Thursday 26 April 2018

Let us pray that no one does an emily

Crazy and dangerous acts are sometimes validated or even elevated to the status of heroism by the passing of time. The man or woman who stays steadfastly at the wheel of the good ship home is seldom feted. Daily acts of heroism, such as looking after disabled relatives without respite, are in a way more worthy of our appreciation, but it is the one-off grand gesture that always grabs our attention.

Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King's horse Anmer in the latter stages of the 1913 Derby. She died for the cause of the suffragette movement back in the days when women could not vote.

Emily has been hailed as a feminist icon, but I wonder. Emily's crazy stunt put more than one life at risk. The field was travelling downhill round a bend at about 40 miles an hour when Emily intervened. There's no putting on the brakes or changing gears or keeping to your lane in horse racing, but there are pile-ups.


Falls in Flat racing are few, but the consequences are very serious. In the jumps game jockeys are mentally ready for a fall at every fence but on the Flat tumbles come out of the blue and are the cause of most racing fatalities.

You van view Emily's death on YouTube. It still chills. And even on the darkened old Pathe reel, it is obvious that, at best, Emily was reckless.

Nearly 100 years on from that fatal day the royals are still in love with thoroughbred racing and the Derby. Queen Elizabeth owns the favourite for today's race. For a while this week it looked as if Carlton House wouldn't run. Her majesty's colt suffered the human equivalent of a twisted ankle.

Epsom is an undulating course with a steep twisting fall into Tattenham Corner just three furlongs from the finish. It's no place for a horse with a dodgy ankle. However, Carlton House was passed fit and is still favourite.

The sentimental money will be for Carlton. Every casual punter in England will back the Queen to win at Epsom. Money talks, but horses don't and we will not know how Carlton House is feeling until after the race.

Epsom is a commonage and the public have full access. There is no barrier between Tattenham Railway Station and the rail on the final bend. You can leave the Tattenham Corner Pub and take a short stroll to the final bend without having to pass through a turnstile. Crowds pile about 50 deep up against the rails. Tattenham Corner will be well guarded, but it's impossible to cover every yard of the mile-and-a-half race. There are extremists everywhere and we pray no one does an Emily on Carlton House.

Kieren Fallon is due to ride Recital. Fallon switched mounts during the week. A wealthy, jilted, disgruntled owner wasn't one bit pleased. He tried to jock Fallon off judicially, but failed at the initial hearing. The result of an appeal is out this morning.

We'd love to see Kieren go through a year without bother. There's something very vulnerable and likeable about the Clareman. It's as if you'd love to mind him.

"I left school when I was 14. How could I be a match for a Queen's Counsel?" We were outside the weigh room in Tralee a few years ago. Later he told us he had tested positive for cocaine. "Sure we have to have something," he said.

If Fallon was a mouse he'd always spurn a cushy number in the cheese factory for a tilt at the Rentokil plan, but when Kieren gets up on a horse, he changes into a superman. If Kieren was born a centaur he would have been fine.

I'm on Aidan O'Brien's Memphis Tennessee at 92/1 and the trainer's son Joe rides. Joe is only 17, but he's a fine pilot and a Classic winner already this season. It could be his last Derby. Young Joe is tall for a jockey and he's putting on a bit of weight.

Joe might do the business, but I still kind of hope Fallon wins on Recital. No one does Epsom, and especially Tattenham Corner, better than the Crusheen man. His balance is such that he could ride a horse round Tattenham with his hands in his pockets.

Ryan Moore rides Carlton House. Today, June 4, 2011, he will wear the same royal colours worn by Anmer's jockey on June 4, 1913, and will therefore be easily identified.

Ryan lives with danger every time he goes to work. Jockeys are the bravest of all. As that erudite racing photographer Pat Healy is fond of saying: "Who else would take up a job where two ambulances follow you round the workplace?"

But this is a different danger. Accidents happen. Protests are planned.

In the short term Anmer's jockey Herbert Jones escaped from the Tattenham Corner collision with concussion and a fractured rib, but Emily's death had a profound effect on him. Herbert couldn't help but develop that terrifying Tattenham snapshot of Emily's face in the darkroom of his mind.

He shouldn't have. No one ever should.

Herbert Jones took his own life in July 1951.

Irish Independent

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