Home com­forts in the age of Zoom lull Sharp into sleep­ing on job

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Racing - Mar­cus Army­tage Rac­ing Correspond­ent a la

Zoom meet­ings, it seems, will still be here a long time af­ter Covid-19 has gone and there is an aw­ful lot to be said for not hav­ing to leave one’s home of­fice.

But there are down­sides; it leaves our book­shelves open to in­spec­tion and you can­not so much as scratch your­self or worse with­out an au­di­ence,

Big Brother, and with the neg­a­tives in mind, news comes from the east.

With the Point-to-Point Own­ers and Rid­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (PPORA) do­ing its level best to pre­pare for a re­turn of the sport af­ter last sea­son be­tween the flags was stopped in its prime in mid-March, an evening Zoom meet­ing of board mem­bers and of­fi­cers was held last week and there was a lot to cover.

One of the meet­ing’s at­ten­dees was John Sharp, a for­mer chair­man of PPORA, who is well known in point­ing cir­cles and rac­ing sta­bles across the land. As an ama­teur/ point-to-point jockey he rode 198 win­ners but, I would sug­gest, he has put more back into the ama­teur sport since than he ever took out of it as a rider.

In the 1980s, he hooked up with not just one but two of the most pro­lific point­ers of all time; he rode Stan­wick Lad to 42 wins and won 32 races on Water­sport – which kind of puts Frankie Det­tori’s 13 on En­able into miserly con­text.

In his pro­fes­sional life he was one of the peo­ple who drove the rev­o­lu­tion which saw the feed­ing of scoops of oats, bran, boiled bar­ley, lin­seed and the like to race­horses be­come a com­plete all-in-one feed, and as Dod­son & Hor­rell’s prin­ci­pal sales­man, he charmed its way into nearly ev­ery yard in New­mar­ket.

With his wife, Mel, he now runs his own suc­cess­ful busi­ness, Sharp Nutri­tion, ad­vis­ing train­ers on all as­pects of horse feed. Like hu­mans, and to no less an ex­tent, race­horses are what they eat.

With the pubs open again, not hav­ing had much so­cial in­ter­ac­tion over lock­down and with her hus­band booked in on his long evening Zoom call, Mrs Sharp opted for a girls’ night out in a lo­cal. At the end of the evening, how­ever, she looked at her mo­bile phone and found sev­eral missed calls from the chair­man of PPORA and the meet­ing, fel­low feed mer­chant Mark Buchan.

She thought noth­ing more of it, and when she re­turned home her hus­band was al­ready in bed. She asked him if the meet­ing had gone well, he mum­bled, “yes”, and she too went to bed.

It was only the fol­low­ing morn­ing that the rea­son for the missed calls was re­vealed. To­wards the end of the meet­ing her hus­band had been due to re­port on a spe­cific is­sue.

How­ever, be­fore it was his turn, he had made rather too much use of his elec­tric re­clin­ing chair and, by the time he was due on, with only his fore­head and feet vis­i­ble to his au­di­ence, he was sound asleep. The calls, in the hope that Mel was in the next-door room, were to see if she could wake him.

There, but for the grace of God, go all of us. His pre­sen­ta­tion is now on the agenda for the next meet­ing. He is nei­ther the first nor will he be the last to lose fo­cus on an arm­chair ride.

With the bril­liant Bat­taash, the Char­lie Hills-trained, se­rial record-breaker due at York on Fri­day for the Cool­more Nun­thorpe Stakes, the race­course has in­stalled a three-me­tre by two-me­tre “stop­watch” on the win­ning line.

It is in the fer­vent hope that the “Bat-mo­bile”, hav­ing in July low­ered his own course record at Good­wood, beats his own five-fur­long track record of 55.90 on the Knavesmire, which he set when win­ning last year’s race, shav­ing a quar­ter of a se­cond off the pre­vi­ous record set by Dayjur in 1990.

How­ever, for quick times you need quick ground and the York­shire weather, fore­cast to be un­set­tled all week, looks like hav­ing the fi­nal say in any record-break­ing at­tempt.

Speed mer­chant: Bat­taash, with Jim Crow­ley aboard, is aim­ing to break York’s course record

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