Despite the heart-warming resurrection of Kauto Star, it’s hardly been a great week for British Racing. We’ve had corruption cases; a £3000+ fine levied on Kieren Fallon for “misleading” that most mild and scholarly Stipendiary Steward William Nunneley; and the overturning of a conviction against BHA’s tame QC-cum-trainer Graeme McPherson (for “schooling” a horse in a race at Chepstow) after a hearing lasting, reputedly, around 90 seconds. The Whip Debate of course rumbles on, with another slew of jockey bans on the Flat and over Jumps. At least one of them (Sophie Doyle‘s) was a 10 day ban for a “second offence” in marginally exceeding the number of taps available to her under the new “excessive frequency” rule. On the Flat the BHA’s randomly plucked number is seven, with one more allowed over Jumps. Another such minor infringement, and she might as well call it a day for her career this winter.
Can anyone seriously maintain that these daft punishments fit the (alleged) crime? Or that there is any scientific basis for claiming that seven strikes with the glorified feather duster jockeys use these days – devised with the active input of the RSPCA, by the way – is good, whilst eight strikes are bad? As the astute James Willoughby said on Racing UK, “we’ve no option but to keep banging the drum”, even at the risk of boring less unquiet spirits to distraction. Because until this miserly stroke-counting is ditched, there is no chance of these whip rules attracting anything other than the media opprobrium which they were allegedly framed to reduce. We’ll see what new CEO Paul Bittar might or might not do to redress this evil in January. Watch this space…
Meanwhile at BHA’s High Holborn HQ the first significant head has rolled in the wake of the whip fiasco. The popular, helpful and generally open Head of Communications Paul Struthers left his post last Friday (November 18) amidst rumours that he was the victim of a “whispering campaign”. Whatever the reasons, it seems only too typical of the current administration that competence is treated as a sackable offence. Paul hopes to continue working in Racing, but meanwhile has more time to spend with his young family. Good luck to this talented communicator.
As a minor piece of collateral damage to this, the weekend also saw the forced ejection of yours truly Pinza from that hallowed hall of equine debate The Racing Forum. Yet though a thread on Mr Struthers’ departure was the ironic catalyst for my own sorry demise, the roots of the rumpus lay in the grief I’ve been giving to the Forum’s owner, the affable David Cormack, since the BHA Whip Review appeared at the end of September.
David believes the whip should be banned, except for safety purposes (whatever those are supposed to be) and his tolerance for those of us of a contrary opinion has worn thin, finally to breaking point. I’ve no beef with his decision: it’s his Forum. He puts in the work. So if thorns in his side are causing him heightened blood pressure and sleepless nights he’s quite within his rights to extract them. If he thinks I’m a devil, then he has every right to invite me to spend more time with my familiar.
I have to say that being flung into the Lower Depths is an experience both new and strange. Like many people in my neck of the woods part of my business in life is (in no particular order) to inform, entertain and challenge received wisdom. I love ideas. I love words and music, and enjoy analysing both. Some people find this as uncomfortable, and unsettling as they find any sort of self-analysis. We’re all different. It’s true that once I’ve got the bit between my teeth my enthusiasm knows no bounds, and in this case a moderate moderator has decided it’s not in the interest of his Fiefdom to give Pinza a platform. Thus this blog.
There’s a haunting scene in Dickens’ Christmas Carol where that good man Ebeneezer Scrooge is shown his own funeral by the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come. He witnesses old fishwives fighting over his possessions, his coffin thrown into a pauper’s grave, and hears at last what people really thought of him whilst he lived – and of course as he’s dead, there is no comeback (in any sense). The last couple of days I’ve had a curiously similar experience, reading on the “Pinza” thread of the Racing Forum (64 posts and counting) exactly what many kind souls thought of me, quite without any right of reply.
