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McDonald a jolly good fellow but not alone in copping a grilling

Earlier this season Nash Rawiller, second to McDonald in the Sydney jockeys’ premiership, was also the subject of official condemnation.

Certainly modern day stewards, with the benefit of superior technology, are more transparent than their forebears when horse players and media hacks, guilty as charged, were more verbose about questionable performances.

McDonald's chief Sydney rival, Nash Rawiller, has also drawn the ire of the stipes.

McDonald’s chief Sydney rival, Nash Rawiller, has also drawn the ire of the stipes.Credit:Getty

“Riding for luck” didn’t exist in the dialogue. The great feats were exalted and the bad hooted and jeered by racegoers, reported in detail but a long-gone reaction.

Still after more than half a century of being in steward’s inquiries I can’t recall George Moore or Mick Dittman, who brilliantly danced partners on a fine line between courageous and careless, being ridiculed by officials for lack of expertise.

Yes, they were suspended and disqualified in an era when riding tactics weren’t planned by some desk jockey and announced beforehand.

Andy Tindall, a chief stipe in Brisbane, once remarked in dressing down Dittman that he had never been suspended over his long career in the saddle.“You weren’t much of a jockey,” Dittman retorted.

Sure, they were human and had disappointing results but stipes of the day were more likely to give them a stern warning away from the public ear: “another ride like that and you’ll be getting a long (unpaid) holiday”.

A recent quote attributed to Craig Bellamy, the Melbourne Storm coach, triggered reflection on criticism of elite, highly paid athletes.

Bellamy decreed that opinions on players are irrelevant unless the critic played in the NRL. Could this be applied to racing as far as stewards, many at best on ground level, and we others are concerned?

Being worse than even money to complete a circuit on a merry-go-round horse this hit a nerve, particularly as jockeys are remarkable participants, male and female, in a pursuit, call it industry or sport, more dangerous than others. Most days of the week they are in the firing line.

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Do we expect too much of them, particularly the top-liners? Against that it could be argued they get the best engagements, due to anticipated expertise that shortens the odds. Many already give JMac the “champion” title. He’s not on my list yet but a strong contender.

Jockeys, like great rugby league players are subject to form lapses, plus the idiosyncrasies of mounts.

Back when jockeys were given a point score each week by the Sydney Morning Herald for a best-of-the-season prize I gave one, with tongue in cheek – for afternoon tabloid The Sun – for the worst, named after Dick Fellows, an American outlaw who had no affinity with horses.

Fellows robbed a bank, jumped onto his waiting nag but he saddle slipped and he was grounded, stunned until the sheriff arrived. Later he broke out of gaol, ran to a nearby paddock where a horse was tethered and leapt onto the mount. Alas it was in the paddock due to a gut full of loco weed, bucked and again deposited the outlaw into the arms of pursuers.

No apprentice or battling hoop was ever given a Dick Fellows, but the champion trainer Tommy Smith, who rarely ridiculed jockeys, would spark Moore reckoning he was worthy of one.

“But you couldn’t sit on,” Moore retaliated regarding Smith’s ability in the saddle. The master of Tulloch Lodge countered: “I can’t lay an egg but sure can scramble one”.

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