2 Results Found For: February 2019

28th February 2019

What an extraordinary day. I attended the National Trainers Federation AGM in London and it very soon became apparent that trainers in the room and those, along with many owners, communicating through social media from around the country were extremely dissatisfied with the suggestion that a deal had been struck to allow ARC to shift prize-money from better class races into the lowest grades to ‘unlock’ Levy Board funding for the low grade races and enable them to increase prize-money in  those races while still reducing their own contribution by £3 million.

The entry process for races to be run on 6th March was ongoing as the meeting started (entries close at noon) and I was astounded to receive messages from the BHA  announcing increases in prize-money for races to be run at ARC tracks on 6th March and an extended entry deadline to 1pm as Lingfield races, in particular, weren’t attracting enough entries. But trainers weren’t buying this move to ‘rob Peter and pay Paul’ and stood steadfastly behind the principle that ARC must reinstate their own contributions rather than simply creaming money off different races.

After the new entry deadline at 1pm, in another totally unprecedented move, the BHA reopened four of the races at Lingfield until tomorrow. Under the new transparent entry system for flat races there have been no re-opened races through the winter period – the rules don’t allow for it – but it seems that, today, someone at the BHA was rewriting the rules and moving the goalposts as the saga unfolded.

It is going to be extremely interesting to see what happens next. I have never known trainers so angered over prize-money. Clearly ARC and other racecourses have come to think that, with owners and trainers accepting derisory returns for so long, they could simply do as they pleased and horses would turn up regardless to allow their businesses to operate.  They may have to think again.

Whatever happens, this the second major shot over ARC’s bows in a week and others had better take note too. Feelings were running high over the BHA’s part in proceedings and there was little doubt that what some had thought was an ROA and NTF party line was not going to be supported by owners and trainers.

And, in the midst of all this, Norman Gundill of Pontefract announced that they intend to cut prize-money. Not a clever move. Whats’s more, in an attempt to stress that the reduction is ‘provisional’, he said “If the projected reduction in media rights income does not materialise, we expect to reinstate some, but not all, of the reductions.” Eh? So he is admitting that it isn’t really about FOBTs at all. They have just seen an opportunity to pay less and thought they would take it. I’d think again, Norman.

14th February 2019

It is many years – I have lost count of how many – since I was a Racing Post columnist and was encouraged to toe the ‘party’ line. I can’t even remember how long our tumultuous relationship lasted but, of course, it was doomed to failure from the start – I was never good at toeing anyone’s line but my own. I can’t deny that.

The divorce was not an amicable one and we have often exchanged blows since. I have not seen them as supporters of horse racing and I have felt that the situation has been getting progressively worse as editorial staff and writers have steadily been replaced with a new breed who, in my eyes, have no real understanding of the sport other than from a punter’s perspective.

However, I have now found myself moved to congratulate a Racing Post columnist twice in little over a week for his objective observations on the sport and, in particular, his views on horse health and welfare. Who is this Richard Forristal and where did he come from? As far as I can determine, from the oracles Google and Wikipedia, he was neither born in a stable nor raised on the hunting field but he appears to be an independent thinker with the interests of the sport of horseracing and the participants, the horses and the thoroughbred breed, truly at heart. He is not following the populist line and this, dare I say, is a breath of fresh air in the Racing Post.

His column today on the BHA’s handling of the flu outbreak doesn’t pull any punches and was a joy to read. I particularly admired his willingness to suggest that we have been given an Australian solution to a European problem and to question whether this was appropriate. The same could be said of many issues in British racing in recent years but nobody, until now, has queried this in anything other than hushed tones.

Perhaps some credit should also be given to the Racing Post’s new editor, Tom Kerr. Has he let Richard Forristal of the leash? I have been as critical of him as any Racing Post writer in recent years and branded him as naive for his views on the whip but there is nothing wrong with being naive. It is vastly preferable to being ignorant and unwilling to learn. Maybe he can restore my faith in the Racing Post as a friend rather than an enemy of racing after all. Giving more column inches to Richard Forristal would be a great start.

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