Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Good nooz

We previewed this week's runners in the last chapter and things are very good in parts so far.  The week started in the best style possible when The Rocket Park won at Thirsk on Sunday.  Most good results are all the better for coming after you've worked towards them for a long time - one could, of course, if one had unlimited money, buy the Derby favourite on the eve of the Derby and then rejoice the next day that one has owned the Derby winner, but really you'd have to be fairly unquestioning of the concept of achievement to regard this as a mighty triumph - and with Rocky any success has been a long time in coming for all involved with him, particularly his ultra-patient and ultra-supportive owner, Lawrence Wadey.

So that, belatedly the stable's first win of the year, was wonderful.  If we'd had our character slightly tested, though, by an 11-month gap between visits to the winner's enclosure, for his jockey Howard Cheng this triumph was an even longer time in coming.  Howard has ridden plenty of winners in Hong Kong but this was his first success for 50 months, so you can imagine how much this meant to him.  He had a long spell on the side-lines when he lost his license there and, having firstly been able to start work for William Haggas and then being allowed to apply for a license here, it took him long enough actually to be granted a license, longer still to get any rides and even longer to get on a horse who could win.  Thankfully Rocky, his 40/1 SP notwithstanding, proved to be such a horse, so it was a day of joy all round.

We went to Leicester the next day and didn't enjoy any success, but I was less disheartened than one might expect by a pretty moderate run by The Simple Truth.  It's taken forever to get to the stage where he could show that he could relax in a race and thus have prospects of running in the types of races which he should be contesting (ie not the sprints in which he has been participating this year) so I should be (and am) pleased that he has shown that the penny has finally dropped that one wants to be saving one's energy for the second half.  I could just have done with him giving such a demonstration without finishing among the also-rans!

The third intended runner of the week cut even less ice than that: Roy, who should have been going to Kempton today, was eliminated.  At 9.55 on Monday he looked set to be the last one in; one more horse was declared in the closing minutes and at 9.58 he was instead the last one out.  (If that makes sense).  Ah well, no harm done: if they don't run, they can't run badly.  (And I know that the proper version of that, as voiced by Clive Brittain so many times, was that if they don't run, they can't run well).  I haven't sorted out where he'll go next, but he's fit and well so hopefully won't have to wait too long.  That race, though - in the absence of any options at Brighton - did look about as suitable as we could get.

I was in a similar situation this morning as I was on Monday morning, ie monitoring the declarations minute-by-minute as 10 o'clock approached.  (And I don't want you to think that I'm one of those trainers who spend the morning sitting in front of a computer - I was on board Hidden Pearl at the time - the glorious time-savingness of the innovations which have brought internet access to mobile phones).  In this case we got the result which we wanted: Dereham, whom I rated 60:40 against getting a run, did manage to squeak in at Chester on Friday. So he and Kryptos can go up there on Friday.

We could find more suitable races for Dereham (well, it's a suitable race, but there will be less competitive but suitable races around) but Chester seems to be the one course which is making it a pleasure for a horse's owner(s) to attend, so Emma (whose horse Dereham is and whose birthday Friday is) thought, as there was a suitable race for Dereham on the card at Chester on that day, that it would be a lovely way to spend the day, if he got in the race.  And if the company is too hot for Dereham (although that isn't guaranteed as he will be running off his correct handicap mark on a course and distance that should be suitable) then we can lower our sights a bit next time.

Then I hope that we shall have Das Kapital (pictured this morning in the last paragraph and in this one) in an apprentices' race at Chepstow on Saturday night.  He finished second in an apprentices' race over course and distance around this time last year (I'd say that it's the same race, but it may not be, particularly as I think it was a Friday last year - but then the programmes have all been changed to a greater or lesser extent) on good ground, and I'm hopeful that the ground will be more suitable for him (ie softer) this time.  That's hard to say, though, as it's currently much firmer than good, and with thunderstorms (which are predicted) it is very hard to make an accurate prediction of how much (if any) rain will actually fall.  He's not sure to get in.  And the amount of rainfall which will hit Chepstow in the next three days is uncertain.  And he won't run if it's faster than good whatever happens.  But he might run.  We'll see.