Most of these opinions, pro or con, held little surprise. My good friend Drone encapsulated me nicely, I thought: “erudite, articulate, polymathematic, passionate, provocative, confrontational, amusing, annoying, argumentative, confident and comfortable residing just inside his own rectum”. I blush. Others took a contrary view: the well-named Marginal Value said that “Pinza had verbal skills aplenty, but he also had an ego that forced him to abandon debate in favour of winning.” Such statements reflect how the speaker sees things himself: as a committed Empsonian I must tell him that I rather see life in shades of grey, not black and white. I’m much more interested in urging fellow enthusiasts to analyse what they are saying, in questioning them and defining terms rather than “winning” anything. That’s not how debate works.
The tone has now changed from polite Obituary to impolite Estuary, rather as if the remaining mourners were getting drunk at the wake. The pithy sketch of “The pillock that is Pinza” by Deep Sensation gave me most fun. I can’t remember what I did to offend this worthy; but his level of sophistication indicates I was arguing with a horse rather than a human being. He finished with a flourish: “Does anyone know who this pathetic loser is?” Well now you do, old chap. As Burns puts it, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us…” I’ve had the instructive gift of learning how about 50 assorted men and women saw me, for which I thank them.
Enough of all that. I’ll be using this space to put forward occasional thoughts on Racing and (I can but hope) continuing to inform, entertain and occasionally needle people as best as Pinza‘s poor gifts allow – whether on The Whip, the BHA, Racing for Change, the RSPCA… but hush, it’s time for me to marinade my quails for tonight’s modest repast.
Nice blog – I like the layout. I think you have found your métier and i wish you well.
Thank you kindly, Joe. If I can reach even halfway to your excellent blog standards I’ll be well pleased.
Ricky Lake said:
Class Sir , pure Class , I will be watching with interest ,. your black death from the forum is detestable, however if TAPK can come back in a different mode ….then ….
Muchas gracias, Señor. Trouble is, I’m far from sure I want to come back!
A man who is much talked about is always very attractive. One feels there must be something in him, after all. 😉
Ah Tuffers, elegantly put, as ever. I will miss our skirmishes indeed…
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”…good luck with the blog loquacious one
I graciously bow to thee, oh Imhotep, bearer of the wise serpents. I’ve certainly been talked about this evening; but shy creature that I am, I can’t help being relieved that Mr Cormack has moved the popular “Pinza” thread to the Lounge. Good for him. Out of sight, out of mind.
Brilliant stuff, Pinza. Pure class. I will be saving an icon on my desktop and logging on to follow you. More power to your elbow. Really grateful to the Racing Forum poster for providing a link to your blog. Quality reading. Can’t believe that the thread has been moved to the Lounge (same happened with me and my light-hearted Willie Carson thread)
Thank you CP, you are too kind. I will miss our sparring and debates: but of course, though it’s a relief in a way, I would never have been seen dead in the Lounge – shocking stuff!
I think you will find the Pinza expulsion thread will become one of the most popular ones in the Lounge. I can’t get people to show any interest in my threads on a variety of subjects. No matter how much information and detail I pack in, nobody bothers replying to anything apart from the whip! I take my hat off to you. You’ve certainly shown me how to do it. Very interested to read about your distinguished background now you have been “outed” on the Christopher Webber link on the RacingForum. I assume the Wikipedia link provided by Mr Pilsen is bona fide.
The TRF Lounge was once deep leather armchairs, smoking jackets and brogues. You would have been comfortable there Pinza
Unfortunately it is now plastic stacking-chairs, trackies and trainers
A sign o’ the times
Having just peeked round the open door of the Lounge to see how the “Pinza” thread was going, I can only say that you’ve painted it bang to rights. The thread on Moehat’s mice rather saves the day.
All my best Chris
New comment on your post “Reading your own obits.” > Author : Drone (IP: 18.104.22.168 , client-81-105-137-58.lds-bng-012.adsl.virginmedia.net)
Yes CP indeed it is. There’s also a link to the Wikipedia article from the “About” section just above the header here. I don’t know about “distinguished” – I’m something of a Jack of All Trades … except when it comes to Spanish zarzuela (and that’s thanks to Sr Domingo providing me with a nice Foreword!)
Keep trying on TRF… the Forum needs quality posts and there are actually plenty of good people who are interested, if the time and place are right.
