Trainer and former jockey Wee Little Mickey Mullens fears Larry The Chancer Harte-Murphy’s Grand National talking horse Squawky Jerry Goldberg has been mistreated by the handicapper despite bookmakers pushing him to favourite for the Aintree showpiece.
|Photos courtesy of Marilyn Peddle|
The major betting shops have the Northern Rock Failed Takeover Bidders’ Chase runner-up as their new 10-1 favourite even after senior handicapper James Barrington-Smythe nee Smythe cruelly removed a horseshoe.
Other betting shops make the four-year-old their 14-1 market leader at the 2012 Grand National following the release of weights at a lunch in the toilets at the Ivy in London, where Squawky Jerry Goldberg is much loved due to his amazing speaking ability, but Mullens expressed reservations about the horse’s lack of experience.
After finishing fourth over the hurdle-bushes at Ascot last October, the four-year-old has only raced twice this year, Mullens pointed out, in one race getting a painless victory over the fence-hedges at Leopardstown but in the next stopping short of the seventh wall-briar at the Royal Derby.
At a press conference in a local public house after the Derby, the horse was asked about issues surrounding a recent depression.
“Why the long face?” one of the reporters bluntly put it to him, as the cameras flashed.
Squawky Jerry Goldberg shrugged and blinked before giving his reply after a timely pause punctuated by the slurping noises made as he sucked the dregs of his pint from a straw.
“I’m a horse,” he replied sadly, in his parrot-like tones atypical for a horse. “The scientists shouldn’t have played God with me. I’d prefer to be a creature of instinct. Instead, I am, quite literally, a rational animal.”
Squawky Jerry Goldberg was discovered as a foal in a field of thistles in Ayrshire by a group of scientists led by Polish-Jewish immigrant Professor Jeremiah Goldberg. The biologist headed up experiments in the early noughties to genetically alter the horse’s brain chemistry and surgically treat his vocal cords. The series of operations, known as “Project Ed” were so successful that they ultimately enabled Squawky Jerry Goldberg to choose his own moniker, adopting the name of the scientist who had bestowed upon him the gift of sapience.
Professor Goldberg still wears his own scars of abuse, perhaps mirroring his tests on the now smart horse, after being used as a lab rat at the hands of unethical Nazi biologists in 1940s Poland as a child.
Meanwhile, the recent removal of the clever equine’s horseshoe by the handicapper suggests that people fear that the four-year-old may try to flee, reneging on lucrative contracts with L’Oreal and Gillette. Voted sexiest beast in Horse & Hound magazine three years running and nicknames such as “the Women’s Houyhnhnm” no longer seem to hold any worth for Squawky Jerry. After "skipping out" on Cheltenham earlier this year, close acquaintances and the stable tabby cat (another of Jeremiah Goldberg's successes, Madam Mewling Moggy Goldberg) have even suggested that he be psychologically assessed. For the moment, though, Wee Little Mickey Mullens’s’s claim that his odds for the upcoming race are excessive is just another sad omen that things aren’t faring well for the genetically-enhanced close cousin of the zebra.