Monthly Archives: May 2011

Fred might rue the day he entered the race for the Tote

In today’s Guardian, Greg Wood suggests racing is supporting Martin Broughton and siding with the SIP bid.

” . . . the final resolution of the Tote issue should be a moment to draw a line under the complaints about government double-dealing and broken promises – for all that most are fully justified – and start to build a profitable future for a betting business in which the sport has a direct financial interest.

Should, but possibly won’t, because racing rarely takes the easy course on anything. The announcement, when it arrives, will be seen instead as either a victory or a defeat for the sport, since the British Horseracing Authority has thrown its weight squarely behind the Broughton bid. Should it fail, the BHA will be cast as losers from the outset, poor judges who backed the wrong horse. Even if Broughton’s Sports Investment Partners gets the nod, the BHA will then share the blame should SIP’s ambitious plans to float the business on the Alternative Investments Market go awry.”

The real danger for racing, in my opinion, is the rather noisy elephant in the room that is The Horsemen’s Group (THG). Their CEO Alan Morcombe has already castigated racecourses for, among other things, ‘putting profit above quality racing’. Lordy me, a business man who does not care for profit. I’ve yet to read any comment from THG about the sale of the Tote, but I’d be willing to bet a large amount that a THG ‘strategy’ for gaining a foothold in the new set up is well formed.

If Fred Done wins this one, everyone who cares about racing should sigh heavily with relief. Not least because in his desperation to get it, Fred might well have promised too much.  In a straightforward deal, he’d be doing well. In one where he immediately starts handing out cash, taking on pension commitments, funding charity vehicles, making annual payments to racing and, trying to do what many before him have failed to do – restructure a poor-performer in the pools business – Fred’s fierce ambition might be his undoing.

When Fred thinks the deal is safely done, he’d best hold off on the champagne. Racing should be the party celebrating.  Instead, many will feel betrayed, short-changed and very angry. They’ll be in no mood to help Fred grow richer on the back of racing. To warn them a rebellion will lead to a volley of shots in their own feet, won’t matter; racing is well used to aiming in that direction.

Sole Power ‘likely to go back up to 117’ – BHA handicapper

British Champions SeriesIrish raider Sole Power won the first sprint race of the QIPCO British Champions Series, the betfred.com Temple Stakes at Haydock Park this afternoon, in impressive style. In doing so, he ran up to the form which landed him the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York last August at odds of 100-1.

“He looks to have bounced right back to his Nunthorpe form,” said the BHA handicapper on duty at Haydock Park this afternoon, Stuart Copeland.

“He went into today’s race on 114, having been dropped three pounds since his career high 117 in the Nunthorpe.

“Looking at Prohibit and Borderlescott (both 112) in third and fourth, Kingsgate Native looks to have run to his mark of 115, so I think Chris (Nash, the BHA’s five furlong sprint handicapper) is likely to put Sole Power back up to 117 when he considers the race.”

Winning trainer, Edward Lynam, has nominated the second race in the QIPCO British Champions Series sprint division, the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday 14 June, as the four-year-old’s next race, with a return trip to York for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday 19 August the main target later on.

“He’ll go to the posh place for the King’s Stand, but the race we want to win again is the Nunthorpe,” said Lynam.

The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is the fifth sprint in the series.  Between it and the King’s Stand, both of which are run over five furlongs like today’s race, come two of the major six furlong sprints, the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Royal Ascot, Saturday 18 June) and the Darley July Cup (Newmarket, Saturday 9 July).

The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is followed by the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock Park on Saturday 3 September before the grand finale to the QIPCO British Champions Series at Ascot on Saturday 15 October, QIPCO British Champions Day.  The £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Sprint over six furlongs is the final race in sprint category on Britain’s richest ever raceday.

The next 3 QIPCO British Champions Series races:

Investec Coronation Cup, Epsom, Friday 3 June (MIDDLE DISTANCE)

Investec Oaks, Epsom, Friday 3 June (FILLIES & MARES)

Investec Derby, Epsom, Saturday 4 June (MIDDLE DISTANCE)

………………………………………………………………………………………..