Pinza, which course does the fine picture at the top represent? I assume it must be Epsom on Derby Day or Royal Ascot? I’ve ruled out Goodwood from Trundle Hill or Cheltenham.
It certainly sets an impressive upmarket tone for the blog. The old open-top grandstand keeps reminding me of the similar-looking but much smaller one at Cartmel! Haven’t seen many top hats there, though.
Every time we go to the Lake District, we drive to Cartmel and I always insist on walking on the racecourse and gazing up at that curiously unfinished-looking stand.
On the one occasion we went racing there, I managed to get to the top of that stand in a doomed bid actually to see some of the action. The view was still very restricted. Such a shame. Couldn’t hear Iain Mackenzie’s commentary even from the top of there. Good job the sticky toffee pudding from the nearby corner shop is so good.
It is Epsom on Derby Day, from William Frith’s picture – which has itself inspired music and even a whole play, by Howard Brenton (called “Epsom Downs”). Mr and Mrs Pinza would love to go to beautiful Cartmel, but as neither of us drive we’ve always thought it would be well-nigh impossible. Sticky toffee pudding a definite incentive, though!
Ricky Lake said:
Lounge Thread on Pinza is 9 pages and growing , you must be star material dear boy …..
I’m glad to see TRF has had something to fill the yawning chasm between between Betfair day at Haydock and the Hennessey meeting. People will soon have something better to talk about, I hope. Some radiantly sensible posts from Moehat – what a great moderator she would make! Thanks for the heads-up Ricky.
Pinza, had been hoping you would have a daily new main piece on your blog, in the style of the first one above about reading your own obits. Have not seen another report since that of November 21, unless I am not doing something correctly.
Are you planning to do a daily update piece? I’m sure, with your prolific output on the Racing Forum, it would barely tax you at all to knock out a daily report. I would have thought you would be keen to be as prolific as possible in the early days, if only to pull in the readers in the light of recent events. Seems a pity not to give us plenty of new material to read every day.
The calendar on the left above will let me click only on November 21, another clue to apparent inactivity. I have to say I’m surprised. The best blogs are the ones with a new read every day for followers. The message from and to Ricky Lake is the only one I have seen in a couple of days.
Hi CP, I’m intending to write occasional pieces of some length, on matters which I feel the need to write about, rather than daily additions. This strategy is dictated by my need to earn a living (!) added to the wide variety of areas in which I have some sort of interest.
The last couple of days for example I’ve been focused on reading and researching for music articles and reviews with looming deadlines, so my eye has been off the Racing ball to a great extent.
Most of the many Pinzoid postings to TRF (at least during the last three months) were replies to other posts, not new threads: I enjoy debate, and am easily engaged by it, as you’ve seen! Blogs for me are different: unless I have something particular to say, I don’t believe in a “daily chat” just for the sake of it. I imagine there’ll be one or two new posts per week – I’ll probably put a piece together for Hennessey day, for example.
Trust your hopes aren’t too dashed, CP.
Paul Fitzgerald said:
Look forward to your reading your thoughts on here, Pinza. Love the layout, (except the Twitter feed which subtracts from the overall look). Viva shades of grey!
Paul (Cav on TRF).
Cheers Paul, and delighted you share my Empsonian predilections! Agreed the Twitter feed spoils the elegance, so I’ll put it at the bottom of the column and see whether that improves matters. Looking forward to continued debate with you from now on in…
I remember when the Mandarin Chase at Newbury used to be the feature race on the card when the BBC covered that meeting at the end of December many years ago. I felt cheated when it was downgraded to just another middling race, rather than a Newbury end-of-year highlight. In those days, the TV coverage was haphazard because the meeting often didn’t fall on a weekend when the BBC coverage was available. I seem to remember it occasionally got New Year TV coverage. The meeting has sometimes been covered by Channel 4 since but certainly not always.
Ricky lake said:
5 jocks banned today , all whip related …..who says its all gone quiet
surely this is madness ,
Quite, Ricky – especially seeing that bans (also today) for careless riding only amount to a day or two at most.
