Sunday, March 06, 2011

New tragedy at Newbury: did it need to happen?

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Death of Eric's Charm suggests some horses are being asked to go on racing for too long

Three weeks ago, Newbury racecourse made the news headlines when two horses, Marching Song and Fenix Two, were electrocuted by an underground cable in a freak accident in the paddock.

Yesterday, there were more tears at the Berkshire track as one of Britain's most popular racehorses, the veteran Eric's Charm, was destroyed after breaking a leg in a handicap chase. An hour later, the up-and-coming hurdler Karky Schultz also met his end after a crashing fall.

You can read the whole of the article here.


Robin Carmody said...

Can recall other examples of this - remember Floyd, who had nothing left to prove after winning the Imperial Cup & County Hurdle within the same week in 1985, and seven years later still winning a good Ascot three-mile hurdle as a 12-year-old (he also won the 1990 Long Walk Hurdle rising 11), but whose owner lusted after "just one more season", put him back into training with Reg Akehurst (very much against his previous trainer David Elsworth's wishes), and he dropped dead on the gallops before he could take part in another race? Also, Mole Board, Pegwell Bay, and maybe Bula as a 12-year-old in the 1977 Champion Chase (which would surely have been his last race even had he survived it - the same season as Red Rum's third National and probably the best ever Champion Hurdle, but still a terrible Cheltenham when both he and Lanzarote were killed, and I think some other lesser-known horses).

What this shows is that, while you have often portrayed racing and especially jump racing as immune from the worst aspects of modern-day capitalism, many of its owners are infested by that same desire to make a bit more money over and above any concern for animal welfare. Just because jumping isn't part of *global* capitalism, and connected to Arab despots, in the same way that Flat racing is doesn't necessarily make those involved in it any better morally.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Robin,

Good examples. I would have put Floyd in had I been writing a longer piece. He should never have been brought back into training. That was really shocking.
Cheltenham 1977 was terrible as you say, Lanzarote was a big favourite in our household.
I only hope that the 'old boys' Denman and Kauto S emerge from this year's Gold Cup unscathed.

re the position of owners- let's not forget that a lot of owners do retire their horses in good time.

ps did you see that the very smart flat performer Barolo dropped dead at the weekend in a point-to-point, making his jumping debut at the age of 12?

Robin Carmody said...

Oh yes, I'm aware of that. I think it depends on what sort of person the owner is, and maybe the owners who keep their horses in training when they're really no longer up to it are the more money-grubbing, short-term capitalist Thatcherite types? Only a speculation, but I think it's possible.

With Flat racing there are similar health problems to those with a great many pedigree dogs, c.f. the number of horses who have Northern Dancer only two or three generations away on both sides of their ancestry. Didn't hear re. Barolo, but it's the same "just one more challenge" symptom really.

btw, although I still think your "socialist case for Royal Ascot" article was *profoundly* flawed and it was one of the things I was thinking of while writing my recent blog critiques of "Daily Mail Socialism", you might like this one: (if that doesn't come out, it's my most recent blogpiece anyway).