WHO doesn’t love a good comeback?
Unless it’s the European Super League being brought back from the dead – that idea and the people behind it can get in the bin.
Fair to say man of the moment Gavin Sheehan has been in the headlines more times this winter than the past few seasons combined.
It’s easy to forget his early successes as stable jockey to Warren Greatrex, when Grade 1 stars like Cole Harden, La Bague Au Roi and One Track Mind were knocking about.
He had future champ written all over him, but when the yard hit the buffers and results nosedived, Sheehan’s career began trending in a worrying direction.
We’ve seen it happen plenty of times over the years in this brutally tough sport – promising young jockeys burst onto the scene only to go off the rails as their careers fizzle out.
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And this time two years ago, I’d hazard a guess Cork man Sheehan was at his lowest ebb.
He finished third in the King George on Paul Nicholls’ Saint Calvados for his retainer, Andrew Brooks, and he would probably admit he gave the horse a terrible ride.
He kicked for home way too soon, compromising the chances of stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the process and opening the door for shock winner Tornado Flyer.
It was the ride of a man low on confidence, racked with indecision and whose career at the top level was dangling by a thread – the proverbial scrapheap beckoned.
He must have been prepared for one of Nicholls’ infamous dressing downs after the race and he duly got both barrels, with words to the effect: “You’ll never f*****g ride for me again.”
Not long afterwards, Sheehan was given the tin-tack as retained jock to one-time powerful owner Brooks, and his prospects looked bleaker than a hungry vegan in Five Guys.
Two years on, he is the hottest jock in town… in more ways than one (they don’t call him gorgeous Gav for nothing).
He has been revitalised by the link-up with ex-military man Jamie Snowden, winning the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury on Datsalrightgino and the December Gold Cup on the notoriously tricky Fugitif last week.
No wonder Irish trainer Shark Hanlon was on the dog and bone to tie the in-form man down for the ride on Hewick in this year’s King George.
I’m a huge Nicholls fan and think his feistiness is great for the sport, but there would be a delicious irony if Sheehan came and did Bravemansgame on Hewick, in this race especially.
And you know what? I reckon there are much worse 20-1 shots out there this Christmas. You can thank me later.
Racing is as fickle a sport as any and when you’re out of favour it’s a long road back to the top… but Sheehan has shown it’s possible.
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Premier league, you’re having a laugh
REMEMBER the old Premier Inn adverts with Lenny Henry? ‘Everything is premier but the price’.
I always thought that was pretty debatable – I’ve stayed in some ropey Premier Inns during my time and they ain’t overly cheap.
However, it has inspired me to create a catchy new slogan for Premierisation: “Not particularly premier, and it will still be pretty pricey to go racing.”
Alright, I won’t give up the day job.
But I was totally underwhelmed when the BHA unveiled the branding and marketing strategy for Premier Racing, which launches on January 1.
To recap – starting next year, there will be 170 ‘premier’ race days which, it’s hoped, will help boost the sport’s popularity and stem the leak of horses going abroad.
Racing chiefs have been in the firing line recently for lacking any sort of clear plan on how to promote premierisation to the public.
This week they unveiled a list of six key ‘innovations’ for Premier Racing, including: “pre-race interviews”, “explanation of racing’s language”, “content with jockeys and trainers” and “special betting offers”.
In other words, the sort of stuff we already do day in, day out?
The announcement was full of marketing buzzwords that have no meaning, while the logo looks like something I could have hashed together on Microsoft Paint during an episode of Pointless.
I don’t know which marketing firm the BHA hired to put this plan together, but maybe they should have looked further afield.
Premierisation was the chance to do something bold and ambitious – the early signs suggest we are in for more of the same.
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