Racing’s Great Eccentricities

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This is a real short one to trip on.

I was at Sandown last Thursday for The Grand Military meeting and it struck me what an incongruous yet gloriously madcap and dare one say it, quintessentially ‘British’ event this was.

Members of the Armed Forces (the Royal Artillery regiment in particular) were very visible, with the racing being preceded by the firing of a ma-hoosive 13 inch gun, which made a racket something close to Krakatoa exploding, to these delicate eardrums.

Later on of course, there was the Royal Artillery Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles, restricted to military amateur jockeys.  There were just the four runners, but I daresay this was one of the standout days in the lives of riders Major Charlie O’Shea, Captain Will Kellard, Sergeant Nathan Rahman and Mr (!?) Ben Sutton, no matter what they achieve in their Forces careers.

It’s not cool to align yourself too closely with anything militaristic these days. Yes the nation turns out in droves for Remembrance Day and we will, as a nation, put our hands in our pockets for charities such as Help For Heroes and the Army Benevolent Fund who were collecting at Sandown on Thursday. But commercially, big business  fights shy it seems of too close an alignment with our Armed Forces.

Why this is the case is the subject for another blog and probably a business degree dissertation, but UK Horse Racing PLC puts on these races for military personnel and actively supports the link with the armed forces and it’s one of the reasons why I love the sport the way I do. Not because I’m some reflected glory, wannabee squaddie living out some ‘Officer and A Gentlemen’ fantasy – but because I love the eccentric nature of this kind of thing….the emphasis on the traditional, when the rest of the world seeks the empty kudos of social media ‘likes’ or the wholesale embrace of the latest societal fad.

For sure I’m up for progress and that’s anything from publishing of the weights of horses as part of their form, to sectional timing, to greater participation at all levels by minority groups – ‘all folks are equal on the turf and under it’.

But let’s keep our heritage and traditions and attract participants who understand and can fall in love with our roots and our values, our culture and our funny ways of going about things. It’s what makes us – The Racing Tribe – who we are.

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