Why it's best to go jumping for joy
Peter Thomas with his take on the big debate
For the biggest jumps meeting of the year, the course’s style arbiters suggest: “Dress for the weather.” For the biggest meeting on the Flat, they insist: “Dress for the 19th century – spats optional.”
Jump racing in winter is the only time it’s socially acceptable to become rudely inebriated on sloe gin in the presence of royalty.
At the beginning of the jumps season proper, almost all racegoers have heard of almost all of the horses and feel obliged to start betting at once. At the Craven meeting, it’s like punting on the primary school’s first-year egg-and-spoon race without knowing who’s asthmatic and whose dad is a former county egg-and-spoon champion.
Week-old champagne is flat, as is the driver’s side front tyre on my car. The joint is jumping, as are beans and Jack Flash. You choose.
If you buy a store horse to go jumping with, you may have five years of dreaming before you receive official confirmation that it is irretrievably useless. With a two-year-old on the Flat, the bad news can arrive before the ink is dry on the cheque.
When was the last time that a fully functioning Dorset cattle farmer, who was raised in a caravan and played cricket with Ian Botham, was leading trainer at a top Flat meeting?
Who wants to follow a sport that’s dominated by a handful of wealthy foreign owners spending obscene sums that leave the ordinary racing man powerless to compete? Then again, the Flat’s no better.