QIPCO British Champions Series races to date:

QIPCO 2000 Guineas, Newmarket, Saturday 30 April (MILE)  Frankel

QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Newmarket, Sunday 1 May (FILLIES & MARES)  Blue Bunting

Emirates Airline Yorkshire Cup, York, Friday 13 May (LONG DISTANCE)  Duncan

JLT Lockinge Stakes, Newbury, Saturday 14 May (MILE)  Canford Cliffs

betfred.com Temple Stakes, Haydock Park, Saturday 21 May (SPRINT)  Sole Power

QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SERIES

TRAINER OF THE SERIES LEADERBOARD (AFTER 5 RACES)

Wins-2nd-3rd

Richard Hannon                1 – 1 – 0

John Gosden                      1 – 0 – 1

Henry Cecil                         1 – 0 – 0

Mahmood Al Zarooni     1 – 0 – 0

Edward Lynam                   1 – 0 – 0

QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SERIES

JOCKEY OF THE SERIES LEADERBOARD (AFTER 4 RACES)

Wins-2nd-3rd

Richard Hughes                1 – 1 – 0

Tom Queally                      1 – 0 – 0

Frankie Dettori                1 – 0 – 0

William Buick                    1 – 0 – 0

Keagan Latham                 1 – 0 – 0

Both championships are decided on the number of winners ridden/trained across the 35 race series.  In the event of a tie, the number of seconds and thirds (and, if necessary, lower placings) will be taken into account.  The winners will be presented with a specially commissioned trophy on QIPCO British Champions at Ascot on Saturday 15 October and their nominated charity will receive a cheque for £25,000.

Richard Hughes says punters are being misled by incorrect going descriptions: should the guilty be punished?

The Racing Post is flagging that its most interesting guest columnist in years, top jockey Richard Hughes, will be writing tomorrow about incorrect going descriptions and the effects of those on punters.

Corruption charges against jockeys and trainers will deter some from betting on racing, in reality a tiny percentage. To many, especially betting shop punters, part of the attraction of racing is that they see it as full of villains plotting frequent ‘jobs’. That’s why they fall for ‘tips’ and ‘inside info’.

I’m pretty sure serious punters are much more concerned about the effect on their betting of inaccurate going descriptions. Timeform make a going assessment for each meeting that is independent of the ‘official going’. Their current database does not allow for immediate analysis of their descriptions versus official ones but, for example, prior to this year’s Cheltenham festival they disagreed with Cheltenham’s Festival going on day one in four of the previous five years – full article here.

Of course corruption brings racing into disrepute. Inaccurate going descriptions do the same in my opinion, but the perpetrators go unpunished.

Maguire – whip should not be banned

Jason Maguire has spoken about the whip debate, claiming his ban after the Grand National was not the catalyst for the current whip review by the BHA.

“I did not go out to hurt Ballabriggs – we’re horsemen and we love horses,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“I broke the rules and I got suspended for what I did. I accept that. It happened. But how would people have responded if I had not ridden the horse out – and got caught on the line? I would have been accused of not trying.

“There’s a lot of talk that the review has been pre-empted by my National ride. It has not. The National is just one race. We need to look at the whole sport. If you take sticks away, you will have horses refusing or pulling up before the final fence – particularly at a course like Towcester, with an uphill finish.

“Momentum is crucial to getting over an obstacle – and a jockey knows that the horse must come first. Would people be happy if there were races where no horse finished? You also need them for keeping a true course.”

Full article here

Dettori’s Newbury ‘strike’ signals the imminent death of the BHA

Frankie Dettori’s refusal to take the mount on Diamond Vision at Newbury on May 13th in a race that was ‘below tariff’ demonstrated vividly how The Horsemen’s Group has ridden roughshod over the BHA, leaving horseracing’s governing and regulatory authority, grovelling in the dust.

It’s reported that Dettori’s official ‘excuse’, was that Jim Crowley, who took his place on Diamond Vision, was entitled to ride as Crowley’s original mount was a non-runner.  The BHA now believe officials might have been misled and are looking at the case.  Be assured there will be no one quaking in his boots at The Horsemen’s Group’s head office.

The Dettori incident might seem a small and unimportant event, but the implications for racing are stark; implicit in Dettori’s excuse is the message ‘tell those buggers any old nonsense, they don’t matter anyway’.

Is there no fight in the BHA? Will they simply allow The Horsemen’s Group to interpret the law as they see fit?  Is the BHA content to be the laughing stock of sport?

How has it come to this? We have a governing body which appears to be held in contempt by those who should most respect it. The Horsemen’s Group, doubtless frustrated by what they saw as a toothless and inefficient BHA, effectively assembled an invasion force and took over racing. It appears the BHA will be permitted to stay ‘in power’ as a puppet government until such times as The Horsemen’s Group chooses to remove them completely.

That time is not far away according to Howard Wright who reported recently, “Parts of the BHA are on the brink of being carved up among horsemen and racecourses . . . responsibility for fixtures and race planning is (to be) shifted towards the newly constituted Horsemen’s Group and Racecourse Group.

Discussions on the roles the two parties will play, and their interdependent relationships, continue. On past form it would be no surprise if somewhere in the background the word ‘control’ was occupying a few minds.”

There is no reference to such a plan on The Horsemen’s Group’s website or on that of the RCA or BHA, so I don’t know what stage they’re at.  One thing I do know is that If the BHA relinquish all control over fixtures, they are finished. Fixture control is the nuclear warhead of racing. Although it’s a grey area, the BHA certainly has its finger much closer to the red button than The Horsemen’s Group does.

