2 Results Found For: March 2016

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.

6th March 2016

The main thrust of Julian Muscat’s Wednesday Column this week in the Racing Post was blown away by the announcement the next day that the Government have at last moved to replace the Levy with a Racing Right but his views on issues like bookmakers contributions, media rights payments to racecourses, and Approved Betting Partners are nonetheless relevant and are a breath of fresh air in a paper which is now almost exclusively aimed at promoting the interests of the betting industry.

I did not agree with his comparisons between Greyhound welfare and Retraining of Racehorses as they involve two very different animals and very different welfare issues but horseracing should indeed take serious note of the state of greyhound racing as a sport in Britain despite what it earns for bookmakers (Julian Muscat puts bookmakers profits from greyhound racing as in excess of £200 million per annum).

He also hits the nail on the head when pointing out that, while levy receipts have halved in the last ten years, media rights payments to racecourses have advanced from £30m in 2006 to £173m in 2014. He says that this makes the ‘lukeworm response from racing’s large independent tracks to British racing’s authorized betting partner initiative so much harder to fathom’. I’d go a lot further and say that their ‘I’m alright, Jack’ attitude is appalling and those large, racehorse-owning, sponsors who are pouring money into those tracks should make sure to wear some very thick gloves because these racetracks have demonstrated their repeated willingness to bite the hands that feed them.

In a separate piece, Julian talks of the recently published Horses In Training book and points out that the strings listed by some (probably most) trainers are inaccurate to say the least. Clearly, like me, he is interested in this type of statistic but I was surprised by his stating that ‘if you really want to know the score, all you have to do is look up any trainer’s number of individual runners last season on the Racing Post website’. And the headline writers had the temerity to top this piece with the statement ‘How long’s a trainer’s string? Try our site’.

It isn’t as easy as that and this piece made me wonder how many people at the Racing Post have any real interest in racing’s facts and figures and how many use their own website. For a start, if you want to access the statistics section of the Racing Post website, you have to be a paid-up member but you could go to each trainer individually, using the search facility or by clicking on the name in a racecard or on another free page. However, you will then find that the website does not give any clear figures on individual numbers of runners or winners. To obtain this you would need to go to the list of individual horses run and count them, counting those that have won separately if you want to know the ratio of winners to runners, or buy the paper. Unfortunately, if you want to know about flat trainers’ strings, you will need to buy the paper in summer time as they only publish it for the Flat Trainer’s Championship and that, as we know, spans parts of two calendar years.

They used to publish a pull-out summary at the end of the year which gave you these figures but, in their wisdom, they decided not to publish it at the end of 2015 and instead gave us one in November at the end of the ‘championship’.

Much of this mess is down to our friends at ‘Great British Racing’ who, at times, seem to know a lot about social media and very little about horseracing. They are intent on giving us championships that start and end on arbitrary days which only fit with some weird and wonderful ‘narrative’ that they themselves have conjured up. We now get four different flat trainers tables in the statistics section of the Racing Post website but none of them give us the figures on individual winners or runners as claimed in Julian Muscat’s column.

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