Looking outside these four walls, the big racing news has been that Julie Harrington has been appointed as the next chief executive of the BHA, to succeed Nick Rust at the end of the year.  Will hers be a successful tenure?  God knows.  I certainly don't, not least because I have never met her and don't know that much about her.  It's also hard to say exactly what constitutes success, bearing in mind that most of the many problems are unfixable.  However, what I've read sounds encouraging.  Her background suggests that she should already have a good understanding of the sport (which should be essential) and a very keen interest in it (ditto).  And she seems a brainy person who can get things done.

So that's all good.  All we can do at present is wish her all the best and pledge her our support; and hope that she is spared the bulk of the generally ill-informed criticism which seems to be part and parcel of the job, and that she can so the job as well and as diligently as Nick Rust has done it.  I don't know what the future holds for him, but I hope that his acumen and commitment won't be lost to the sport.  I'm sure that it won't as he's a racing man through and through - his existing in an orbit which didn't involve racing would be about as unlikely as a fish existing in an orbit which didn't involve water.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Blessed are the law-makers for theirs is not a straightforward task

Today is 8th August and this is the first chapter of the month.  Tomorrow we'll have our first runner of the month (The Rocket Park at Thirsk) and then the next day we'll have our second runner of the month (The Simple Truth - pictured here and in the next paragraph, early yesterday morning - at Leicester).  I hope that those two will be followed by Roy at Kempton on Wednesday, although I'd say that it's only 50:50 whether he gets in.  And then towards the end of the week we shall have Kryptos entered at Chester on Friday, Dereham holding three entries (at Chester and at Chepstow, twice) and Das Kapital entered at Chepstow.  The latter's participation would be dependent on quite a bit of rain falling in south-east Wales through the week, but that could well happen.  It's been a week of superb weather here but not necessarily elsewhere; and next week could be another kettle of fish anyway.

It's been a dry week in which it got progressively warmer, to the extent that we're now in a period of a handful of days featuring daytime highs in the low 30s and very warm nights.  Wonderful weather, and we'll be wistful when it's gone.  We've had an early start the past couple of mornings to make sure that all the horses were ridden by roughly 10.00, so that the exercise could take place in pleasantly warm conditions rather than oppressively hot ones.  The photographs which illustrate this chapter should give an idea of how idyllic it is at present.

As regards the wider racing world, there have been a couple of interesting disciplinary matters going on.  The success of Robert Havlin's appeal (he's pictured here shortly after daybreak this morning, at the head of that bunch of John Gosden-trained horses, riding Stradivarius) against his 10-day ban at Yarmouth seemed to unsettle a few people, but basically it was an appeal which had to succeed.  Notwithstanding that his mount caused considerable havoc, his offence was, to my eyes, considerably less blame-worthy than several others recently.  What I mean by that is that the interference caused by his riding was harder to predict than in the other cases.  In his case, one might say that the interference could have been viewed in advance as a possible consequence; there was one which particularly sticks in my mind at Sandown where the interference was almost inevitable, and one could see it coming well in advance.

As the upshot of that Sandown case, and of other recent cases, was no ban being issued, it was very hard to justify any penalty in this case.  The point is that the stewards aren't there to implement what they or we might think is appropriate, or to implement what they or we think the rules ought to be: they are there to implement the rules as they stand.  And there has to be an element of consistency.  Following on from the recent lack of disciplinary action, what happened on appeal pretty much had to happen.

