After what we’re used to with footballers (year round stoush) and cricketers (behaving like kinder kids), and because we know jockeys are usually no better than they should be – elbowing, bumping, shoving– I watched open-mouthed as Damien Oliver, outridden by about a second by Yasunari Iwata on Delta Blues, reached out and clasped his hand…and they galloped side by side, like that, for a few seconds, then riding back to scale, the camera caught Damien Oliver’s face, beaming with pleasure and congratulation at the serious and overwhelmed Iwata, who looked like he still couldn’t believe what he’d just done.
Then Oliver’s generous remarks:
“I thought maybe I could pick up the winner, but when I got to him (Delta Blues), he found again….I’m sure they didn’t know how much improvement was in this horse…it’s a fantastic feat for the Japanese to come here and quinella the Cup. It’s extraordinary…you’ve got to admire the Japanese what they’ve done, to quinella the Cup. They (Delta Blues and Pop Rock) really got away from the others. It shows they’re a really good pair of horses and it shows the depth of the Japanese horses.”
Did we just have an outbreak of sportsmanship? Remember that old concept?
As the perennial nature of horseracing reasserted itself, I soon realised my tearful optimism was misplaced.
“We all learned a big lesson today,” Poulton said. “We were stabled (at Sandown) with them (the Japanese) and a few of their training methods had a few of us raise our eyebrows, but hey, it worked.”
When asked what methods had caught his eye, he replied: “Last week, when we came here (Flemington) for a gallop and the Japanese rider was belting the shit out of the horse (Delta Blues) in his gallop just a week before the race. That was certainly one of them. You need ’em tough and they’re tough all right.”
So, even more and harder beltings for these flighty, liquid-eyed creatures. Hey, it works…
…one small thing happened that made all the difference. As Delta Blues blurred past towards victory, a small young Japanese man standing alone suddenly cried, in a timid voice, “Yes, I love you!” Tears spurted horizontally from his eyes. Kazuya Maekawa, Delta Blues’ track rider, overwhelmed and deeply moved, said in four words more about the spirit of winning than any of the commentary or subsequent race speeches.
No, Maekawa, you don’t love him, you belt the shit out of him, don’t you?
That red pompom. Lose the pompom!