A new perspective perhaps?

May 3rd, 2020 | Marten's Current Racing Diary Marten's Perspective

I am writing this on the weekend that I am usually at Newmarket for the Guineas meeting.

The day when it was conceivable that three unbeaten colts – Pinatubo, Earthlight and Siskin, winners of 14 races between them, six at Group 1 level – could have been lining up for what had every chance of being one of the great Guineas of recent times.

The greatest Guineas that I ever saw, in terms of quality of field, was back in 1984 when El Gran Senor beat Chief Singer, Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest, who went on to win a fistful of Group 1 races, with El Gran Senor controversially beaten by Secreto in that year’s Derby.

The most impressive winner has to be Frankel nine years ago in 2011, although it seems only yesterday that he romped clear to win by six lengths. That was the only time I’ve heard the crowd applause a horse with half a mile of the race still to run.

Who knows when, if at all, this year’s Guineas will be run?

It is pencilled in for the first weekend in June, but however feasible the return of horseracing may be in terms of logistics and adherence to the current restrictions, politically an ill-judged return would not sit well with the general public.

Whatever can be argued about the growth of syndicates, partnerships and clubs, if you ask anyone outside the industry for their views about racing they will probably refer to the Grand National as their only point of contact.

More essentially, given the current climate, it is seen as the domain of the rich and privileged, and the sight of horses that cost six-figure sums, or more, racing against each other at Royal Ascot in mid-June would not, even behind closed doors, sit well with the general public at this time.

Of course the BHA have to have something in place to enable racing to resume with a proposed programme if it is given the green light, but this is all about perception and although I will be shouted down by some I would prefer to see football and other restrictions lifted before racing returns.

I am aware of the economic arguments – one report I have read suggests that it is a £3.45 billion industry for the UK and is the second largest sport behind football in terms of attendances, employment and revenues, with around 14,000 horses in training, 4,000 employees and over 500 racing yards.

Yet this doesn’t count for anything when you speak to people outside the industry. The only time that racing hits the front pages is if there is a scandal of some kind, Frankie rides seven winners at Ascot or horses die in the Grand National.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still have a heart for the game.

Having been housebound for six weeks earlier today I decided that the time was right for a drive, so I popped over to Cartmel to see how the racecourse was looking.

They would have been racing there three weeks today, but with social distancing guidelines likely to be in force for months to come I will be surprised if any of their meetings take place this year. Cartmel is all about the people, with up to 20,000 of us congregating together in close proximity to each other. There is sometimes hardly room to move.

As I write this, on the first weekend of May, the future is uncertain.

Yet what the lockdown has enabled some of us to do is break the pattern of our lives. For many years, perhaps in my case almost five decades, my life has been governed by the day’s racing and my efforts to find my clients a winner or two.

It’s been strange not having that early-morning fix. Fortunately I have interests outside racing – music for one – but there have been times in the last few weeks when I have missed the challenge of trying to unearth the winner of a dodgy-looking 0-55 at Wolverhampton on a Saturday night.

Saint Augustine once said, among many wise things, that the secret to happiness is to pray for the things you already have.

I was reminded of that driving through Cartmel. I just wonder, through all the suffering and tragedy of this last few weeks, how many of us will approach the times ahead with a new perspective on life.

Perhaps, then, the loss of a few race-meetings will be seen in the context in which it belongs.

At the end of the day it’s not all that important.

Marten Julian's signature