The rules as they are are very vague, because pretty much every case of interference could easily be pigeon-holed into more than one of the possible options.  As I think we have discussed previously, until it becomes an offence to allow a horse to shift in or out when not sufficiently clear of one's rival(s), or to fail to prevent interference from happening, the current unsatisfactory situation will continue.  Changing the rules as thus described would also have the further bonus of making jockeys far less likely to resort to riding with only one hand on the reins - ie of picking up the stick - which would help to solve another of racing's (disciplinary) problems.

The other tricky case, of course, has yet to be resolved: what to do about the races in which George Rooke claimed 7lb when he should have been claiming 5lb.  This is difficult.  There is a deadline for the lodging of objections (two weeks) and this deadline had obviously passed before the problem came to light.  The only exception to this deadline is in cases of deliberate fraud, eg doping or running a ringer, when there is no deadline.  So the problem is that if George Rooke deliberately misled the clerk of the scales as to how many winners he had ridden, then the horses must be disqualified.

On the other hand, if he genuinely believed that his winners in Jersey did not count, then the horses have to keep the race.  And it is, of course, unknowable (by anyone other than him) which option applies.  See what I mean?  It's a hard one.  It's hard to see how he could possibly have believed that his winners in Jersey didn't count.  And it's hard to understand why, if he was uncertain, he didn't ask the clerk of the scales.  But at the same time it's hard to believe that he could have thought that it was sensible to lie about the amount of winners he had ridden.  (And I think that we can discount the possibility of him just not keeping count).  I'm glad that I don't have to decide.  I suppose that if the BHA can't demonstrate that it was deliberate fraud (and I don't see how they could) then the results should stand, even if common sense says that they shouldn't stand.

The other problem, of course, is whom to fine.  Traditionally, his boss (Richard Hughes) would be fined.  He is responsible for his apprentice's conduct.  However, the apprentice system is being changed, and under the new system it would seem rather unfair to fine Richard.  Moreover, responsibility for educating the apprentice has been more or less taken away from the trainer and given to whichever Racing School he or she attends, and to his or her jockey-coach.  And you've also got to factor in that the apprentices now have agents, and the agent's job includes overseeing things like this.  And it's probably fair, in light of the changed system, to fine the apprentice himself/herself.

I think that the fairest system would be to apportion the fine something along the lines of 40% to the jockey-coach; 20% to the Racing School; 20% to the apprentice; 15% to the agent; 5% to the apprentice's master.  You think I'm joking?  Well, I am.  Sort of.  But I'm not really.  Somebody will have to be fined, irrespective of whether the horses are or aren't disqualified (and it is my guess that they won't be, but that's only a guess) and, depending on how you looked at things, any one of those five identities could be justifiably the recipient of the fine.  And we think that interpreting the interference rules are complicated!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Everybody's makin' it big but me

Elvis, he's a hero, he's a superstar
And I hear that Paul McCartney drives a Rolls Royce car
And Dylan sings for millions and I just sing for free
Oh, everybody's makin' it big but me ...
Neil Diamond sings for diamonds and here's ol' rhinestone me
Oh, everybody's makin' it big but me ...

Well, I hear Alice Cooper's got a foxy chick
To wipe off his snake and keep him rich
And Elton John's got two fine ladies and Doctor John's got three
And I'm still seein' them same ol' sleazos that I used to see
Oh, everybody's makin' it big but me
Yeah, everybody's makin' it big but me ..

And I wear the same mascara that Mick Jagger does
Well, I paint my face with glitter just like Bowie does
And I even put some lipstick on
That just hurt my dad and mom
Everybody's makin' it big but me
Oh, everybody's makin' it big but me ...
They got groupies for their bands
And all I've got is my right hand
And everybody's makin' it big but me ...

No, don't worry: I'm not losing the plot altogether.  Tomorrow is 1st August and we'll have had 12 runners (I think) in the two months since racing resumed on 1st June and the closest we've come to victory was when Hidden Pearl was beaten a short head at Catterick.  But that's OK: there are a few horses here who I think have decent prospects of success in the coming weeks.  But more immediately, I just wanted to highlight a few of my neighbours who really have been making hay while the sun has been shining over the summer.  And that presents a suitable opportunity for me to throw in a few Shel Silverstein lines which always make me chuckle (and thus create a bit of space to insert a few more photographs of this week's glorious sunshine).

