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BROWNIE'S BLOG: NO GIMMICKS HERE. NO BIG MONEY BEING THROWN AROUND - JUST RACING AT ITS VERY BEST

By Damian Browne | Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Brownie’s Blog is the weekly blog of the now retired, multiple Group 1 winning jockey Damian Browne. In this edition Brownie highlights how that the very essence of the thrill of racing was perfected captured by the fare served up by Alligator Blood and Catalyst in their exhilarating blow by blow battle in the C S Hayes Stakes last Saturday. Brownie also adds his voice to the call for the whip rule to be revisited (McDonald picked up a suspension and a fine for his ride on Catalyst) but he isn’t betting that anything is going to change. This is Brownie’s Blog – exclusive to HRO.

What a great race we saw in the C S Hayes Stakes at Flemington last Saturday.

The Alligator Blood v Catalyst contest certainly lived up to all of the hype before the race and it was also great that the Queenslander came out on top.

There were no gimmicks with this one. It was only a Group 3 race with, in this day and age, only a modest prize-pool of $160 000 and it attracted a field of just six runners … but it turned into an as-good-as-it-gets advertisement for racing, showcasing what racing is really all about.

The very keen competition between two outstanding horses and riders, with neither party prepared give an inch in a punishing stride for stride battle down the length of the home straight, made riveting viewing.

It might have been fairly low key in terms of race status, prize-money and field size but it is probably going to remain one of the races of the season.

I was going to be a winner either way … it was either going to be a Queenslander or a Kiwi … but, all joking aside, seeing two great jockeys on two great horses going at it over that Flemington straight was just so good to watch.

It is a long time since we have seen that.

Obviously, with the likes of Black Caviar and Winx, they were just too good for their rivals but here we had two horses looking to be of equal capabilities, both probably ridden out of their comfort zone to where they had been used to racing, doing what they do best and it was just fantastic.

It will be interesting when they meet again and they perhaps both get three or four pairs back to see what happens then, but, then again, they might just take off early again and join in another ding-dong battle.

Their C S Hayes battle is already being compared, to some degree, to that famous Bonecrusher, Our Waverley Star clash … so that shows just how big an impression Alligator Blood and Catalyst made on Saturday.
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The two trainers, David Vandyke (Alligator Blood) and Clayton Chipperfield (Catalyst) will doubtless be spending a very important time monitoring their horses this week.

Saturday’s race would have taken something out of both horses.

It was one of the things we used to talk about it with Buffering … namely his ability, after getting into those big dog-fights, to get up and do it again and keep doing it.
That is very hard to do and therefore it is very rare.

It does come down to the trainers and their management of their horse … and the fine balance of their day to day training schedule to be able to get them up each time for fights like that and that is what David and Clayton will be very mindful of in the coming days leading up to their scheduled re-match in the Australian Guineas.

I don’t know Clayton but I do know David and I can say that the great thing about him is that, even though the upcoming races on the radar might be million dollar affairs (the All Star Mile is worth $5 million), he would still put the horse in the paddock if that is what he thought was the best thing for the horse. He won’t be lured by the dollar!

David will always do the right thing by the horse.

With Alligator Blood himself … well, he represents exciting times for the future for Queenslanders. I think it has been reported that we have probably not had a horse since Buffering who can go down south and be competitive regularly … and, possibly, even on the world stage in future.

Who knows how far he can go?
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James McDonald’s copping of a suspension and fine for excessive whip use on Catalyst has yet again opened up the now very old and well-worn whip rule debate.

Trainer Ciaron Maher, for one, criticised stewards for the James McDonald penalty and he also had a go at the application of the whip rule in general when calling it a joke and in need of an overhaul.

There is a long line of people in that queue calling for the same thing.

It is now widely accepted that the effect of the whip on a horse cannot be measured … as it common knowledge that a whip rule protest has next to zero chance of ever being upheld … but why would racing authorities continue to leave themselves open to controversy … the like of which could have occurred if James had got Catalyst up on the line?

One rider rode within the rules. Another broke them … but the chances are the result would have stayed the same. There you have a point of controversy.

What needs to be understood by authorities … and this relates to the very core of the responsibility imposed on jockeys regarding the whip rule … is that counting of whip strikes is not that easy for jockeys to do … particularly when they are in full stride, at close quarters, in the heat of battle, as James was.

They have more important priorities on their mind … like giving their horse every chance and riding safely.

I know counting whip strikes was never something I was able to do. It was never in my mind but, then again, the whip wasn’t ever a big part of my riding style so I was lucky in that sense.

The bottom line for me is that the jockeys who do use the whip more … well, I just don’t know how they have got time to think about how many times they have hit the horse.

Authorities like to talk about perception but, just think about it, what would the perception and the fallout have been for racing if James had stopped riding aggressively because he thought he was going over the legitimate number of whip strikes and fallen away to lose by a length.

Punters would have gone mad … and the last time I looked they are the ones that count most in this industry, dependent as it is on betting turnover.

Like Ciaron says, it is time for a whip rule overhaul … but then, this call has been made many times before and it has fallen on deaf ears.

Why would you expect anything different this time around.

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Damian Browne
Damian Browne
Trainer Ciaron Maher … the latest in a long line of stakeholders to publically criticise the whip rule and call for its overhaul
Trainer Ciaron Maher … the latest in a long line of stakeholders to publically criticise the whip rule and call for its overhaul
James McDonald … it was his suspension and fine for excessive use of the whip in the Alligator Blood / Catalyst dogfight that prompted Ciaron Maher to come out and call for a review to the whip rule

Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
James McDonald … it was his suspension and fine for excessive use of the whip in the Alligator Blood / Catalyst dogfight that prompted Ciaron Maher to come out and call for a review to the whip rule

Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
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