Marten’s Perspective: The Autumn Season

September 20th, 2013 | Marten's Perspective

I have to say that of all the seasons, autumn is probably my favourite.

The winters can be long, hard and miserable – I know that all too well, living in the Lake District – but the racing programme in August is very congested, with a significant amount of dross, while September sees the jump trainers bringing their horses back in from summer breaks and holding open days for their owners.

Mind you, this year’s Flat season still has plenty more to offer. The highlight for me will be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

This year’s race will be attracting a field of the highest quality – last year’s runner-up Orfevre, the winner of almost £10 million, the hugely impressive Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille winner Treve, King George winner Novellist, Derby winner Ruler Of The World, Prix du Jockey Club winner Intello, The Fugue, Al Kazeem and many more.

The last time I saw such a glittering galaxy of world-class stars meeting for one race was when Dancing Brave won the Arc back in 1986.

The race – indeed the Arc weekend – has excited me so much that I have decided to write an Online Preview to accompany the Cambridgeshire and Champions’ Day editions.

The two-year-old scene is also starting to look very interesting.

Kingman currently heads the market for next year’s 2,000 Guineas, but Aidan O’Brien is making upbeat noises about Australia, while he also has two very useful back-ups in War Command and Great White Eagle. Toormore and Berkshire, with Richard Hannon and Paul Cole respectively, have also shown enough to merit quotes for the Newmarket Classic.

Rizeena has done more than enough to warrant her position near the head of the 1,000 Guineas market. I love the way she travels and quickens. I am sure the mile will be no problem to her, although her pedigree is not conclusive on that matter. Tapestry, Kiyoshi and Lucky Kristale are other useful sorts.

As for the jumpers, I have just finished writing almost 8,000 words for the Dark Horses Annual about the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This season’s race promises to be as intriguing as ever, with Bobs Worth trying to protect his tremendous record at Cheltenham.

I am especially keen on seeing Dynaste back in action. He could turn out to be the best of last season’s staying novices, but more about that in the book.

I have also decided to write about the King George VI Chase this year. Again, this looks like being a great race.

Moving away from the horses the racing industry has not done itself any favours this year.

I have to be very careful what I say here, but I remain deeply unsettled over the Godolphin issue. The BHA feel the matter has been resolved, with full responsibility being admitted by Mahmood Al Zarooni.

There was talk of the trainer appealing against the eight-year ban imposed on him but that was dropped in May.

There are some important facts to state at this point.

There were about 10,000 races in Britain last year, with more than 7,000 post-race tests. Of these, only 12 were found positive. Racing is, in my view, ‘cleaner’ than it has ever been.

Yet relating to the Godolphin case, apparently steroids have to be administered many times a week to work effectively, and the suggestion is that Al Zarooni managed to smuggle enough into Moulton Paddocks to do the job without anyone noticing, overseeing the operation from Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed is known to enjoy a close involvement with his horses. Indeed, past documentaries and interviews confirm as much.

What the BHA’s findings apparently imply is that Sheikh Mohammed was unaware of these wrongdoings. That is something we now have to accept.

The Jockey Club, its members and Sheikh Mohammed own most of Newmarket and many of the country’s leading racecourses.

More may emerge in the fullness of time but, to quote the old adage, the whole affair has left a nasty taste in the mouth.

Bye for now

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