Ashforth's Angles: Life can be very hard for very slow horses

Jilly Cooper

David would like to see a Jilly Cooper Mounted Stakes

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By David Ashforth 6:00PM 13 SEP 2016 

IT’S sad but true that some horses, like some people, just can’t run fast, however hard they train and try. People who can’t run fast tend to miss buses and horses that can’t run fast tend to get eaten by lions or abused by punters.

The handicap system was introduced to raise slow horses’ self-esteem and help them experience the glow of pride that comes with being led into the winner’s enclosure ahead of horses better than them. It’s a bit like giving a gold star to a slow child for doing his best – and evidence that racing is doing its bit to create a classless society.

Unfortunately some horses are beyond the handicapper’s help. It’s not Penuche’s fault that she doesn’t seem to be able to run as fast as the sport of horseracing requires and, with her self-respect in mind, it’s for the best that she can’t read the form or the handicapper’s verdict.

Derek Shaw’s two-year-old filly was 100-1 for her debut at Chelmsford in July and finished last of eight, beaten 48 lengths. She was 200-1 for her next appearance, at Leicester, and finished last of 11, beaten 26 lengths. On her most recent sighting, at Wolverhampton last month, she was again 200-1 and finished last of six, beaten 23 lengths. Now she’s off to Beverley to try her hooves in a claiming race (1.50).

I don’t know what the current lowest handicap mark is but Penuche’s official rating is 11, which puts her at something of a disadvantage at Beverley, where she is from 31lb to 54lb ‘wrong’ with her six rivals.

It’s very difficult to place a horse rated 11 – well, impossible really – but in racing hope endures and Penuche is not yet beyond hope. All she needs to do to succeed is either to run faster or for the BHA to introduce a series of handicap races for horses rated 0-25. Penuche’s dam, Fenella Fudge, didn’t win until she was three and Penuche has plenty of time to improve. In my experience praying doesn’t work very well but it might be worth giving it a try and Penuche a talking to. I’ve often wondered how much faster a horse would run if you told it that, if it won, it would never have to race again.

While not on the subject, there are memorial races at Yarmouth (2.50), Kelso (4.15), Listowel (3.05) and, perhaps, Sandown, which stages the Salt Island Memorial (4.25) possibly as a tribute to an island that has sunk. These are all a good thing but I’d like to see more races to celebrate people still alive. Is there a Jilly Cooper Mounted Stakes? Maybe there will be.

But I digress. Penuche’s race will probably be won by Whigwham who can be claimed for £8,000 but who would probably rather stay at Richard Fahey’s yard where, I expect, she’s got used to her stable and made friends and is well looked after and is never asked to clean up after herself.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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