Let the people speak? – Brough Scott

It may be right to let the people speak but should the professionals listen? Should anonymous comments made on blogs or Twitter count? In racing what weight should anyone give to the drivel in the Twittersphere about Sam Waley-Cohen and Long Run?
Boxing Day was the fourth time Sam and Long Run had come to Kempton and their third success, having won the 2009 Feltham Chase, the next season’s King George and being second in the race to Kauto Star last year. In their eight other runs they have been placed every time and have won three more races including the 2011 Gold Cup. By any standards they are an outstanding steeplechasing partnership and yet just about the first question Sam has to answer on dismounting is “Do you think that will satisfy your critics?”
What critics?  The sort of pen-name person who wrote “Long Run is a great horse and that’s why he needs a great jockey. Give him one so that he can win more great races in an easier fashion”?  Or the other genius whose contribution ran, “Stop knocking Waley-Cohen, give me him any day to McCoy. Hope AP never rides Long Run, it would ruin him”?  It’s the written version of those bar room bores whose opinionated ignorance gets paraded as informed debate on radio phone-ins. Only it’s worse, for once written, the nonsense stays and worst of all, is then used as evidence that there is an issue which needs addressing. 
It’s a pervasive trend which is in danger of swamping us all, me very much included since I have a Twitter account albeit used more for news than jockey slagging.  Different opinions are part of the attraction of racing and the main driver of its betting dynamics. But just when does a spurious blog or tweet become something worth discussing? “Do I,” said Cheltenham fan and brightest of football managers Martin O’Neill, “Have to comment on a blog?”
Sam Waley-Cohen should not have to either and anyone with an ounce of romance in their soul should think of the enormity of what he achieved with Long Run on Boxing Day. It matters not a jot that Long Run gave a real clout to the 12th fence or that horse and jockey looked a bit of muddle over the last. Anyone remember what Kauto Star used to do with Ruby Walsh at Kempton? It is also entirely irrelevant that Richard Johnson on the runner up Captain Chris looks a bit tighter in a finish than his amateur rival.  Of course Richard does. Captain Chris was his 563rd ride of the season and he had just clocked up his 17th consecutive century. Long Run was Sam’s 11th ride and third winner, the second coming an hour and a half earlier on the Waley-Cohen’s home bred novice chaser Rajdhani Express. What matters is the result and the mightiness of making it.
Do not for one second underestimate what Sam Waley-Cohen has done since he and Long Run coasted up at Kempton on Boxing Day three years ago.  Always in the spotlight and pitched in against the very best in the game he has only been found wanting by the carpiest of critics. Long Run has not turned out to be quite the superstar we first hoped but he is a magnificent big, brave steeplechaser. He also takes a good tug early on and his long stride means that he is always going to clout the odd fence when he is in close. He is exactly the sort of horse who finds out the weak or the unwary.
Look one final time at the run in. Richard Johnson may have got away quicker but on Long Run, Sam Waley-Cohen had the strength and desire not just to match him but to get his horse up right on the line. You will not see an amateur triumph to match it anywhere in sport. It certainly wasn’t 48 years ago next April when Ascot held its first steeplechase live on the BBC. Finishing second on a 20-1 outsider after leading at the last I rushed to read my reviews next morning.  All it said was “The amateur was outridden on the run-in.” Lucky I was not around in the world of Twitter.

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