room when suspects are asked to report on 29 April.

A participant in the machinations will be Michael Caulfield, the secretary of the Jockeys' Association. He is privately enraged with the attitude over this matter of Christopher Foster, the Jockey Club's executive director, who has become known in his circle as "St Christopher". Caulfield wonders if "soundings", the turf's vox pop which has been employed by Foster, is going to be used every time there is a disagreement.

Osborne's grief is that this episode poisons his place in the book of turf history. "There are going to be people who remember me for being hit by Jenny Pitman at Ayr and arrested on fraud charges," he said.

He should not be so bashful, as Mrs Pitman's former husband, Richard, insists there will be another strand to the jockey's big red book. Mr Pitman once addressed a racecourse female audience thus: "Go down to the paddock and back anything that appeals to you, anything that gives you a wink - unless it's Jamie Osborne, in which case it means he can see down your cleavage."

Jamie, sadly, does not look as though he can look as far ahead as Cheltenham. His broken wrist is healing so tardily it seems his experience of the Festival next month may be as a spectator.

There will be plenty to see. The weekend destroyed fewer claims than it substantiated, but there is much to consider about the Festival trials of Kerawi and Ask Tom.

The former was eclipsed by the towering performance of Sharpical in Newbury's Tote Gold Trophy, in which he was beaten three lengths while conceding 11lb. Nigel Twiston-Davies, Kerawi's trainer, was rather impressed by the display even if his mother would not have been by his language. "At the weights," he said, "he's pissed up."

Tne trainer's assistant, Peter Scudamore, is not one to dampen enthusiasm either. "Istabraq might be more talk than he's actually achieved, Dato Star is not easy to evaluate on that one run at Haydock, so we look a solid each-way bet," he said.

Ask Tom had just recovered from illness before he won the Game Spirit Chase on Saturday but further established himself as a big number for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The huge, ear-twitching gelding will travel to the course only on the the day of the race as he gets bilious otherwise. Come the end of the meeting many of us will wish we had followed his lead.