At the moment the BHA is responsible for ‘the allocation of fixtures’. Once that right is surrendered, the BHA might as well raise the White Flag over their High Holborn offices.

Would any other governing body in a major sport meekly give up their key commercial asset?

Perhaps someone at the BHA can tell us whether they have simply accepted they are on their way out?  Is a call to arms pointless?

Maybe the BHA believe they will retain control as regulators. Think again if you do BHA. Given the evidence so far, The Horsemen’s Group will ignore your regulations when it suits them. An organisation whose signature business tactic features threats and boycotts is unlikely to be too troubled by minor matters like regulation.

As a member of the Professional Jockeys Association, Frankie Dettori is also, effectively, a member of The Horsemen’s Group.  His mini ‘strike’ on Friday, is unlikely to lead to sanction beyond a paltry fine, if that.

On this form, do you think Dettori and his colleagues are likely to be strict observers of any new rules which might result from the current BHA whip review?

What of trainers, also members of The Horsemen’s Group? Which regulations will they choose to obey?

I have little sympathy for the BHA who, in managing by committee (30 committees/groups report to the Board) have effectively ‘committeed’ suicide.  I’d held out some hope that a new high calibre CEO might just revive them, but there’s every chance that by the time that person arrives, the ‘new’ group will have everything tightly stitched up.

A takeover of racing by a body whose key objective is maximising profit with scant regard for integrity, will sound the death knell for the sport. It might be a long echo between now and the burial, but it will come.

For those sufficiently interested in the current structure of racing, (aside from the supposed governing body, the BHA) see the flow-chart below. This was originally prepared as part of a major article on a proposed restructuring of the BHA, but that now seems a pointless exercise.

KEY

BHA – British Horseracing Authority

RCA – Racecourse Assoc

HG – The Horsemen’s Group

REL – Racing Enterprises Ltd

RFC -Racing for Change

NTF – National Trainers Federation

PJA – Professional Jockeys Assoc

NASS – National Assoc of Stable Staff

ROA – Racehorse Owners Assoc

TBA -Thoroughbred Breeders Assoc


Punter torches betting shop during racing: mitigation plea – “He’s reduced his drinking to 100 pints a week”

The Yorkshire Post reports a bit of Bookie Rage which cost the perp 5 years in prison

A disgruntled punter has been jailed for five years after starting a £100,000 blaze at a Sheffield bookmakers when a gaming machine would not pay out.

Jeffrey Bainbridge, 49, was convinced he had landed a £180 jackpot, but the machine didn’t pay up and he accused the staff of cheating him.

He then stormed off in a rage and returned from his nearby home with a can of petrol, before setting fire to the counter area as terrified staff and customers fled.

A man living in a flat above the premises in City Road had a lucky escape as the blaze took hold.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that Bainbridge, of Arbourthorne Road, had at the time reduced his drinking to 100 pints a week.

Full article here

Ed Gillespie gets Sport Industry lifetime achievement award

Edward Gillespie, Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, was last night honoured with the Jaguar Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sport Industry Awards 2011 Ceremony, the 10th anniversary of the prestigious event. 

Gillespie, who has built The Festival at Cheltenham into arguably the biggest event in the British racing calendar during a tenure spanning over three decades, received his Award from record-breaking champion jump jockey A P (Tony) McCoy and ex-jockey and racing pundit Mick Fitzgerald in front of a packed room of 1,700 industry executives and sporting celebrities. 

In accepting his Award, Edward commented: “I am honoured to be receiving this special award, particularly in a room full of so many talented people from across the Sports Industry, but I really do feel that this is recognition of the talented and industrious people with whom I’ve worked over the last 30 years at Cheltenham.  

“The sport of horseracing is one that I care passionately about and much of what has been achieved during my time at Cheltenham has been due to the brilliance of generations of horses, jockeys and trainers, who provide the magical spectacle that appeals to so many people. 

“It has been a privilege to go to work every day and to have the strong support of The Jockey Club and the wider racing industry over more than three decades in the sport. I am as enthusiastic about what we do as I have ever been and am looking forward enormously to challenges that face us in the years to come.”  

Expressing his delight at being able to present Gillespie with this prestigious Award, McCoy said: “It was an absolute honour for me to be invited to present Edward with his award. 

“He has done so much for British racing, driving Jump Racing’s most prestigious event of the season to new heights and creating a Festival with which nothing else competes. 

“For me, the entire year is always focused on Cheltenham and this is because Edward has made it as great as it is today. I am delighted to be here to share in his special moment.” 

Simon Bazalgette, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, declared: “I’m delighted for Edward and what fantastic news for Cheltenham, Jockey Club Racecourses and British racing. 

