Some people are perceived as born communicators – others less so. And in the modern world the art of communication is more important than ever. For example, the next general election may well be determined by the three-way television debate (four if UKIP get their way) of party leaders rather than the plethora of policies laid down by the respective parties.
And so it is in racing. Punters feel they need to hear from trainers, but there is many a handler who will not feel that anyone is deserving of hearing their views about their various charges. It is generally accepted than National Hunt trainers are far better communicators than their Flat counterparts, both in terms of their willingness to talk and the information they impart.
Of course, there are exceptions with John Gosden the obvious shining example. When Gosden talks about his horses, the politics of the sport or a specific race, you listen. If he ever gives up training, I would put him in charge of the BHA immediately (with apologies to Paul Bittar who is doing a decent job to date). In contrast, Sir Michael Stoute has developed the wondrous knack of being able to talk about his horses for as long as the interviewer wishes without delivering anything of the slightest use to the listener. He has also developed the cute knack of starting to walk away when giving a response, thus signalling that the interview is over.
Owners are a slightly different breed. Some just gush about their horse, some just gush about their trainer and some just gush. Others, notably the big battalions – Coolmore and Godolphin – give interviews only when they want, the former usually leaving the talking to Aidan O’Brien. Some love him when interviewed, some don’t. I do.
What is almost always the case is that owners tell you little or nothing of any value about their horses – they’re too close. Rose-coloured spectacles and all that. So it was quite wonderful to listen to the Sunday Forum on At The Races over the weekend and listen to Matt Chapman’s interview with Rich Ricci, banker turned racehorse owner. Ricci polarises opinion – as you would expect from one who has named one of his horses after his good self – Fatcatinthehat. I like that – it says a lot about the man.
Presumably the interview was scheduled for 10-15 minutes at most. With most owners that would be a lifetime, but not on this occasion. Ricci spoke for around 25 minutes and it would have been quite easy to devote the whole programme to him.
He was highly articulate, intelligent, open and honest – and you cannot ever ask for more than that whatever the subject under discussion. He clearly adores his horses and has the utmost respect and admiration for Messrs Mullins and Walsh. Let’s hope other owners and trainers can follow his splendid example.
Thanks and well done Fatcatinthecat – it was a lesson for all involved in our sport. If you haven’t heard it yet, try and do so. It’s very well worth it.