Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Goodwood Races

Racehorses owned by the Duke of Richmond exercising at Goodwood 1759

Because of its setting, Goodwood race-course is often described as the most scenic of all race-courses; from the Grandstand there is a superb view of the rolling Sussex Downs landscape. Day two of the five day Glorious Goodwood meeting includes the much anticipated match between two horses at the peak of their powers, 'Frankel', trained by the recently knighted Sir Henry Cecil and 'Canford Cliffs', trained by Richard Hannon. Although the weather forecast is none too brilliant I'm sure that the meeting will be awash with classy fashion, Pimms and the tradition of free strawberries. As ever the meeting is being broadcast by the excellent team of Channel 4 Racing.

As stated before, in many ways horse-racing was until the advent of football in the 20th century, the true national sport of England. For centuries the best thoroughbred horse-racing in the world was held in England, ever since the introduction of three Arabian stallions in 1759.

British horse-racing remains greatly indebted to three major Arabian sponsors, namely Sheikh Mohammed, his brother Hamdan-Al-Maktoum and Prince Khalid Abdullah. Without their patronage for over 30 years now, horse-racing in England would have been a much less exciting affair, with smaller, inferior quality fields. It's in no way guaranteed that these wealthy Arabian horse owners will continue to send their  very best horses to England for training. The high quality horse-racing which the English public enjoy throughout both the Flat and National Hunt season is seriously threatened. Because of poor management, weak sponsorship and prize money, along with a sometimes indifferent to all but profit betting industry, horse-racing  in England is in serious decline.  Other nations continue to develop blood-lines and breeding stock to match those of English stud-breeding. Other sports compete with horse-racing for gambling and spectator participation. As with life itself, there is no absolute guarantee that the present-day status quo will continue especially during the present-day economic depression. Even though attendances continue to rise at race-meetings, the industry continues to decline because of the aforementioned factors.

The sport of horse-racing is highly conscious of its public image and at present the spotlight is on the jockey's whip and whether its use should continue. There are already strict rules about how frequently the whip may be used. With video-recording every aspect of a jockey's ride can be analysed and judged by the stewards. Those who accuse the sport of animal cruelty have little idea of the loving care and attention each and every horse in training receives from stable-staff, trainer and jockey. As ever its a case of wanting to score a point in political correctness, or in this case, animal welfare, without any real understanding of the high quality of care and enthusiasm of the sport throughout the horse-racing industry.

View of Sussex Downs at Goodwood

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