Most notable is Charlie McBride, who trains at the bottom of the street.  He's been churning out a remarkable quantity of winners for someone who doesn't have many horses, the reddest of his many recent red-letter days coming when he sent four horses to a Wolverhampton evening meeting and came home with three wins and a second.  Charlie's immediate neighbour James Ferguson is also enjoying a very good season, meaning that Exeter Road really has been a great source of winners.  We just need Don Cantillon and I up this end of the street to do our bit, and Don's got a good excuse as he hasn't been having any runners!

Around the corner in the Fordham Road, William Jarvis and Chris Wall are both enjoying great seasons.  William's Group winner at Ascot on Sunday was a particular highlight, while Chris had a particularly special moment at Yarmouth this week when his apprentice Pam du Crocq rode her first winner on Hi Ho Silver, trained by Chris and owned by his wife Carol.  It's always good to see local apprentices getting going, and Pam's worked very hard to get to the position she's now reached.  Hers was a very popular win indeed.

Over on the other side of town, Sean Keightley has been mirroring Charlie in churning out a remarkable volume of winners for someone who only trains a handful of horses.  Masked Identity's win under Josephine Gordon at the July Meeting was an obvious highlight.  On the subject of Sean's stable, I think there's a fair chance that his apprentice Molly Presland will be Newmarket's next apprentice to ride her or his next winner. She's only had a handful of rides so far but rides very well.  Aside from Sean, the other trainers in Hamilton Road to be getting eye-catchingly good results are George Boughey and Amy Murphy, whose strike-rate this National Hunt season (and I haven't looked it up) must be Michael Dickinson-esque.

Elsewhere in Hamilton Road, Rae Guest is also having a very good season and is Stuart Williams, which almost goes without saying as he never has a bad one.  William Knight has done very well since moving into Rathmoy Stables in the first half of May, the most notable of his several winners having come at the Ascot Heath meeting in June.  The two biggest stables on that side of town, Simon & Ed Crisford and James Tate, are both also in very good form.

The two trainers in Hamilton Road who have only taken out a license this year, Terry Kent and Joseph Parr, should both be very satisfied with the starts they have made.  And you'd hope that Terry has further success not too far away as he has had two two-year-olds run very well at Wolverhampton this evening.  And a little farther afield we have William Stone, who trains somewhere near Balsham, enjoying another fine summer.  (Apologies to those who have also being doing particularly well - this purely subjective overview has, like Amy Murphy's strike-rate, been produced off the top of my head with zero research.  Like the rest of this blog, it's just the view from this particular bridge).

And as for this stable?  Well, hope springs eternal, and I hope that'll we'll get there too sooner rather than later.  We've had one runner this week: Kryptos on a glorious summer's evening in a mile handicap on beautiful ground at lovely Thirsk on Wednesday.  He'd run a shocker at Haydock the previous time and I went to Thirsk quite sombrely, thinking that another disappointment would be very hard to swallow.  Anyway, he did finish towards the rear again, but I was actually as un-disappointed as I could be with that.  This was nothing like the Haydock debacle, and I just think that we need to go a bit farther with him now.

