Competition being fierce at Christmas, I was forced during a family game of trivia, to lodge an objection to the winner. Since when has vanilla been Britain’s favourite flavour of ice-cream?
The biggest selling flavour maybe… by dint of the fact that vanilla is the blandest and least likely to cause offence. But favourite? No way! A true poll would surely have demonstrated that chocolate is the most popular flavour with the wider public, while the more discerning among us would probably opt for mint-choc-chip. But that wasn’t the answer on the card, so my objection was thrown out by the Stewards who have been tremendously busy over the Christmas holidays.
Like many sensible racegoers, jockeys often nominate a designated driver for their trips to the races. So there is some irony that poor Tom Bellamy failed a breath-test, before racing at Cheltenham, which meant that he wasn’t permitted to take up his rides on New Year’s Day. The threshold for the amount of alcohol in a jockey’s breath-test is just 17 micrograms per 100 millilitres, compared to 35 mg for drivers in England and 22 mg for those in Scotland. In Chepstow, where Vintage Clouds is our selection for the re-scheduled Welsh National this weekend, I’m told that almost anything goes – although it might be safer not to put that theory to the test with the local constabulary.
It wasn’t always like this. In a Racing Post article about jockeys’ diets, Steve Smith-Eccles reminisced about the Clerk of the Course Hugo Bevan, who would leave a bottle of whisky in the jockeys’ changing room at Huntingdon – in order to help them ‘warm up’ before the first race.
Anyway, rules is rules, and they are there to keep the participants safe, which made me wonder whether the Stewards really needed to disqualify Report to Base following the two-mile steeplechase at Exeter. In a race where the runners would usually have jumped twelve obstacles, three of the fences were omitted due to waterlogging, two due to the low sun and the water jump was also by-passed because it can’t be jumped as the first fence – meaning that only five obstacles were due to be jumped in total. As a jump racing event, it’s possible that the race should have been voided for contravening the Trade Descriptions’ Act.
Amid the confusion as to which fences were to be jumped, and which were not, jockey Adam Wedge missed out the third last obstacle – losing the race and gaining a 21-day suspension for his trouble. And yet it strikes me that it is much safer to miss the fences out than to jump them. Surely, in a sport where the introduction of independent disciplinary panels has enabled a degree of discretion to be applied to the rules, the Stewards could have used a little more leeway – particularly if any of them had backed the odds-on favourite.
Which reminds me: I don’t mind what answer is displayed on the trivia-card, I still believe that a traditional pork pie, made with delicious hot-crust pastry, qualifies as a ‘popular festive pie’ – and I’d prefer one to a mince-pie on any day of the week. I’ll take my objection all the way to the BHA offices at High Holborn if I need to – a family trivia trophy is at stake.