16th March 2016
Yesterday we saw a Champion Hurdle that will surely go down in history. Only the fourth mare ever to win the race; a track record; a fourth Champion Hurdle in the last six years for trainer Willie Mullins; comparisons with the mighty Dawn Run and talks of an attempt at emulating that mare in the Gold Cup; and an emotional Ruby Walsh dedicating the win to ‘little Annie’, daughter of the Mullins team’s vet Tim Brennan, who is battling cancer.
What a story. A media man’s dream. Jam packed full of ‘narrative’ – the buzz word that gets the marketing team at Great British Racing so excited.
So, where would you expect to find the story in racing’s trade paper? Front page? When we had a dedicated trade paper it would have been but the Racing Post put it on page 22. Is anyone on the editorial staff at that newspaper even interested in racing? They clearly don’t believe that their readership is.
It is a major problem in racing today. At many times in my life there were two dedicated racing papers. First the Sporting Life and the Sporting Chronicle (I remember the thrill in my very early years of being allowed to stay up until after midnight some Fridays to go with my dad on the drive from East Kilbride into Glasgow to get his Saturday Sporting Chronicle) and then the Life and the Racing Post.
I was a columnist on the Sporting Life from 1994 until it closed and, to be honest, saw it as the bookmakers’ paper while the Post was the racing industry paper. The Life was designed to be dismantled and pinned to bookmakers’ walls while the Post was a normal paper.
I longed to write for the Racing Post and got that opportunity when the Life closed but, from that day on, the Racing Post started to go downhill. I’m not sure if it was down to the ownership – initially it was Mirror Group, owners of the Sporting Life – or if it was driven by the editorial staff but it has been a steady decline to the paper that we have today.
When questioned on this issue, Rod Street of Great British Racing says that it doesn’t matter, that the days of the printed media are over, and that social media (Facebook and Twitter) is what matters now.
I don’t agree with him. The Racing Post may have a small circulation when compared with the mainstream press but they are still perceived by many as being the racing industry’s trade paper and their lack of interest in the sport and those that take part must be harmful. Their occasional open hostility certainly is.