He got the mile well as a three-year-old and even then we were on the verge of moving up to nine furlongs (in the Cambridgeshire).  He's six now, so it's easy to see that he might be best suited by going up to ten furlongs (or more).  The fact that he showed plenty of speed first up over a mile at Newmarket shouldn't be allowed to cloud the picture: if a horse doesn't show a bit of dash first up after an absence of nearly three years, he's never going to do so.  Anyway, hopefully we might be closing in on the target with him, as with a few of the others.  
Saturday, July 25, 2020

Looking inwards, looking outwards

I wrote a chapter on Sunday saying that we would probably have two runners during the week, and I'm pleased to say that we have now got to Saturday, have indeed had those two runners and have come home from the races happily each time.  The Simple Truth, at last, ran a respectable race.  On the fifth start of his life, he did for the first time what one wants one's horses to do, ie finish his race off strongly.  He had to be anchored strongly out the back to enable him not to expend too much energy in the first half of the race; but John Egan is such a masterful rider that he was able to do that, and we consequently had a good run from him for the first time.

Funnily enough, John was able to anchor him early on so effectively and help him to finish the race so strongly that the stewards had us in to enquire whether we had actually been trying to win the race!  It wasn't, though, difficult to convince them (the truth) that the horse had run what was easily the best race of his life so far because of the way he was ridden, rather than despite it.  As an aside, it was worth pointing out that when one has a horse rated in the 20s, the one thing one definitely doesn't do is to try to get them to run badly: you're so keen to have their rated raised so that they can get into races, you do everything you can, as we did, to get them to run as well as possible.

Anyway, it was a massive step in the right direction to see The Simple Truth run like that and run that well.  It took Roy until he was five to learn that the second half of the race is the important part, so it's very pleasing that we're getting the message through to his little sibling at the age of only three and on only his fifth start.  I actually think that his difficult experience on his debut at Goodwood, when he suffered from heat stress after the race, might have contributed to the fact that it has been too fired up in his races.  He isn't a particularly hard-pulling horse at home and he wasn't too fired up on debut, but he was a very different horse when he went to the races after that.  But hopefully we can now put that behind us.

I'd like to hope that it may be onwards and upwards with Dereham too.  He is fairly slow but he kept on well up the hill at Pontefract, and when they show stamina and genuineness, as he did, one always has a chance.  He's now eligible for low-grade handicaps, and he'll find those a lot easier than the maiden or novice company which he's had to keep so far.  It's hard to know how good a race it was in general on Thursday, but it's safe to assume that the winner Whisper Not is well above average: his 20-length victory was as impressive as you could ever see.

Wednesday and Thursday were thus busy days, and Friday was a busy one too.  I wasn't expecting to be involved with the breeze-up sale (originally scheduled to be held at Goresbridge in Ireland but transferred to Tattersalls in Newmarket because of COVID-19) but in the event I was.  Dan Tunmore selected a very nice colt by Rock Of Gibraltar from the immediate family of Mount Nelson (who was also by Rock Of Gibraltar, which is very encouraging) and bought him on behalf of his father Barry for what seems a very fair price, and I'm delighted to say that the horse is now here.  He looks a very nice prospect - and not least because he seems to have been very well and very sympathetically educated by the top-class former National Hunt jockey Andrew Lynch at Kilbrew Stables.  If the way that this colt has been prepared is anything to go by, Andrew will establish himself as one of the leading breeze-up producers.

Looking to the wider world, the small field for 'the King George' today was an obvious talking point.  It turned out that it might as well have been a two-horse race because Japan ran miles below his best; and the second horse in this two-horse race, although a Classic winner last year, had finished third of seven in a Group Three race on his only run this year.  So one could almost say that it was, as far as Group One contenders went, a one-horse race.  But realistically, who was missing?  The form book says that Ghaiyyath doesn't want to run more than once a month, so he was never going to be there, having already won the Eclipse in July.

Anthony Van Dyke obviously would have been there but for reportedly being unhealthy.  Magical would have been an obvious contender, but when three middle-distance weight-for-age Group One races in Europe are scheduled for the same weekend (it isn't just the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh tomorrow as there is an identical race in Germany!) she is obviously going to have to miss two of them, and one can't knock her connections for running her in tomorrow rather than today.  Love and Serpentine are the only horses who one might say should have been there, but that still doesn't get us away from the fact that only two stables contain a horse good enough to run in the race (plus Godolphin having one, and only one; and, as I say, it's understandable that Ghaiyyath wasn't there) and that's not a healthy or satisfactory situation.  But it's beyond our control, so we'll try to not lose any sleep over it.

