Despite an inclination to respect the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, my first instinct when asked by the BHA to change the time of our races on Sunday to accommodate the Arc De Triomphe, was to shout “Oh Prenez un grip! It’s only a Flat race.”
But then I remembered an apocryphal tale about an immense French navy aircraft carrier negotiating the tricky waters on the west coast of Scotland, frequented mainly by Scottish fishermen. On spotting a light ahead, the commander of the French vessel instructed his radio operator to send a message: “Attention!! Please divert your course 10 degrees east to avoid a collision.”
A response wasn’t long in coming, “Recommend you divert YOUR course 10 degrees to the west to avoid a collision.”
Gazing across the 543-foot flight deck at the 40 fighter planes assembled in neat rows, the French commander felt riled at the lack of deference. He ordered a reply: “Attention!! You are addressing the Commandant of a vessel of the Marine Nationale. I say again: divert YOUR course!”
The response was brief: “No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.”
The French commander’s cheeks coloured as he dictated the following message to his radio operator: “I am the Commandant of FS Charles De Gaulle, flagship of the Marine Nationale and one of the largest nuclear powered warships in the World. I demand that YOU change your course 10 degrees east immediately or countermeasures will be taken to ensure the safety of this ship.”
The radio fizzed, “You are addressing the lighthouse keeper at Barra Head… It’s your call.”
It’s an old story and one that is intended to warn against delusions of grandeur.
“Tenez votre horses…” I thought, “Is Kelso Racecourse the battleship or the lighthouse in this situation?”
Not wishing to cause an international incident, we acceded to the request – bringing the time of the third race forward by five minutes and creating a forty-minute gap before the feature race of the day, the Simply Ned NSPCC Schools Service Handicap Chase. As it happens, it’s not a bad result. The Grade 1 winning Simply Ned, a long-time favourite with racegoers at Kelso, will be parading before the race – giving us plenty to enjoy while we’re ignoring the French.
The big race is a cracking confrontation between some top-quality horses bred in Britain, Ireland and France (that’s the Kelso race – I can’t comment on the Arc). Two of our top local performers including Aye Right (from the Scottish side of the Border) and Nuts Well (from the Northumbrian side) take on the lower weighted Cracking Destiny and Gold des Bois, plus the top class Ballyoisin (trained by Enda Bolger in Ireland) and the French-bred King D’Argent (trained by Dan Skelton in Warwickshire).
I can’t choose between them – too much like being between a rock and a battleship. This week’s selection is Sheepysheepsheep (because he’s got a great name) in the race before the Arc at 3.00pm.