Big, strong, a tad tricky to train and very tricky to ride in a race. That much is easy to see if you are a racing fan who knows how to read form and one who can actually read a race (a surprising amount can’t and it would surprise you who this includes) . “Arnie” is very clearly a ‘hold up horse’ , he loves to come through horses, he needs to be produced just before the line and invariably horses like him need riding for luck, in short he needs cover in his races- and lots of it and he absolutely ‘must’ be produced late to win. Simple - If only it was that easy…………………….
As the old saying goes, if you run ten sprinters like him in ten different races you will get ten different results!
At home he is a gentle giant until the tack goes on. A very good rider is required, one who possesses good hands and lots of confidence. He ‘never’ works upsides as this makes a horse more competitive (fine for a lazy slob) but not for one who can’t take too much work at home – if Arnold does too much- even a ‘normal’ amount of work, he runs flat. He needs to be mad fresh for racing. The downside to that is he can be too keen (as you can see if you watch him) both going to post and in the race. He can be fractious in the stalls and needs careful handling. Sometimes we are forced to ‘take a ticket’ depending on where he is drawn so he is not in the gates too long. But too many tickets mean potentially expensive, time consuming, opportunity missing trips to the races for a stalls test and with a horse who really needs to be in stalls less, not more, extra tests and more standing in the stalls is the last thing he needs.
He likes to go out in a paddock daily if possible, but on the gallops infrequently, he loves the water treadmill and the solarium (well who wouldn’t?), he has gastric ulcers (due to naturally occurring acids that damage the lining of the stomach; very common in racehorses, it can also make them more fractious) but the ‘very expensive’ clay we import from Italy soothes the many miles of intestines, relieves pain or discomfort and allows for a healthy gut. Rumour had it that when Sheikh Mohammad discovered the extent of ulcers among his horses in training and the amount they were forking out for the clay containing paste he did what the Remington shaver man did and decided that as he “loved it so much he bought the company” - although I have ‘no idea’ if that’s a true story.
When Arnold ran at Newcastle last Thursday under Jo Fanning he was recorded as “making good headway 2 out, led over 1 out clear inside final furlong, headed final strides” . In short he hit the front too soon and went well clear of the field, despite George yelling at the telly “NO NO NO JO NOT YET….. SIT SIT …..SIT “ followed by a few Effs and a “should have won a minute”.
Sadly, Jo’s hearing isn’t as good as it might have been and Georges noisy protests got lost somewhere between our living room and Newcastle racecourse. Jo phoned immediately after the race and said he had “F…d up and should have won, and concluded he “went to soon” .Five days later Jo is en-route to Goodwood when he calls Royston to tell him he must hold the horse up till the last minute and that he “should have won on him”. Royston had also ridden out here on the Friday and knew all about our unfortunate near miss. He had watched the replay as well as talked to myself and George. He was under no illusion whatsoever that he mustn’t hit the front too soon.
Jo also called me to suggest I take a ticket because Arnold had been fractious in the gates with him and given that there were four horses or so due to go in ‘after’ us we didn’t want him blowing his chances of winning by rearing up. So I called ahead to arrange a ‘ticket’ only to discover a rule change due to covid but I was told we could have second to last slot to load and I was very grateful for that.
Royston was clearly determined to avenge the horses previous defeat and was determined not to lose the race by hitting the front too soon. When the gap opened up about half a furlong from the line he sat still, waiting to the last minute to pounce but the gap closed slightly so he went right-handed and around horses costing valuable ground. It was a big mistake, he should have stayed where he was. It cost him, the horse, the owners, me and George and our dedicated small team of grafters a winner. For the second time in five days the aforementioned group were robbed of not one winner, but two winners.
So, obviously I am not defending the indefensible nor would Royston (or Jo) want me to. No one worried when Jo got beat on him for hitting the front too soon- why? Because he was 6/1 and to the untrained eye its easy to think the horse was ‘unlucky’ and therefore a sure-fire winner next time.
Well- this is horse racing and gambling isn’t called ‘gambling’ without good reason and I am bringing Jo’s defeat into the equation because it’s an integral part of understanding what happened last night.
For added information Arnold went up 4 lbs for his second under Jo and god knows what he might go up for his defeat last night, whatever the horses career tally is in the end, two more should have been added to it and he will now race of a higher weight making it even tougher to win unless we find weak races which frankly, is not easy. Why would anyone want to stop him when winning is hard enough?
We are not a gambling yard and never have been, my reputation in racing and at racings HQ is scrupulously clean and Royston is as honest as the day is long. Successful winters in Dubai have paid his mortgage and financed his family but they have cost him vital contacts in racing and he is as hungry as anyone I know to ride winners and re-establish himself as a leading rider in the UK as he once was. Why then would he want to stop him?
It is perverse and ridiculous in the extreme to suggest that either myself or Royston “stopped” the horse as has been claimed in some quarters although for every negative comment there has been far more positive ones. The comments are almost laughable if it were not for the fact that this whole Social Media platform is becoming an unpleasant, dark hiding place for cowards. I don’t mind those who lash out a bit when they don’t know the facts, but this? Really? some of the things said about many racing people, particularly jockeys who are in the firing line on SM are disgraceful and the press and the BHA need to act.
Two jockeys- both respected and good lads got beat on a tricky horse, one went too soon, the other left it too late. Simple as that. It was a cock up but neither are bent and all the people who do the work and / or pay the bills are gutted but none of us behave as appallingly as those who hide behind their little keyboards.
On another note, Very many Congratulations to Jo Fanning for becoming the winning most jockey in Britain not to have been ‘Champion’ jockey. George has occupied that position as well as being in the top ten wining most jockeys for many years, until now and given there was no Sunday racing, less evening meetings, less racing generally and no all weather in the winter, it is an amazing achievement to hold on until now, George is 74 this year and is probably delighted that jockeys in his day were not subjected the barrage of abuse from armchair riders whose greatest need is a trip to Specsavers.