Twice Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once said that "a canter is a cure for every evil." Winston Churchill said "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." This week George Osborne said… Um… Well, he didn’t say anything about horses actually.
But, hidden deep in the small print of the typed manuscript of his autumn statement was the following vital line, "The Government will consult on the introduction of a racing right in early 2015 and will announce a decision after consultation." The (non-verbal) comment made the headlines in just one newspaper: The Racing Post. The other national dailies curiously decided to ignore the story and instead focused their attention on other trivial matters such as the budget deficit and stamp duty cuts.
The introduction of a racing right, if successful, will allow horseracing to authorise all betting activity on the sport in return for a financial contribution from the betting operators. The system will replace the existing Horserace Betting Levy - which was instituted in 1961 for a betting industry which consisted of bricks and mortar in British high-streets. Having reached the digital era, the levy now contains more holes than an old fishing net, allowing betting companies to trade from various jurisdictions and in a variety of ways without contributing to the sport. The racing right should create a level playing field for betting operators and a more constructive relationship between the racing and betting industries.
By fixing the leakage, the sport will be better placed to fund prize money – the oil in the engine of racing, without which the constituent parts seize up and cease working together. Those readers familiar with the politics of horseracing will know the truth of this analogy – the sport consists of factions who, for good self-interested reasons, all have a view on prize funds. The racing right will help to reward racehorse owners and will therefore benefit trainers, Thoroughbred breeders, vets, farriers, feed suppliers and everyone who works in the equestrian supply chain. It will help to create jobs, particularly in rural areas.
Much of the money will flow through the racecourses. While it is unlikely to directly benefit the profitability of tracks, the racing right should improve the health of our industry – making the action more competitive and the spectacle exciting. It will help to develop and nurture young-stock. It will help Britain to compete on the world-stage, hang on to the best horses and attract competition from foreign shores. It will help us to spin better yarns - to add to the rich heritage of racing folklore that already exists.
Talking of folklore (in the sense that George Osborne was ‘talking’ about horseracing on Wednesday), Wishfull Thinking has three entries this weekend but seems most likely to run in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday. His stable-mate, Menorah, is preferred in the ante-post betting for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day but requires good ground. If Wishfull Thinking can win the Peterborough Chase on soft ground, his chances of finally getting to run in the race (which I have ‘wishfully thought’ to be his destiny to win) will improve dramatically. He can be backed at 100/1 or more for the King George on the exchanges.
This week’s selection is Third Intention, an under-rated challenger for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday. From 14 starts over fences he’s been placed 12 times as well as registering a fifth and a sixth at the last two Cheltenham Festivals. At odds of around 20/1, he makes solid each way appeal.