What Davy Russell has proved is that it is not only the untalented and unsuccessful who commit acts of stupidity but also those who the gods doused with great ability and a smidgen of genius. What is more, it is also a lesson in how not to respond to something out of the ordinary and in doing so easily make a sorry saga out of an unfortunate incident. Indeed every stage of the whole ‘King’s Dolly’ affair was mismanaged, with Dennis Egan spreading dollop after dollop of bad publicity on to the sport as if trained in nothing else.
Firstly, and no seems mention this aspect of the messy business, King’s Dolly should have behaved herself. She had on her back one of the great jockeys of our time; the honour was seemingly missed by her. The mare’s behaviour also caused shame to be brought to the stable of her trainer.
Secondly, Russell behaved like a 1950’s public school headmaster. Great horseman do not resort to gratuitous violence. Next time use the flat of the hand, Davy, when all of your equestrian skills have failed to get your mount’s attention.
Thirdly, when writing about the incident in the newspaper Russell should not have brushed the incident off as ‘nothing out of the ordinary’. Asking for tears and twelve hail Marys would have been too much, though a simple apology might have curbed the criticism that washed up at his door.
Fourthly, the caution he received was wholly inappropriate for the offence and Dennis Egan needs to be sanctioned for his failure to uphold sensible governance of the sport. Russell acted wrongly, yes, but his actions were instinctive and in the heat of the moment; Egan had time to consider his response. To my mind if the wrongness of their actions were to be marked out of 10, Russell would receive 6 out of 10 and Egan 8.
Fifthly, the 4-day ban is also inappropriate considering both the offence and the bad publicity incurred by the sport for both the punch and the lack of integrity displayed by the Irish Turf Club. 10-days to a month for this offence should be mandatory to ensure the public are made aware how seriously the sport takes such malpractice. As much as Dennis Egan deserves to be sanctioned, it must be remembered that Davy Russell instigated the saga.
Sixthly, if there was such a thing as a scale of cruelty that can be metered out to a horse Russell’s lacklustre punch would come pretty low down the scale. Certainly it would cause less of an effect on a horse’s welfare than say over-exuberance of the whip. In fact there is footage on YouTube of Sean Levey landing a punch on a horse after being unseated after the finish of a race at Kempton that might have greater impact on the horse’s welfare as Levey’s fist seems to land on the horse’s teeth or jaw. But as there was no outrage from a disgruntled public the powers-that-be have allowed the offence to go unpunished and the racing press have also chosen to ignore the incident.
The sad component of this sad affair is that the incident should have taken place at pretty Tramore, where the surf meets the turf. Tramore, I believe, is the innocent party in the affair and should receive damages for any damage done to its reputation as one of the more individual and pretty racecourses in Ireland and perhaps the world.
Waterford and Tramore racecourse, to give it its full name, began life as a beach racecourse and raced in harmony with the waves from 1785 till 1911 when nature decided sand was not an appropriate surface for horses to race on. After really rough storms in 1911 the locals took the hint and built a course a mile inland. In 1997 a consortium bought the racecourse for 5-million euros and invested in its facilities.
In the year 2,000 Tramore had the honour of staging the first race meeting of the new millennium with The Mean Fiddler H’cap chase being won by No Problem. It took 17 years for the ironic nature of the name of the winner to emerge. Tramore has two other claims to fame: one it was the first racecourse to use euros as a medium of change and if galloped left-handed (the course is a sharp right-handed course with a steep descent around the home-turn and an incline to the winning post) it closely resembles Epsom and Tattenham Corner. A gem of information Irish trainers might want to consider if they can’t decide whether to take their Derby hopeful to Epsom.
For those who are thinking of a holiday in Ireland in early October the next meeting is October 9th and with its view of Tramore Bay from the grandstand it should be a visit to be remembered, and that’s without any promises of Davy Russell and Dennis Egan dragging the sport through the mud.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.