17th March 2015

‘Racing professionals were bitterly divided yesterday over a radical shake-up to the British Flat Jockeys’ championship’, say the Racing Post this morning. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that. There is nothing ‘bitter’ about it. It looks to me like racing professionals are simply divided into those that have a vested, very personal, interest in only working in British racing during the most lucrative summer months, and those who are more concerned about the best interests of the sport in Britain as a whole. And those of us who are against it are, I would suggest, more saddened than bitter.

As for non-professionals, assuming most of those who vote in Racing Post on-line polls are racing fans rather than professionals, 75% of them are against it too.

The Professional Jockeys Association, on the other hand, supported the move, while admitting that many of their members wouldn’t agree, and their Chief Executive, Paul Struthers, said the shortened season would be less ‘attritional’ (did he invent that word?). And yet, they want the jump jockeys championship to remain on a twelve month basis. Well, that says it all, doesn’t it? Even the hardest working, half starved, flat jockey couldn’t say his job involved more attrition than that of a jump jockey. No, the simple fact is that there is nowhere more lucrative for the jump jockeys to go and so they choose to ply their trade in Britain throughout the year.

And I am further saddened to see that they have applied the same madness to the owners championship. Frankly, the owners championship is all but meaningless as it stands but I have long been calling for something to be done about that. Owners are the only group who might just be in a position to increase their investment in British racing in order to win a championship if we could make it really important to them but rather than try to make it important and use it to encourage owners to race in Britain, our marketers have put all the focus and attention on the jockeys championship and tagged the owners onto it as an afterthought. What’s more, owners can now take their best horses to race in Dubai for the winter and be back in time for all ‘championship’ races. That has to be good for racing in Dubai which, last time I looked, was doing very nicely.

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