It’s completely lacking in proportion to be handing out these long bans and draconian fines for “one over the odds” whip offences (for frequency, not misuse) whilst effectively winking at non-triers and potentially dangerous manoeuvres on the track.
The sad news from France today ought to enable people to get this whole, stupid business in perspective. Unfortunately the fundamentalists and ostriches will continue to see only what suits them. But until the stroke count is removed, this whip issue will not go away.
Lucky Lucan said:
Pinza, have you any plans to star in any Pantomimes this Christmas or did you leave all that behind you following your premature execution from The Racing Forum?
Being ex-communicated from that den of avarice is not necessarily a badge of shame. In fact, for some it represents the pinnacle of their life’s achievements.
From time to time I assume a Dickensian child-like role and occasionally peer through the bullseye panes of glass that front ‘Cormack’s Sweet Shop’ only to be disappointed that he appears to have replaced all the marvellous delicacies with his own brand of gobstoppers.
Such is modern life and the emphasis on commercialism.
Lucky, it’s a while since I did pantomime – Liverpool Everyman Theatre 1987 to be precise – and my idea of a good Christmas nowadays is to hole up with Mrs Pinza and a goose, before barring the doors to all comers!
Mr Cormack’s current attitude towards Pinza (and many other contributors) is indeed a curious one, and as he’s also barred me from following TRF on Twitter, I’m somewhat out of his loop. I’m happy to greet his own melodramatic, Dickensian behaviour with a contrary quote from Scrooge: “Bah, humbug!”
As a latecomer to The Racing Forum myself I can’t speak for its glory days; but I do think that with Twitter and blogging available the function of forums generally has perhaps changed. The owner’s attempts to commercialise it and (shall we say) broaden the user base may or may not revive it, but the dumbing down certainly predicates that contributions from the Sport’s insiders may be fewer and further between.
If it’s not too early, a very merry Christmas to you!
Lucky Lucan said:
Thank you for your cordial festive greetings PInza and please do not feel obliged to reply to this in kind as I appreciate you have more pressing priorities in your life.
Your reference to the Everyman was somewhat spooky insofar as only yesterday I read that there now lies a hole on Hope Street where the theatre once stood but before too long it will rise from the ashes, brand sparkling new. I doubt whether I will ever again get the opportunity to savour those vegetarian delights from the downstairs Bistro now that I live in The Fens but fond memories are enough to satisfy my nostalgic appetite. I understand the late Pete Postlethwaite was very fond of he place.
By an even stranger co-incidence, my local am-dram group had advertised in the village for a writer/director to produce a ‘novel’ pantomime for 2013, yes 2013. I initially toyed with the idea and banged out a few pages of ‘Mother Goose with a Musical Twist’ but then reality set in and I decided that my ambitions for Maria Von Trapp and Oliver Twist to live happily ever after with Mother Goose would perhaps be beyond the wildest imagination of most audiences.
So there you are Pinza, perhaps that’s a timely omen that you and your Dame will have a great Christmas.
Lucky, I didn’t know about the hole, though I knew there was a major refurb in prospect. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had were in that Bistro and I hope the spirit returns… Pete P. was indeed wedded to the place (though sadly I was working there 10 years too late to be working alongside that great actor.)
Thanks for the Christmas wishes – which I reciprocate. Meanwhile, you might like to take a look at “Grand (Sefton) Theft” on the Blog and see if you think it’s fair comment on Aidan Coleman’s ride and ban.
All my best, Pinza.
On the subject of pantomime, I went to a wonderful one in Derby today [oh yes I did] and, inspired by this thread am actually reading A Christmas Carol, something I have meant to do for years. A Merry Christmas to one and all.
Yes indeed, Mo. May your goose be getting fat (indeed I hope by now it’s drawn and hung too, if not quartered). I’ll be settling down with Dickens too, perhaps to reread one of his other Christmas stories, such as The Cricket on the Hearth. They’re all wonderfully written, though none of them have quite the punch of A Christmas Carol. Happy Reading, and all the best for Christmas!