Thursday, 10 September 2015

Winning Barefoot

There is a saying amongst farriers and paddock watchers: an ounce on the foot is worth a pound on the back.  

It means that when you’re eyeing up a horse before a race, you should always look at its feet: shiny aluminium shoes indicate that the trainer is taking the race seriously; massive hulks of steel may suggest that today isn’t expected to be the day. 

But now it seems that we should also check out the jockeys’ feet too. Having arrived late at Goodwood two weeks ago, Seb Sanders was short of time to shed weight, and so resorted to running Zola Budd like (without boots), into the Parade Ring. Of course Zola didn’t have to worry about having her toes squashed by a horse and was therefore not breaking the Pony Club code of conduct. 

Many other jockeys have faced the Seb Sanders dilemma. On a nostalgic visit to Cartmel last week, the ex-jockey JP McNamara recalled sprinting on the spot, inside the sauna, having been delayed by the Bank Holiday traffic. And a point-to-point jockey of my acquaintance (who shall remain nameless, but might even be related to me) once went blood-doning in order to avoid putting up overweight. 

There are other jockeys that have ridden sans shoes: Apparently when Pierre-Charles Boudot was reprimanded by the stewards for doing so in Japan, he replied “We often ride barefoot in France”. Perhaps they do, but to have ridden Barefoot in Britain, you needed to have been born before 1823, which is when the horse of that name won the Great St Leger... 

The race was notable for the number of false starts. After the first two failed efforts to get the horses away, the jockeys were successfully recalled; but on the third attempt, twenty-three of the twenty-seven runners ran the full course. Barefoot, ridden by Tom Goodisson at 13/1, was beaten into second place, by a head, in the void race.

Barefoot, winner of the St Leger 1823 
He was then installed as the 4/1 second favourite for the re-run, staged only a short while later, that very same afternoon. With fifteen of the original runners withdrawn, Barefoot won easily by two lengths. 

The World’s oldest classic has a rich history and has thrown up plenty of shock results in its time, but this weekend I’m going to stick with a fancied runner: Storm The Stars and jockey Pat Cosgrave will show a clean pair of heels to the field.

It’s 192 years since Tom Goodison won riding Barefoot, but I’d recommend that you take a good look at Pat Cosgrave’s feet just in case.

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