Tuesday 21 November 2017

Johnny Ward's Monday Outlook: Sisters are doing it for themselves

Brilliant Carberry shows that in racing ability will always trump gender

Trainer Noel Meade congratulates Nina Carberry after her victory aboard Cask Mate in Thursday’s bumper at Ballinrobegross. Photo: Patrick McCann
Trainer Noel Meade congratulates Nina Carberry after her victory aboard Cask Mate in Thursday’s bumper at Ballinrobegross. Photo: Patrick McCann

Johnny Ward

Gender equality discussion seems to have dominated the discourse in Irish media for much of the past few months, roughly since RTÉ announced in July it would conduct an internal review into same.

This was in light of confirmation Bryan Dobson was earning more money than Sharon Ní Bheoláin, which would hardly have been a surprise to most of us. Lucinda Creighton deemed it a non-story, while Ní Bheoláin acknowledged that she was "well enumerated".

To the more insufferable of a dogged feminist mindset, this evinced an Ireland still cherishing its comely maidens. Then you have the tweet of Adele on International Women's Day, which achieved over 67,000 'likes': "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult."

This tripe does nobody any favours. In the Dáil, there are still nearly four males to every female TD, but it is worth recalling the words of Mary O'Rourke, who had quite a career in that chamber.

"I have heard the expression 'glass ceiling' many times when referring to women's lack of progress in the workplace," she wrote in her memoirs, "and I have to say I have never believed in it.

"Some might call me naive but perhaps this is the reason why I succeeded in politics... I didn't acknowledge it, nor did I want to fit the 'knitting box' that some might have wanted to put me in. I simply got on with the job in hand and didn't pay any heed to gender."

Blackmore:
Blackmore: "When I turned conditional I got a lot of media attention: if my name had been Raymond that would not have been the case.” Picture credit: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile

exceptional Mary is from another era but her words carry weight and they came to mind over the past couple of weeks, as some exceptional women achieved exceptional things in the world of racing - a sport, I can proudly say, in which nobody really gives a damn what you are as long as you work hard and do your job.

Michael O'Leary would endorse that. He has been in the news for matters closer to home since but few made much of the fact that it was he who insisted to Gordon Elliott that amateur Lisa O'Neill should ride Potters Point in the Kerry National. Lisa was preferred not only to Bryan Cooper and Jack Kennedy but also to the innumerable viable conditionals or amateurs who could have steered.

Perhaps O'Leary remembered that she had won the race for Gigginstown in 2016. Doing the same 12 months later was pretty incredible, but females out-riding their male foes in our wonderful sport is neither real news nor fake news: it happens too often.

Susan Finn trained one horse for Listowel and it won, while another small barn, that of Madeleine Tylicki, scored in Galway on Tuesday with the well-backed Coeur D'amour. It was just the three winners, meanwhile, on Wednesday for Jessica Harrington, including a Listed triumph at Fairyhouse and another at Yarmouth no less.

Women have suffered gross discrimination in the workforce on account of pregnancy. Nina Carberry announced last November that her growing bump meant no more horses and racing wished her all the best - but the welcome she enjoyed back to the Ballinrobe winner's enclosure four months after giving birth last Monday showed the place she has in the hearts of horsemen.

"Nina will get us out in the last," could be a maxim to sell a million T-shirts, as desperate punters, nearly all men, pinned what hope was left on this gifted rider winning the bumper on something almost certainly priced prohibitively. Mayo mourned on Monday and will again today after the ladies lost before a crowd of 46,286 yesterday - but Nina made hope tangible again.

On Friday, she lifted one home in a Downpatrick duel with Jamie Codd - one of the stirring moments of the fledgling autumn. Racing folk are dubious about females availing here of an allowance they get in France: it is plainly sexist. And that is about the only time you will hear that word mentioned in a racing article.

Ireland's conditional Jumps champion is Rachael Blackmore. Leading the apprentices' standings on the Flat is Ana O'Brien, even though she has not ridden since July 18. And in Britain, Josephine Gordon is the champion apprentice.

Blackmore, indeed, knows that being a girl is not all bad. "Maybe if we went around feeling inferior, being treated that way would be acceptable - self-belief and all that. And when I turned conditional I got a lot of media attention: if my name had been Raymond that would not have been the case."

In the words of former rider Jane Mangan, now of Coolmore, "I'd hope we're at the end of the 'good for a girl' era." These are leaders in their field, like the Turf Club's Meta Osborne, the first female head of an international racing regulatory body.

They do more to empower women than they will ever imagine or probably fully appreciate.

northern trainers go their separate ways

In the 1960s, American beer-makers added cobalt to stabilise the foam in their hooch, only for heavy drinkers to start keeling over with heart disease. In horses, it create disorders of the thyroid, heart and nerves.

Northern trainers have been in the news of late, especially Stephen McConville, who - along with son Michael - apologised to the British Horseracing Authority after both were disqualified for three years following a hearing into the withdrawal of Anseanachai Cliste at Cheltenham in March. The duo faced a disciplinary panel on Tuesday to answer charges the horse was found to have cobalt above the permitted threshold in a urine sample taken before he was due to run in the Foxhunter Chase.

The BHA has sent out an appropriately ruthless message.

On Thursday, Andy Oliver revealed plans to morph into a dual-code trainer after a Downpatrick winner and a Flat campaign that has yielded a paltry three more. "It allows the yard to continue all year. There's great interest in National Hunt here; you have to be able to cater for it," he explained.

Two days previously, a dozen Northern trainers met to form a split from the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (not yet ratified), arising from anger at the application of racing's pension arrangements to stable staff in the North. The new body will seek to work with the IRTA.

This threatens to unravel into a mess for the Turf Club. Its old fund wound up in 2010 and a new non-contributory scheme is due to be rolled out later this month. The Irish Independent has obtained a letter leaked from the regulatory body which suggests that in 2012 the fund held €1.36m in assets, even though the Northern trainers had been told that there were no funds available subsequent to 2010.

"All monies collected since 2010 have been set aside and will be used to set up the new scheme. There are roadshows commencing this week to explain how it will work," said the Turf Club's Denis Egan.

It is understood a less-than-amicable phone conversation took place between Horse Racing Ireland top brass and the Turf Club last week. To paraphrase another Northerner, this issue hasn't gone away, you know.

Ride of the week

Nina Carberry was terrifically strong as Roseriver Has rallied to win the bumper for Noel Meade at Downpatrick. Favourite Stooshie, beaten a head, looked a certain winner around 75 yards out.

Gamble of the week

Also at Downpatrick, a gamble happened that made you wonder who was behind it. Available at 4s earlier on, Slippery Serpent was readily on offer at 5/2 on track. Close to the off, a load of money came and he won easily for Edward O'Grady and Paul Townend at 13/8.

Quote of the week

"It was a nice surprise after the week we've had. A horse we thought was a certainty on Tuesday buried her jockey coming out, we'd ten that like soft ground go to Ayr and they are stuck on the docks in Stranraer trying to get them home."

- Adrian Keatley enjoying the win of 33/1 Quiet Company at Dundalk.

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