One could also say that the on-going interference debate is beyond our control, which it is.  So we will try not to get too exercised on the subject.  Another chapter was added to this debate in Sydney today.  Many of the cases we see are errors of omission (failing to prevent interference, or allowing it to happen) or ineptness (inadvertently encouraging horses to come off a straight line) but the fatal fall caused by Hugh Bowman came as a result of deliberate interference, although obviously he did not intend to cause the death of the horse with whom he interfered or to cause serious injuries to the jockey Andrew Adkins, instead merely intending to give the horse a gentle nudge out of the way so that he could take the gap which rightfully belonged to the other horse.

It's going to be interesting to see how this one is handled by the stewards and I don't envy them their task.  In the past, it has always appeared to me that in the case of fatal falls, stewards have been very loath to apportion blame, presumably to head off the prospect of the offending jockey being sued.  An obvious example of this policy came when the fatal fall of Jwala in the Hong Kong Sprint was attributed to general bunching, rather than to the jockey who seemed to have caused the fall.  That's understandable: if an insurance company has had a seven-figure payout because of the death of a horse (or because of the serious injury, or worse, of a jockey) then it would be understandable if it were to seek damages from the jockey who had caused the damage if it was down in black and white that the jockey had indeed been responsible.

And if that started to happen, then it would present racing with some very major problems.  In this case, however, I don't see how the Rosehill stewards would be able to avoid finding Hugh Bowman responsible for the fall, and that could have serious repercussions not merely for him but also for racing in general.  Anyway, let's hope that this very sad event on the other side of the world might help the BHA to come to the conclusion that the current situation in Great Britain (ie that the rules encourage jockeys to try the type of gamesmanship which ended so badly at Rosehill this afternoon) is a recipe for disaster.
Sunday, July 19, 2020


Ten days since I last wrote a chapter but it seems longer.  I think that when I last wrote we had two runners coming up: Roy at Bath and Hidden Pearl at Lingfield.  We did indeed have them, and then we have had one more too, The Simple Truth at Yarmouth.  Roy's run was a small step forward from his lack-lustre resumption.  I was silly, really.  We'd dropped him out to last at Doncaster and he'd settled beautifully, and this encouraged me to drop my guard.  We decided merely to ride him in the second half of the field at Bath and that back-fired.  He doesn't relax so well away from Brighton and, not being taken right back, he was too headstrong through the race and duly weakened at the end.  But he did show some improvement from the previous run so we'll keep hoping.

We'll keep hoping with Hidden Pearl too, notwithstanding that her run at Lingfield was very poor.  Again, that was my fault.  She too can be too keen and it had never occurred to me to do anything other than cover her up in a race until, at Dylan Hogan's inspired suggestion, we made the running at Catterick and nearly won.  Anyway, for no reason other than we'd made the running at Catterick and nearly won, we made the running again at Lingfield.  What happened was what I was concerned might happen at Catterick, but didn't.  If that makes any sense.  Anyway, no harm done and we'll bounce back.

As regards The Simple Truth, he's very much Roy's younger brother.  Probably the main reason why Roy didn't win until he was five was that he was so headstrong as a young horse, and this little horse is currently too headstrong for his own good, on the racecourse anyway if not at home.  He showed plenty of speed (far more speed than you would expect) but was too keen and inevitably weakened at the end.  We'll go back to Yarmouth on Wednesday, seven days later, and I hope, with the freshness out of him, he will be less headstrong and consequently able to run better.  We'll see.  He's come out of the race well, anyway, and is in good shape.  We'll have a runner the next day too, at Pontefract when Dereham will have his first race of 2020 and the third of his career.

