In horseracing, ups can occasionally be followed by additional ups, but are more commonly followed by downs. It was therefore almost inevitable that Sunday’s scintillating sport at Kelso, packed full of air-punchingly close finishes, would be followed by a gloomy and depressing Monday.
In fact this Monday was so gloomy that it even had a depressing name: Blue Monday. It’s something to do with the quotient of gloominess, calculated by adding together all the good things in life and then dividing them by the multiple of all the rubbish things about January – like being in debt, having used all your holiday and polished off all the remaining chocolate and alcohol that was so plentiful at Christmas.
But to make matters worse, Monday was the day that the BBC chose to dedicate Radio 4’s Today programme to the plight of the Rohingya refugees. Tales of horrific woe and consummate evil sucked every atom of happiness from the air. The World outside of horseracing can be a bleak place – which makes our sport both completely meaningless and immensely valuable at the same time.
Meaningless because the results of our races are pure folly when considered alongside the lives of the poor, bereaved, raped and broken Rohingya refugees. Valuable because horseracing offers joy, thrills and distraction to a community of like-minded people who love horses and know how to enjoy the up-days of a privileged western lifestyle. Think of horseracing as one of your five-a-day – one of those essential ingredients of life that helps to foster laughter and hope and charity. And enables us to give more generously to people, less fortunate that ourselves, in acute need of help.
As Ian Dury and the Blockheads might have put it, horseracing is a reason to be cheerful (part three). Like: Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly, good golly Miss Molly and Boats. Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet, jump back in the alley and nanny goats.
When announcing that he’d decided to hang up his boots this week, conditional jockey Henry Morshead cited the necessarily narrow and all-consuming view that professional sportsmen take on their way to success. Having sacrificed other keen interests, such as tennis and rugby, Morshead made the point that “Working in racing can be a bit like living in a goldfish bowl. Everyone knows everyone. You’re involved with it all the time. You watch the races. You go home and watch the replays. It’s a bit mad, it never stops.”
He’s right of course. Horseracing should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Add it to your list of reasons to be cheerful, back The Dutchman if racing goes ahead at Haydock this weekend – or consider donating your stake to Unicef, Oxfam or any other charity that you feel is worthwhile.
Because we are racing enthusiasts, not goldfish – which means we’re fortunate to be able to enjoy all the ups and downs that life has to offer.