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A case of `pull the other one, it's got clochons on'.

Byline: Alastair Down

IT WASN'T the most surprising result since the tortoise turned over the hare when Thierry Thulliez was this week relieved of the ride on Six Perfections in Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas.

After all, even from her potentially difficult draw the filly should have won our Guineas by something approaching a Hawk Wingian margin and for that omission Monsieur Thulliez has had a can placed in his paw with instructions on how to carry it.

Furthermore, as Six Perfections' owners, the Niarchos family are fully entitled to put up anyone they like, from Dr Crippen to the coxwain of the Lowestoft lifeboat.

But let's at least have a little old-fashioned plain speaking about the reasons why Thulliez has been given the coude or, for those of you sent out of French even more often than I, elbow.

Apparently (and you may start suspending your sense of disbelief right now) it has nothing to do with Thulliez's more-stops-than-the-Paris-Metro circumnavigation of Newmarket Heath. Perish the thought that making le petit dejeuner du chien of the first fillies' classic has had the slightest bearing on anyone's thought process.

According to the Niarchos racing manager Alan Cooper, who hitherto has not been known for talking through the top of his chapeau, it is not the race that was ridden but the race of the man who is going to ride (the excellent Johnny Murtagh) that lies at the nub of the issue. Cooper said: "It's very simple - we want to have an Irish jockey in Ireland. I've no comment to make about anything being expressed about Monsieur Thulliez."

Now, the Niarchos family, long-standing stalwarts of the Flat, race their horses all over the world and this new local-friendly policy could have interesting ramifications. Presumably, should they in future send runners for those obscure Group races in Spain and Istanbul, only blood relations of El Cid and Kemal Attaturk will be eligible for the ride.

As a Sardinian, will Frankie qualify for rides in Italy? Will Aussie Jim McGrath be pressed into service in the crossbelts for the Melbourne Cup? I think we should be told. And when it comes to the Breeders' Cup, will Mr Cooper be on the phone to the Jerry Baileys and Pat Days, or go for that big geezer from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest on the basis that them Red Injuns are the only real Americans?

Not having my anorak to hand, I am unable to tell you the nationality of the jockeys on top of all previous Niarchos runners in Ireland, but should it transpire that they were Irish to a man I will buy the affable Alan Cooper a lunch of card-melting expense at the Paris restaurant of his choice.

Of course, there may be very good reasons for not wanting to send Thulliez over to Ireland. Times are hard in the world of shipping and it may be the Niarchos family can't stretch to buying Thierry a metal oiseau ticket from Charles de Gaulle to Dublin.

Of course, Thulliez has never ridden in Ireland, but then until Guineas day he had never ridden at Newmarket and probably wishes that were still the case. But while adamant Thulliez should have won the Guineas, it is perhaps worth asking what effect jocking the man off will have? He is clearly a highly capable jockey with the potential to become better still.

He has already been through the humiliation of Guineas day and probably self-tortured himself ever since. Loyalty is a two-way pact and when someone you employ makes a pig's ear of the job, there is a time for recrimination and then a time for rebuilding confidence all round.

Thulliez has been to hell and back and has only himself to blame for the journey. But to deny him the chance of putting the nightmare behind him by winning the Irish Guineas strikes me as short-sighted in terms of Thulliez's future and slightly mean-spirited to boot.

It is, of course, very much the Niarchos family's prerogative to put my old mate Murtagh in the plate and there's no finer man for the job. But you can't treat the twin imposters of triumph and disaster just the same if you get jocked off after the disaster and don't get a shot at putting things right with a triumph.

I hope the filly wins on Sunday, partly because she could well be an exceptional filly, but mainly because her trainer Pascal Bary conducted himself with enormous restraint and good grace at Newmarket.

But quite who connections think they are fooling when peddling this line about needing an Irishman in Ireland, I have no idea. The public are not fools and know an albino porkie when they hear one.

In this case it is time to arrange the following words into a well-known phrase or saying - `sunshine, other, pull, one, the'.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 21, 2003
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