Hmmm. I have heard the expression of dunderhead for someone who is a fool but dunderklumpen, used by one wit,was a new one for your intrepid racing scribe.
The word had a Germanic ring to it, although it turned out to be Swedish, and was used to describe the policy of not allowing the horses into the mounting enclosure but rather sending them from the stalls area (birdcage) straight to the barrier.
It has happened on two occasions over the summer, including last Saturday, February 9, at Ascot.
This policy was decreed, ostensibly because of the hot conditions at Ascot on Saturday by the stewards, who control the meeting.
Some people think that that decision should have been over-ridden by others in authority but that would set a dangerous precedent, to move, even if possible, against those charged with maintaining racing’s integrity. (It would be what I call the cane toad solution).
However, there are certainly cogent reasons to question the decision.
First, if it is too hot for horses to come into the saddling enclosure then I can just see the rabid animal protectionists saying that it is too hot to race.
The anti-racing mob, supported by the Greens (should that be gangrene?), have already tried to expel jumps racing from the calendar in Victoria and SA and have been backed by media blowhards like Patrick Smith and Derryn Hinch with their selective hypocrisy.
Don’t think that two year old racing, plus racing in general, is not in the crusaders sights and this type of controversy is grist to their mill.
Further, it leads to confusion.
Late in the day, after the second last, I wandered down to the mounting enclosure or, as I refer to it, Wes Cameron’s Engine Room. It was certainly hot, like an engine room, but as the Big ’Fella reminded me it was even hotter the previous week (February 2) when the parade took place as normal.
Next week, with the two Magic Million classics being featured, could well be even hotter still so do the horses again go onto the track from the stalls, near the 1800m mark, without doing their preliminaries?
This would hardly be an attractive presentation to feature races. However, if they come back to the mounting yard in even hotter weather, then this would hardly represent consistent policy either.
In dealing with this Chief Steward, Brad Lewis, said that work safe practice for horses and riders was at the heart of the decision.
He pointed out that the temperature had climbed during the afternoon but because of the safety first policy only one horse had been heat affected and that was Shezapro in the last race.
Significantly the Chief Steward said that after discussing the issue with CEO Stephen Wicks, future decisions would be made on the day and not in advance. Further, there would be future flexibility so that a switch in parade arrangements could be made during a meeting to allow for changing weather conditions.
The back parade arena, near the stalls, will now not be used unless the temperature exceeds 37 degrees. (Last Saturday it was 35 C at 1pm but 37.7 C by 4.30pm).
Certainly from the public viewpoint, the February 9 meeting (like the earlier one on December 29), was flat and lacked atmosphere because of the almost fugitive-style entrance of the horses.
But the critics of the policy have no support amongst the trainers according to Michael Grant, the president of the Trainers Association.
Grant said the fact of the matter is that the mounting area is five degrees hotter than elsewhere on the course.
“Unlike Flemington and Caulfield where the mounting yards are shaded out by the grandstand the Ascot grandstand does not provide shade. In addition horses have to come some 200m from the stall area, onto the track because our mounting yard is the most isolated of virtually any racecourse. Coming onto the track to get to the parade ring gets them hot and stirred up. ”
Grant said that it was far better for horses to spend more time under the misters in the stall area than being paraded and sweating up.
“The welfare of the horses is paramount and the punters need to be protected too. I haven’t found an owner or trainer against it,” he said.
Grant said the first two months of the year were the deadest anyway hence the only occasionally used policy on hot days was hardly a crowd stopper.
Anyway, all the dunderklumpens are back this week for some more action in the Meltdown State.
Hoofnote: Dunderklumpens is one of those delightful words that can mean everything and nothing. It is not defined.
There was a 1974 Swedish film by that name directed by Per Ahlan that combined live action and animation.
Dunderklumpen was a cartoon character that came out of the woods to seek friends to keep him company.
At the races all the dunderklumpens seek the company of horses!