Magazine article The Spectator

Rulers and Ruled

Magazine article The Spectator

Rulers and Ruled

Article excerpt

The turf

Rulers and ruled

Robin Oakley

If trainers or jockeys commit a blunder the racing media, on the whole, are restrained in their criticism. They might need trainer Jorrocks or jockey Snitch for next week's story. If officialdom gets it wrong then we tend to come down on the miscreants like a Becher's faller on a winded rabbit.

As the Jockey Club's director of regulation, Malcolm Wallace leads the team responsible to the stewards of the Jockey Club for framing and enforcing the rules. The team deals with jockeys' whip offences, alleged non-triers and disqualifications for interference in a race. And if Martin Pipe and Tony McCoy, for instance, were in the habit of sticking pins in wax images to ward off evil fortune then it is 9-4 on that the model chosen would bear a striking resemblance to the dapper, straight-backed Mr Wallace, former commanding officer of the King's Troop RHA.

Racing professionals occasionally clash with him. Armchair critics like me blow hot and cold on the upholding of the rules. What we tend to forget is that Malcolm Wallace and his colleagues do what they do out of a love for racing and a desire to make the sport as safe as it can be for the participants and as attractive as it can be to racegoers whose punting pounds are needed to keep the show on the road.

In Malcolm Wallace's case it is not without practical experience of the problems involved in trying to dig out a horse which has got pocketed on the rails or to keep on an even keel a nervous jumper which has clouted a fence and panicked. As an amateur he used to ride a few for David Nicholson, notably the wayward Burnt Oak. When he asked Peter Scudamore one day what sort of ride he was in for, the jockey declared: 'He's a hooligan. Put it this way. If he was human he'd be the first to start chucking bottles at the goalie.'

He recalls going to ride once for a French trainer at Auteuil on a horse whose form figures read: TTT. The Wallace French was sufficient to take in that that meant Tombe, Tombe, Tombe. The trainer, having told his jockey, 'I 'ope you are very strong, Captain Wallace, because this 'orse pulls like 'ell,' then whispered to his wife and began sniggering. What was the joke? inquired the intrepid horse-pilot. 'Oh, we were just saying that perhaps this is where you meet your personal Waterloo.' Not ones to bear grudges, the French. Not beyond a century or two, anyway.

Coming as he does from the world of three-day eventing and equestrianism (he was four times British chef d'equipe at the Olympics) Malcolm Wallace is much concerned with the welfare of the animals. But while he does not like to see the finishes to big races marred by welted horses being thrashed home he agrees that riders should not be left without the means of steering and correction, neither does he believe that the whip correctly used should be removed as an instrument of encouragement.

The Jockey Club's disciplinary committee saw the need for stiffer penalties for high-profile races, where the temptation for jockeys to hit their horses with anything to get them home for a big pay day was particularly strong, and he feels vindicated that since the introduction of ten-day bans there has not been a single suspension imposed in a Group One race.

He worries, incidentally, that in terms of racing's image whip offences over jumps look so much worse. On the flat the finish is over in a flash but when racegoers see bigger men, usually on worse, ground, hitting in what seems almost like slow motion a tired horse which has blundered at the last two fences, he fears it leaves an indelible impression. …

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