Who says the youth of today is lacking in old-fashioned manners? It's just a pity they don't have any brains to go with their courtesy.
Nowadays, of course, it is no longer terribly obvious to young men exactly when, if ever, they should say to a lady: "After you." But it can be safely assumed that the middle of a race is hardly the time and place.
Three young gallants learned this lesson the hard way when contesting a prize for novice riders at Kempton yesterday. There were only four runners in all, but Billy Cray, Paul Nolan and Ross Atkinson somehow managed to present a Dutch rider named Josephine Bruning with an irretrievable advantage within moments of the gates opening.
The race was over a mile and a half, and the three young men had clearly been instructed not to exhaust their horses' stamina by riding too aggressively early on. But they rather overdid the tactics in allowing Bruning's mount, Sol Rojo, a head start of some 25 lengths.
It was only in the home straight that they awoke to their predicament, and by then it was far too late, Sol Rojo – the 14-1 outsider – cruising home in splendid isolation, still 16 lengths clear at the line.
As if to redress the embarrassment incurred by the male of the species, Bruning, 23, then made her own contribution to the farce. Bewildered by her solitude, she appeared to decide she must have another lap to run and pressed on for the best part of an extra circuit before bashfully accepting the first success of her career.
It was no laughing matter, of course, for those who had backed the hot favourite, Outlandish. His rider, Cray, was given a 12-day suspension, and likewise Atkinson on the third home, Turner's Touch. Nolan was banned for 10 days, the trainer having informed the stewards that his mount was an awkward one at the best of times.
Sol Rojo is trained by Jeff Pearce, whose wife, Lydia, had saddled the horse. "I've never seen anything so extraordinary," she admitted. "I told Josephine to get out there and give it her best, but I didn't expect her to completely demoralise them like that!"
Graham Thorner, assistant to the runner-up's trainer, was bemused. "Four furlongs out they all looked as if there was still a circuit to go," he said. "The lad said he thought [Bruning] had been run away with. I told him you can give weight away, but you can't give away ground. We all make mistakes – and that's a big one."
There was less clemency from David Wilson, himself a former trainer. He had saddled Turner's Touch for Gary Moore and declared: "I've never seen anything so ridiculous and I hope the stewards give the three of them a right roasting."
As it happens, the offending trio might as well have been banned for 12 minutes as 12 days, since they hardly find their services in daily demand at the best of times. In that respect, the punishment scarcely fits the crime, but any humane observer will acknowledge that mortification and infamy will represent a far graver hindrance to their career prospects than any suspension.
Nor, according to the authorities at any rate, is culpable conduct confined to callow young riders. The very next race was won by Straight Face, owned by Michael Wigham – the trainer who has just started a five-week ban for breaking the "non-triers" rule twice inside a fortnight.
Wigham, who had also been fined a record £20,000 over the running and riding of Granakey earlier this year, had sent Straight Face to Vince Smith, his Newmarket neighbour. Smith also took charge of Benllech from Wigham and the gelding powered home in the fifth race.
Few members of their profession have conducted themselves better in adversity than Henry de Bromhead, who watched aghast at Cheltenham last week as Sizing Europe, still on the bridle two flights from home in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, suddenly lost his position.
The horse was checked over by a second expert on Monday and the initial findings were confirmed. "It was definitely what she called the cross bone in his back that had gone, supporting both pelvises," De Bromhead said yesterday.
"I'd like to think we're not looking for excuses here. We'll just bide our time for now. I'm sure Alan [Potts, the owner] would love him to run at Punchestown, and there's still a chance of that. Obviously I was gutted, but would you believe there was also a great feeling of relief, just to know my fate at last. Nobody died, and hopefully we'll be back there again in the future."
Nap: Binnion Bay
NB: The Magic Blanket