22nd December 2022
I am long past being surprised by anything that Matt Chapman says but I cannot believe that no action is taken against him by the BHA when he blatantly brings racing into disrepute. Today on Sky Sports Racing before the 1.20pm race at Lingfield, in which we were running Muir Wood and Demilion, he suggested that it is normal practice for horses to be prevented from running up to their best on their third start in order to obtain a favourable handicap rating. “Charlie and Mark Johnston aren’t stupid”, he said, “They know how the system works”. Afterwards he expressed surprise that the horses had finished second and third, he speculated that they could be rated in the 80s, and he said of me and Charlie, “maybe they don’t care”. He is basically suggesting that Charlie and I and the jockeys riding for us should break the rules and cheat in order to obtain a lower handicap mark, unless we are stupid.
Sadly it is a widely held view that this is how ‘the system’ works and, with people in the media like Matt Chapman perpetuating this view, it is little wonder that so many people think racing is fixed and crooked. Unfortunately, it is likely that this view is shared by many officials and regulators and it has troubled me since I entered this industry that the regulators operate a handicap system and write rules which they themselves believe can reward cheating and then spend huge amounts of money policing the system and trying to catch the cheats – money which would be far better spent on prizes for those that are trying to win.
It is, frankly, sad that nobody has taken steps to alter the system if they are so convinced that cheating is endemic and inevitable.
Perhaps Matt Chapman should consider, before he accuses me of naivety or stupidity, that I have trained more winners than any other British trainer and, although I don’t know for sure, I think it is almost certain that I have trained more handicap winners than any other British trainer. I have built my business on the fact that the system does not work as Matt Chapman suggests. Horses get themselves beaten all too often without us helping them to do so.