“Under Edward’s leadership, the Cheltenham Festival has grown into one of the most iconic events in British sport today. Edward plays an important role within our 14-strong group of racecourses and the industry as a whole, and has much to pass on to younger racecourse managers.” 

Previous winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sport Industry Awards have included Brendan Foster, founder of the Great North Run in 2010; McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis (2009); Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton (2008); former Sky Sports managing director Vic Wakeling (2007) and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone (2005).

Jim Gray Memorial handicap, Hamilton, Friday

Big Jim Gray, pictured left, was a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years.  Jim was a friend to most of the people he met – he didn’t care much for flash-Harrys or shirkers but he was dedicated to those who worked for and with him and fought many a corner when the ‘politically savvy’ would have tipped their hats and retired quietly.

Jim started in the betting shop business, as a nineteen-year-old working for City Tote in his home town, Glasgow. City Tote became Mecca which eventually became Hills by which time Jim had taken his considerable skills to the service of the Tote where he steadily climbed through the ranks to become Ops Director on the board of Tote Bookmakers.

Jim took early retirement at 55 to play more golf and spend time with his wife Janet, and their growing family.  Jim was never a complainer. I’d often see him reach round to massage his lower back after a golf shot. “Just a wee ache, must be swinging too hard” He’d say and shoulder his bag to head down the fairway – usually two hundred yards plus – to hit his next shot.

Those back pains turned out to be cancer. Jim was diagnosed in October 2009. He died on May 12th 2010 – a year ago today.

Jim met his wife Janet when they were teenagers and they seldom spent a day apart after that. Their children James and Theresa are very successful in their own fields.  James and his wife Catherine Anne have two children of their own, two-year-old Luke  and one-year-old James.

Tomorrow evening at Hamilton will see the first running of the Jim Gray Memorial handicap, organised by Janet and the family. The race will mark the pleasure Jim took from his lifelong love of the sport.  Janet says, “In Queenscourt Hospice, reading the racing section was about the only thing that could take Jim’s mind off things for a while.”

Jim spent many weeks in Queenscourt Hospice, Southport, and Janet has been a staunch supporter of the voluntary organisation ever since. Hamilton Park have kindly allowed Janet and a few helpers to shake some fund-raising buckets for the Hospice tomorrow night.  If you are there, seek them out and throw in a pound or two.

William Hill CEO, Ralph Topping, a former colleague of Jim’s, has very generously donated a £500 charity bet to be placed on a race at Hamilton tomorrow. My friends at Timeform have bravely accepted the challenge of putting their best team on to trying to pick a winner to deliver a huge boost to Queenscourt Hospice.  If you can’t make it to Hamilton, you can donate here. Queenscourt Hospice depends entirely on charitable donations to continue its superb work which is so welcomed by patients and their families.

The Timeform team chose Take it to the Max in the 8.00 at Hamilton and the bet is £250 EW.

Whatever happens tomorrow, Big Jim Gray would have been proud to see his name on a race in the sport he loved and worked in all his life.

Cabinet Minister, sports secretary, Jeremy Hunt now calling for changes to the Grand National

I get the feeling that a concerted and lengthy campaign is steadily building on the welfare front for racing.  I’ll be expanding on these thoughts in another article but here is the latest development;  a significant one in my opinion.

The Northern Echo reports today that  Sports Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the public had been “shocked” by the gruesome sight of the horses – Dooney’s Gate and Ornais – which broke their backs in falls, in the Grand National.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHSA) ordered a review into whether safety should be tightened up at Liverpool’s Aintree Racecourse and will publish its findings in October.

But Mr Hunt appeared to pre-empt that review, when he said: “Racing is the second most popular sport in the country after football, in terms of attendances, It’s incredibly important.

“I think that what happened at the Grand National really shocked a lot of people. Anyone would say that we need to find a better way of making sure that those kind of tragedies don’t happen.”

The comments follow calls for Mr. Hunt’s department to intervene with the BHSA and Anita, to ensure measures are taken to make the famous race less lethal.

One Labour MP compared the treatment of horses in the Grand National to that of elephants in a circus, which were forced to “prance around on their back legs.” Twenty horses have been killed since 2000.

Full article here

Will UK’s proposed enforcement of online betting tax make things even worse for our racing?

FT.com reports that despite the likelihood of UK regulation forcing offshore bookies to pay Gross Profits Tax, the whole issue is a melting pot which could boil over and scald a few.  The UK Gambling Commission reckons that the best that can be hoped for is some ‘informal consistency’ among EU countries.

“The internet is crawling with unlicensed gambling operators. According to the EU Commission there were 14,800 sites active in the EU at the last count, and over 85 per cent were unlicensed.”

If it proves difficult to enforce GPT, what chance any formal Levy income, at least for as long as that structure lasts?

Full article here.