Mon | Sep 27, 2021

Jimmy Says | Three blind mice…make that four

Published:Friday | June 18, 2021 | 1:05 AM

‘Three blind mice. Three blind mice.

See how they run. See how they run.

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a sight in your life,

As three blind mice?’

MORE than four centuries old, the English nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice, made its way into children’s literature around 1842. However, the original words, which differ greatly from those being innocently sung at kindergarten, held a far more sinister historical reference.

The ‘Three Blind Mice’ were thought to be Protestant loyalists, the Oxford Martyrs – Anglican bishops Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury – who were accused of heresy, plotting against Queen Mary I (the farmer’s wife), and were burned at the stake in 1555.

The Oxford Martyrs’ ‘blindness’, it is said, referred to their Protestant beliefs, which the Catholic queen, who had a reputation of executing Protestants, would have none of.

Amusingly, the sanitised children’s version of the Three Blind Mice came to mind after listening to a television clip of Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) Chairman Clovis Metcalfe announcing what the reporter termed as the regulatory body having “resurrected its investigative arm, the in-and-out-running committee”, consisting of two former Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) employees – retirees Christopher Armond and Anthony Shoucair – joined by lamb-to-the-slaughter, former jockey-no- trainee operation steward, Paul Ramsay.

This appears to be a matter of, not three, but Four Blind Mice. Poor Ramsay, who, from all indications, will be the ‘expert’ on the panel as it relates to jockeyship. Ramsay, up to last December, worked next door the Racing Office in the Registration Department of the JRC. When last has he taken a good look at the vet’s list after each day’s races to understand the level of unsoundness among the horse population and the risk associated for riders as opposed to when he was active?

For years, Armond and Shoucair both sat in the same Racing Office at Caymanas Park as senior managers, under the regulatory authority of the JRC’s Metcalfe, while jockeys were not riding out their mounts and excessively whipping horses. Wasn’t an in-and-out-running committee necessary throughout those years?

Approximately one month after a May 3 column, ‘Dear Clovis Metcalfe’, which dealt with, in part, policing local racing, the in-and-out-running committee apparently gets its wings.

Here’s a closing excerpt from the May 3 column:

“Policing any system of racing, ensuring fairness to punters and participants alike, is a no-brainer. Again, it’s simple as ABC. Horse racing, anywhere in the world, under any system, requires stewards who have knowledge of the race form and are armed with effective punitive measures to deal with offenders.

“There is nothing wrong with paper-pushing stewards. Someone has to do the administrative work. However, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of race performances, no stewards’ course can replace an experienced eye on the lookout for in-and-out running.

“It’s simple, considering the requisite skill does not exist within the existing stewards’ cohort, a parallel panel must be installed to immediately refer any perceived instance of impropriety during races for robust interviews by the paper-pushers and, if necessary, action that either hits deep in the pocket or have telling impacts on continuation in the sport.”

Note that the excerpt clearly spoke to ‘knowledge of the race form’ and was preceded by reference to the system of racing being run at Caymanas Park:

‘The matter of whip rules brings into focus last week’s promised look at the policing of local racing – whether under the existing claiming and conditions system (egregiously adopted from ‘the world’) or ratings-based handicapping – which no country in the ‘real world’ has ever abandoned, and all continue to practise as the only equitable method of classifying and allotting weight to racehorses.

Unless the respective jockeys’ and trainers’ associations at Caymanas Park have gone into full hibernation, it will be interesting to see how they respond to the formation of this ‘blind’ in-and-out-running committee, of which not one member, as far as I am aware, possesses a running knowledge of the race form or have any established literature, a rating system, on which to pin horses’ abilities in order to fairly bring jockeys and trainers to book.

Kangaroo court

Before the JRC makes any attempt to establish a much-needed integrity arm, it would serve all concerned (including trainers and jockeys, who need to protect their rights) to visit the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) website, https://www.britishhorseracing.com/, and edify themselves about the mechanisms and expertise that must be in place, not the kangaroo court being suggested.

In Britain, jockeys and trainers are expected to voluntarily report to the stewards whenever horses, in general, underperform, not only “favourites”, as Metcalfe posited. This information is not kept secret, nor does it take two years, the JRC’s idea of an ‘investigation’; it is published on the BHA’s website in a jiffy.

Even though Metcalfe quickly put in a disclaimer, “There is no suggestion here of corruption but we do believe that we owe it to the betting public that questions should be asked of trainers and jockeys whenever an overwhelming favourite runs off the board,” the big question is: Why “favourites”? What exactly does that suggest, Mr Metcalfe?

What about the horse who finished down the track two Saturdays past and declared lame by the JRC’s vet, is given 30 days to return, yet allowed back on the programme seven days later, and almost makes all the running at odds of 8-1?

In Metcalfe’s words, there is no suggestion here of corruption, but shouldn’t the attending vets be questioned as well?

Oh, one last point. Should ‘JRC badness’ allows this in-and-out-running committee to proceed as planned, it will be interesting to see whether scrutiny is across the board. Trainers with small strings don’t have the luxury of having three, up to five, horses to ‘race-train’ in events, with less-established jockeys aboard, until replaced by top jocks whenever their advanced stablemates or better rivals have left the grade.