- 25 Mar 04
Barry Glendenning ponders whether the gee-gees are fixed and why a top jockey is being sponsored by JCB
St’s Paddy’s Day. I’m sitting at home watching the carnage unfold in the jungle that is the betting ring at Cheltenham, when a number of pertinent questions concerning the sport of horseracing occur to me. That number is two.
Is it really as corrupt and fraudulent as the tabloid press have recently led us to believe?
Why does Ruby Walsh sport JCB logos on the outer thigh of his britches?
These are the kind of imponderables that keep me awake at night. These, along with the feral hullaballoo of fornicating urban foxes and the incessant beep-beep-beep of the burglar alarm from the pub across the street. Shagging, beeping bastards.
So is horseracing bent? Of course it is. Cheating is rampant and the sport is rotten to the core. To the untrained eye, skullduggery can be difficult to spot, but rest assured it is there. Next time you happen to see a race look very, very carefully. Chances are that some, if not all, of the horses will have tiny little men perched on their backs, steering them, rousting them along and making them run faster by hitting them with sticks. It’s a cut-throat business. Anything for an edge.
The good people at The News Of The World, bless their cotton socks, have recently made it their business to expose the chicanery that pervades horseracing. Champion jockey Kieran Fallon is a crook, they have repeatedly implied, because one of their undercover reporters asked him if a horse he was riding would win. He said he wouldn’t and it didn’t. QED.
Hmmm. A friend of mine is quite a successful jockey and anyone labouring under the delusion that the outcome of races is preordained would do well to meet him. Although he’s happy to provide inside information on request, I have stopped bothering to ask for it because when it comes to tipping winners he’s an unspeakable fuckwit. Indeed if anything, his staggering ineptitude in the field of equine advice dissemination is almost as reassuring as it is expensive.
Consider, if you will, the day I was ready to invest heavily on a mount he was riding and rang him first to see if he thought it was a good idea. “Jayzus don’t back that yoke,” he warned me. “He’s fat and he’s not fit and he hasn’t got a hope of winning today. Keep your money in your pocket until his next time out.”
Relieved that I’d had my card marked by an expert in time to save me a few bob, I duly kept my powder dry and watched in a mixture of horror and disbelief as the fat and unfit 5/1 shot in question won at his leisure, looking around him in the home straight, without so much as breaking sweat. So facile was his victory that he could have won pulling a cart. I was enraged, but couldn’t help laughing when I took a call from my decidedly sheepish friend: “Jayzus, I’m sorry about that,” he grovelled. “I’m not sure what happened there. The lazy fucker never does a tap at home.”
But enough about that, it is the patches that adorn Ruby Walsh’s pristine white britches that have become something of an obsession with this columnist over the past couple of days of Cheltenham festivities. For anyone who is unfamiliar with his work, Ruby too is a jockey; a very fine one who divides his time between the racecourses of Great Britain and Ireland, where he rides fast horses over big fences at breakneck speeds.
Having met him once, several years ago, when we both appeared on a very poor quality television sports quiz, I can safely vouch for Ruby’s good character (a typically selfless gesture on my part for which I’m sure he will be grateful).
However, it has recently come to my attention that Ruby has taken to wearing large patches on his riding britches, bearing the yellow JCB logo. As it’s probably safe to assume that these have not been sewn on to cover rips or tears, I can only conclude that it’s some sort of intriguing sponsorship deal that sees the nice people at JCB pay handsomely for the privilege of sullying the pristine white of Ruby’s leg-wear.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with this, as his is a more perilous trade than most and it is only right that he should make as much hay as possible while the sun is shining. Whether it be football, formula one or tennis, professional sportsmen have long been whoring themselves out as human billboards in order to supplement their already astronimical incomes, to such an extent that it is now the norm rather than the exception to see athletes attending official functions in preposterous, tuxedo-and-baseball-cap-with-logo combos. Mediocre footballer Dwight Yorke of Blackburn Rovers has long been a leader in this particular field.
To be honest, what I find intriguing about Ruby’s deal with JCB is how exactly it materialised. Why them? Why him? What is it about a top jockey that blows back the hair of the marketing people at the world’s best known manufacturers of hydraulic earth-moving equipment? Considering their business is largely concerned with big holes, you’d have thought J-Lo would be the obvious candidate.