It would seem to me that whilst seemingly everyone has been extolling the virtues of the ride of jockey Larry Cassidy aboard General Exhibit in Race 3 out of Doomben last Saturday, they’ve all collectively taken their eye off the ball.

To set the scene – there’s no denying that it was a gutsy ride that was fraught with danger as Cassidy went looking for a gap between the leader on the fence, Rocket To Glory, and the horse to his outside, Excellantes, in the home straight. That said , it’s history now that Cassidy went on to win the race, whereas as per the photo that is up on the Brisbaneracing website today, when he initially went for the run, according to the head-on shot, he was probably 50/50 to clip heels and fall.

I thought personally, looking at the race objectively, that General Exhibit was “very lucky” to win the race – let me explain why.

General Exhibit and Excellantes were both ridden by left hand whip riders who are both claiming apprentices. Tegan Harrison rode Rocket To Glory and Aidan Holt was aboard Excellantes. Had I been riding Rocket To Glory I fancy there’s no way Larry Cassidy and General Exhibit would have won the race, as whilst it’s universally accepted that there was barely a run there for Cassidy to fit General Exhibit into, if I’d been riding Rocket To Glory, put simply, as soon as General Exhibit came inside the arc of my whip, the horse would have been smacked over the head, quite legally I might add within the rules of racing, by my whip. There is no rule of racing to say that I have to change my whip action, or make the arc of my whip movement more shallow just because a horse has been put into a narrow gap by its rider right next to me. If I were to hit General Exhibit once, twice, or thrice, or whatever number of times over the head as his head enters the arc of my whip motion, then – on the balance of probability – he’ll 1) back out of the run, or 2) at least baulk at taking the run, which will obviously cost him ground. Given that General Exhibit was only a short neck in front of the second placegetter Signified on the line, with the third horse Excellantes a further half head away, I’ve determined that General Exhibit was lucky to win that race as if a vigorous left hand senior whip rider was riding Rocket To Glory I don’t think the horse would have come through any narrow gap. In fact the replay shows that apprentice Tegan Harrison last used the whip on Rocket To Glory 60 metres from the finish line, so with the benefit of hindsight, had she even kept riding her mount out to the finish line with the whip, rather than hands and heels from the 60-metre mark, that would have also further served to unsettle General Exhibit. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not casting any aspersions whatsoever on Tegan Harrison’s ride over the concluding stages on her mount Rocket To Glory for one moment, I’m merely stating what I’d have done if I were a senior left hand whip rider aboard Rocket To Glory. In fact Tegan Harrison had ridden General Exhibit in seven of his 14 starts before last Saturday, so she would know better than anyone else whether he’s a horse that would charge into a gap and be oblivious to the pain of being hit over the head with the whip, or whether he’s half a sook like most horses would be – given the same scenario.

It’s my considered opinion that General Exhibit and his supporters had Christmas come early for them at Doomben last Saturday.

Still on the subject of Brisbane racing from last Saturday and I had to have a giggle at what is surely fairly dubbed “bookies benefit” Divine Service in the opening race. No one wanted to know the colt on debut at Eagle Farm 28 days earlier when he went to the barrier at 50/1. He got up on the line to win, proving what this website preaches to be true – namely how foolish it is to bet in races where there’s a first starter. Last Saturday Divine Service went to Doomben for start two and the horse had every hope before running an ordinary third. This time he opened at around 7/4 ($2.80) and finalised around 9/4 ($3.20). So 50/1 one day – and not quite 9/4 the next – and from both starts the only winners were the bookies.

And if Anthony Allen isn’t the best story in racing across the three codes in Queensland in 2013 then I don’t know who is. Whilst he is only very young, the young man hasn’t had much go his way in life to this point – what with losing a little sister and his well documented deafness problems, along with trying to get someone to give him a go in an industry that’s hard to make a go of.

I’m generally about the first media person in Queensland to meet a lot of these apprentices out in the bush, far from the madding crowd, long before they come to the city – and I must say that a large number of apprentices don’t ever make it into the city riding ranks.

I’ll never forget the first day I met a teenager called Anthony Allen. It was at Gatton. He was there for, from memory, one ride, bashing some roughie scrubber with no form from New South Wales around the tight turning Gatton track and he was domiciled in New South Wales at the time. I noticed he was talking to a female apprentice Brooke Richardson, and she’s a nice enough kid, so I went over and introduced myself to Anthony and asked if he’d like me to take his photo and get some details and he thought that would be good. I got home from the Gatton races and I said to my wife something along the lines that “I met a young kid from New South Wales today that was riding at Gatton. What hope has that poor little bugger got? He can’t get a go anywhere, he has a hearing impediment, bla bla bla, so he’s no hope of making it – the poor little bugger.”

In 45 years of following racing I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in all my life as I was with Anthony Allen. I was rapt again for “the poor little bugger” last Saturday. Guess he never did need any sympathy from old geriatrics like me – he just needed someone to spot his talent and give him a go. And there are only a few trainers in Queensland who’ll give big numbers of young hopeful kids a go – less than a double digit number – Steele Ryan, Mick Lakey, Pat Duff, David Kelly, Bruce Hill, Kelly Schweida, Bryan Guy and Darryl and Tony Gollan are names that come to mind. Apologies if I missed someone. And Steele Ryan at Deagon took on this young bloke who had nothing but hope in his eyes – and the rest as they say in the classics, is history. Anthony Allen’s claim is down to 1.5kgs nowadays and he just missed landing some nice bets at $16 riding Night Chills for his boss last Saturday, before exactly two hours later being the toast of the Doomben track after piloting Love Rocks home in the Lough Neagh Stakes for a trainer who’d stayed loyal to the kid even though he couldn’t claim. Gotta love loyalty in racing. The funeral service for “loyalty” was held a decade or more ago in thoroughbred racing, but obviously Steve Tregea who trains Love Rocks missed the service. And Anthony Allen is so happy he did. Where’s the kid riding today? Try 971 kilometres away by road from the roar of Doomben last Saturday to Mackay in North Queensland. Gotta love a kid with a bit of ticker that gets off his backside and against all odds – he or she wins.

The thoroughbred racing industry can be an absolute bitch of an industry. It can spit out hopeful young kids who want to be jockeys like a chip making factory. I’d have taken 10/1 on one day at Gatton that it would spit out a kid called Anthony Allen. Guess that’s why we should never bet odds-on. It’s a mugs game – always has been – always will be.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s a huge montage of photos from Doomben last Saturday, plus there’s another head-on photo of the General Exhibit race courtesy of Sky Channel. On www.sydneyracing.com.au David Clarkson looks at Joshua Tree a thoroughbred that has raced in 10 countries, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Victorian racing is perused.

As this will be the last story that goes up on the four websites before Christmas Day, I’d like to wish all readers a safe and merry Christmas from all the team at Justracing.