Doubting Thomas reduced to silence on Champions Day!
WHEN you stick your head above the parapet you have to accept that sometimes you are going to get it wrong. Sometimes very wrong.
On Friday night last I suggested that following a spate of retirements and absentees from British Champions Day, the occasion needed the unknown and 'could be anything' quantities of Forgotten Rules and Free Eagle to win to save the day.
One of them did as Forgotten Rules (pictured) remains unbeaten and could be back at Ascot next year to fry even bigger fish and Free Eagle lost little in defeat to finish third but the day as a whole had to be deemed a success.
After a few healthy discussions with various people, the point made to me was a good one. Who said that Group One races had to be run on good ground?
As long as British Champions Day remains on it's current date, the chance of good ground is very slim and therefore those horses who have been winning championship races throughout the season are unlikely to turn up.
However, there could be no doubting that Forgotten Rules is already worthy of a title as 'champion' of the staying division and Gordon Lord Byron is certainly a 'champion' of the sprinting division.
But the story of the day was Noble Mission winning the Champion Stakes and being Frankel's brother and trained by Lady Jane Cecil, this was the story of all stories for those behind Champions Day and the way he battled to such a game success to deny Al Kazeem with Free Eagle and others like Ruler Of The World and Cirrus Des Aigles in behind, he too is most certainly worthy of the same 'champion' title.
The logistics of the flat season means that moving British Champions Day is pretty much a non-runner and while they are discussing covers for the track, last Saturday was proof that, despite not having the top-rated horses we had seen win at the likes of Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood or Irish Champions Weekend, we were still treated to a day of racing which is well entitled to be described as 'Champions Day'.
One thing that failed to make sense from Champions Day was the severity of the bans handed down by the stewards.
For his winning ride on Noble Mission James Doyle received a seven-day ban and a £10,000 fine.
While that seems like a lot of money to you and I, it was actually the seven-days that are more inconvenient as Doyle will now miss the Breeders' Cup and Melbourne Cup meetings at which he was due to have some good rides.
Doyle was banned for his use of the stick as he appeared to hit the horse three or four times more than the permitted amount of times and although stewards have got discretion in that matter, they seemed to leave that tool at home last Saturday.
It seems a very unfair ban when you consider that anybody watching the race spoke only about how good Doyle was on the winner and what a brilliant race it was between Noble Mission and Al Kazeem and what fine rides both horses got.
There was certainly nobody watching the race that shirked away in dismay at the amount of times Doyle used his stick.
Compare that to the three-days that Pat Smullen got for careless riding for his win on Forgotten Rules and it's hard to see the logic.
Smullen's ban was probably fair. He definitely caused interference when coming with a run on the eventual winner although his mounts greenness didn't help matters but Joseph O'Brien was definitely hampered and while it was just one of those things in racing, Smullen would have accepted the punishment.
That said, for an outsider looking in Smullen's looked a lot worse than Doyle's but the powers that be felt otherwise.