Those two trips (possibly plus Newmarket on Friday with Kryptos, although he may well end up going to Thirsk the following week instead) should add up to an easier assignment than my recent schedule, which saw me on the road five days out of six.  Bath Friday with Roy, and that was a tiring outing as it was a late race at an evening meeting on the other side of the country; nowhere Saturday; Lingfield Sunday with Hidden Pearl; up to Scotland and back Monday and Tuesday, taking a horse up to near Aberdeen which was a wonderful trip as I love driving through beautiful countryside, which means anything north of Newcastle, but a 1,000-mile round trip is a 1,000-mile round trip; and then Yarmouth Wednesday with The Simple Truth.  So it's good to have been at home for a few days since then.

There has been plenty going on for us to observe.  I was very pleased last weekend to hear Maureen Haggas in an interview on RTV expressing her disapproval of the permissive approach which the stewards take towards interference in races, an approach which has encouraged the current generation of jockeys to be far less concerned than they ought to be with the safety of their human and equine rivals.  I'm very much with her on this one, and I was pleased to see that Kevin Blake wrote a blog which showed that he's on the same wavelength.  It's a big subject, but I'll restrict myself to saying that racing in this country would be a lot less unsatisfactory if failing to prevent interference, or allowing interference to happen, was an offence, as it is overseas.

I think that I mentioned what a good thing it was in general that jockeys are currently restricted to riding at only one meeting per day, and I've been pleased to read that this view is widely held, including by most jockeys - which is what one would expect as the total income for jockeys in general will be the same, but their total expenditure will be considerably less.  Let's hope that this instruction may remain.  One thing that we don't want to remain, however, is a situation where the first prize for a listed race can be less than £10,000, as was the case with the Bet365 Rosebowl Stakes at Newbury yesterday.  (Thank God the race had a sponsor - think how little it might have been worth without one!).

Racecourses are clearly struggling at present.  Pat Masterton's excellent interview with Luke Harvey on Sky Sports Racing revealed that normally 48% of Newton Abbot's income comes from gate receipts plus food and beverage sales (good use of the word 'beverage', which for no reason always amuses me); while I think that I read that York gains 80% of its income from these sources plus hiring its facilities for non-racing uses on non-racing days.  These income streams have completed dried up at present.  Under the circumstances, I do think that it is time to revisit the subject of the disparity of the percentage of betting turnover which comes back to the sport in Britain and the percentage which comes back to the sport in the other major racing nations.

I know that in general the press will do its utmost to oppose any change in the status quo, their argument being that it is unrealistic to expect the punter to subsidise the hobby of racehorse owners.  However, I'd counter that line of thinking by saying that I don't think that it's unrealistic to state that providing prize money represents a bit more than merely subsidising a hobby; it sustains the sport and the employment which that sport generates, and that goes way beyond merely helping a few people to enjoy a cut-price hobby.  Furthermore, using the figures provided by Jed Shields and Jon Hughes in the Racing Post this week and in an essay which can be reached via a link on the home-page of, I'm not totally sure that contributing towards a system which sees owners receiving on average 8p per £1 spent on the Flat and 6p per pound spent under National Hunt rules actually qualifies as subsidising.

On the subject of owners, surely we are getting near to an improvement on the current very limited scope for enjoying the day on the racecourse when one's horse is running?  Addressing this issue is arguably as pressing as addressing the prize money situation.  And if we can have 5,000 people at Goodwood on Stewards' Cup Day, it doesn't seem unrealistic to think that it could be permissible for a few hundred owners to be on the same parts of the racecourse as their horse, trainer and jockey (subject, of course, to the health checks which are currently in operation) and for rudimentary catering facilities to be on offer.  Catering outlets are open all around the country, so having one on a racecourse shouldn't be unfeasible.  Horse, owner, trainer, jockey and stable staff are all one team, and I'm not convinced that classifying owners as separate from the rest of the team is necessary.