Saturday, January 30, 2016


It was good to read the comments after the last chapter, thank you: good points well made by both Jason and David.  What was also good was to see affirmation today that the glorious uncertainty of racing is such that, no matter how hard a small group might like to corner the market of success, Flat or jumps, it just isn't possible - in just the same way that Leicester have been reminding us of the same thing in the Premier League all season.

Flat racing changed 30-odd years ago when a small group of investors decided that they would invest so heavily in so many of the best horses, and that money was no object, that it would become very hard for anyone else to get a look in.  Of course, it has proved that the relatively ordinary owner still can occasionally strike gold on the Flat, but the main beneficiary at the time of what was seen as a step away from the sporting spirit of the game was National Hunt racing: plenty of people who might previously have been relatively major owners on the Flat (eg David Johnson, who owned a Group One winner on the Flat in 1986 - Mister Majestic, winner of the Middle Park - but soon made the transition to the jumps) decided that National Hunt racing offered an environment where it would be less unfeasible to make an impression, now that the top table on the Flat was seeming to become again as closed a shop as it had been in the 19th century.

Over the last decade or so, a similar thing seems to have happened in National Hunt racing, and it is now much harder for anyone who isn't in a position to throw totally unrealistic amounts of money at it to make any sort of impression in the higher tiers other than on a one-off fluke basis.  My own disillusionment with National Hunt racing started when Sleeping Car, who had previously been maybe the most expensive French import into British jumps racing after showing top-class form at Auteuil, won the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in 2005, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by the leading "amateur" in Ireland.  The only way that this win could have been more in contravention to the spirit of the race  and the sport would have been if Ruby Walsh had ridden him - and even then it would have been only very slightly more so.  That was the day when I began to think that the winning seemed to have become more important than the spirit in which people took part, even among people who didn't need to sail close to the wind to stay afloat.

Anyway, even to a cynic like me today's racing was wonderful.  Just going back to my last chapter, it's probably worth pointing out that there has, of course, always been an amount of trade in proven and semi-proven horses.  Smad Place - a horse who exemplifies everything that is best about National Hunt racing, as do his connections - had shown four indifferent pieces of form in the French provinces in 2010 before arriving in Britain.  Six years later he is delighting us all, and it's a pleasure to see that.  Thistlecrack, too, is a horse in whose success it is easy to rejoice, and ditto Barters Hill.  So that's all good - and thus I don't think that we need be losing too much sleep over any monopolies on the top table.

I'm actually more worried at present about a potential monopoly (mine) on the bottom table, as we haven't had a winner since Blue Sea Of Ibrox won at Pontefract in early October.  We've had quite a few runners since then so we must be nearing the Cold List (I think that one normally has to have around 25 consecutive losers to get on that) so it would be good to have a winner before too long.  God willing, Indira should run on Monday, Koreen (seen in the previous paragraph on the Severals with Hannah earlier this month) on Tuesday and Zarosa (seen in this paragraph with Hannah yesterday leading White Valiant and Jana up Long Hill) on Thursday, so that'll give us three chances.  I'd hope that all three would run well, and if one of the three could salute the judge, then that would be lovely.  We live in hope!


neil kearns said...

good luck for the week runners

just read the last two posts and comments all of which I agree with seems to me that we now have two separate entities which I will call the racing industry and horse RACING - the latter being testing ones skill as buyer , trainer , owner or jockey against those who are doing the same . the former the win at all costs must turn a profit mindset prevalent throughout the land currently . Whilst that may be acceptable (i don't think it is but I have always been out of step with my peers) I always balanced the pressures of working in such an environment with relief from hobbies such as horse RACING now that is rapidly disappearing (godolphin runners at Southwell is getting to be the last straw) the jumps was the salvation but I agree entirely that the way money is now dominating that sphere as well Point to Point probably becomes the last salvation until one considers examples as quoted by John re the National Hunt chase .
My only solution is the reverse of Mr Mullins is one I have put up before if we equalise the price money so every race has the same prize money pre entry fees and sponsorship gained for the race this would mean that it would be financially viable for an owner to keep a horse in training without needing masses of money and the incentive for the very rich to buy winners would diminsh otherwise we will end up with a very poor sport indeed

neil kearns said...

having thought through the racing issue on a long and soggy walk with the dogs i have a solution fairly revolutionary but worth a glance
virtually all agree prize money levels preclude the smaller owners , trainers and less popular jockeys from doing much other than struggle through
it therefore suggests to me that one meeting per week on the flat and one over jumps should be restricted to horses trained by trainers who had less than (number is for debate purposes) 20 winners in the previous season ridden by jockeys who had ridden less than 20 winners in the previous season (apprentices included but with restrictions on the allowance the more experiences ones could claim )and owned by owners with less than twenty horses in training no exceptions allowed to any of the rules and to avoid manipulation by owners members of the same family would be accumulated for this figure

the meeting would be fully funded at current level -ie just pick one already allocated meeting per week - and would switch geographically between north and south so if this weeks flat meeting is in the north next weeks is in the south the jumps meeting to be the other geographic way around (draw a line across the country at some point probably just south of wolverhampton)

on another prize money issue how about whenever the number of runners is less than eight 10% of the price fund is deducted per runner under this total so a six runner field deducts a fifth from the total prize fund the balance goes into a pot and is added the following season to the lower grade races - this would please one of the stakeholders the bookies , please the punters but distress the horsemen - but as someone once said you cant please all of the people all of the time

Unknown said...

I applaud your ideas regarding trying to jazz up the lower strata of the racing game, but the real culprit is the lack of imagination by those framing the races.....endless handicaps
0-55, 0-60, 0-70. Not enough conditions races...not enough imagination.

neil kearns said...

one comment about today's Sandown card (6 feb) the number of runners for the money on offer is pathetic we are smack in the middle of the jumps season and the horses are not there - what the **** is going on ? yes the ground is poor but we are in february this is the sort of the card where the money should be stripped out and handed to other tracks (and dont even ask about the Lingfield sprint !!)