The turf season is just around the corner ...

We have had a good morning

Friday, 28 July 2017

"A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle."

Benjamin Franklin.



It’s a similar morning to yesterday once again, the temperature is ok, there’s a slight breeze and the black clouds are blowing across, but not depositing anything wet yet. It is more likely to be mid-afternoon before we get any real rain. I have had a great morning so far with two lots of two-year-olds going across the Peat Moss on Racecourse Side and getting some great education, with lads who can ride and give you proper feedback. Everything is coming together now and we will start to have plenty more runners in the not too distant future.


Roof Garden

Well, where do I start with the shambolic day yesterday at Yarmouth? The modern day saying that comes from every politician or official after every debacle is ‘lessons will be learned’, but will they? I don’t know the exact ins and outs of this affair, but this situation was always on the cards to happen as the lack of staff is getting worse and worse. There are an enormous amount of trainers who are driving their horses to the races, and I don’t mean just the very small ones. The other night I know for certain that John Ryan and Stuart Williams drove their box to Chelmsford. The major lack of staff in yards and the reluctance to go racing because of the high number of meetings is just getting worse. When the number of meetings was sensible, all the lads loved to go and take their horses, but now with the incessant non-stop fixture’s list, situations like this will get more usual.

It is very lucky that this situation was found out as the mistake horse was dope tested afterwards. Usually a beaten favourite would be tested. It is unbelievable though that the trainer and owners didn’t know the horse when saddling it, when in the paddock and then afterwards in the winner’s enclosure when photographs were being taken and interviews etc. It was only when the horse was dope tested and the vet scanned its identity number that the mistake came to the attention of the officials. You have to wonder if it may have happened before and not been publicised.

How do you cure the problem? The only cure is more staff. I always send a travelling person, plus a groom, but so many trainers take the horses themselves with somebody else leading up. They are then rushing to see the owners, see the jockey, get the saddle etc. You may be able to scan every horse that comes into the paddock after being saddled, but this could waste time and cause delays to the race. I don’t think there is an easy solution and it may not even happen again. I’m sure it won’t for the trainer involved and every one of us who holds a licence will be on our toes from now on, but staffing is the issue here and experienced staff are what we need more of. Certainly fewer fixtures would be a massive help, but instead of going down 20 a year we go up 20 a year. It is completely barmy.

In 40 years’ time I predict we will be similar to America, when meetings are months long and horses don’t travel throughout the country like they do now. All-weather racing will be dominant and places like Newmarket with an all-weather track will boom.


Bracken Brae and below...  


...her brother Gee Sixty Six

The BHA are proposing to have professional stewards and doing away with all the volunteers that have done it since the year dot. This is another product of the fixture list growing. The majority of stewards, who have been doing the job for years, who thoroughly enjoy it and try their best to be fair and reasonable, can’t keep up with the ever increasing fixture list. Consequently the courses have had problems filling their stewarding roster and have notified the BHA of this problem. We already have professional stipendiary stewards and whether this is a move in the right direction is open to debate. It is only a proposal at the consultation stage at present, and I will keep you informed as to progress.


Ness Of Brodgar and True Calling walking home


Phil on Friday

It’s heartening to see the grassroots of British racing might receive some £10 million of extra funding next year, based on the yet-to-be ratified reformed levy. It could include appearance money, too, for what BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman accurately described as our sport’s ‘foundations’.

The hope that ‘most races’  will be run with a total value of at least £6,000 could even begin to drag us back to the levels of 60 years ago (before race sponsorship, the levy and so on) as reported last week, but there’s a long way to go.

The Guvnor has already described the initiative as ‘a big muddle’ and that sums it up rather neatly, but it could eventually be a minor breakthrough. Don’t hold your breath though.

The oldies among us (or our fathers!) thought much the same thing when commercial sponsorship of racing began in 1957, and the original levy was introduced a few years later. Unfortunately they appeared to do nothing to improve prize money, at least at the bread-and-butter end of our sport (or should that be bread and marge?) It just went backwards.

Then, in 2006, another opportunity to bolster racing’s revenue emerged:  48-hour declarations. There was much argument at the time but eventually it went ahead, principally to help ‘sell’ British racing abroad. The then BHB Chief Executive Greg Nicholls said: “It is clear…there is an acknowledgment that the overseas market represents a significant opportunity to British Racing to increase its revenue substantially.” A BHB press release told of discussions on “how and how much of the additional revenue would flow into prize money”. So what happened?

No-one knows, not even the BHA itself!

Between 2006 and 2015 which, apparently, is the last full year of data publicly available, total prize money went up by well over £23 million. A Bank of England calculation suggests that to keep pace with changing monetary values it should have been something over £22 million. Good news then. Unfortunately the number of meetings increased from 836 to 882 which meant the average prize money for each, on comparable figures, did not change much and probably went down.

According to a BHA spokesman the complex nature of how prize money is accrued and distributed means it is impossible to come up with figures linking it to the 48-hour declaration revolution. So after 11 years we simply don’t know what impact, for good or ill, the 2006 upheaval had. It remains a mystery.

Now we just want the latest BHA optimism to become a transparent reality. We’ll see.

The increase in fixtures is a definite worry. Not only does it dilute prize money but the betting shop fodder it will throw up probably won’t rival, in betting terms, football, golf, and other sports. I think that’s where we are going wrong – sacrificing attractive quality for quantity. It hasn’t worked yet, and probably never will. That’s a purely personal view, by the way, and wading through a minimum of five meetings a day makes my brain hurt. So what price Arsenal to win the Premiership .…?