Some weeks I sit down to write this blog and wonder whether I've got anything interesting to say. I know... after all this time, you're probably wondering too.
This week, however, the racing universe has gone into
overdrive and I'm struggling to choose from a rich vein of news stories. There’s the
conclusion of the 2014/15 jumps season, the conclusion of Tony McCoy’s riding
career, the conclusions being drawn by shareholders of our major betting
operators and the conclusions reported by the BHA at their recent strategy
For this week's selection I’m temped to put
forward Vosne Romanee (again), in the first race on the final card of the
official jumps season - which takes place at Sandown on Saturday. A winner at
Cartmel, back in August last year, he’ll enjoy the sunshine on his back.
I can't ignore our old friend, Sgt Reckless. Ridden over hurdles twelve
months ago by someone called AP McCoy, he was placed at the Aintree and Punchestown
Festivals behind the likes of Josses Hill and Faugheen. He’s obviously talented
but has been frustrating (Sgt Reckless – not Tony
McCoy) and clearly needs fast ground.
McCoy might be frustrating too – I guess it depends which side of the fence you
sit on. His retirement will herald the
end of a steady drum-beat of winners which has resonated through the sport for
the last twenty years. To think – there is a whole generation of people, old enough to place a bet, who have
never known another champion jockey.
William Hill lost £14 million in one week earlier this year, following a run of
unfavourable results (again, the word “unfavourable” probably depends which
side of the fence you were on). Finding winners will be so much more difficult
now that Tony McCoy is retiring – instilling renewed hope for shareholders in the betting sector that they may soon get a return on their investment.
shareholders aren’t the only ones seeking a return from bookmakers. The future
introduction of the Racing Right should ensure that off-shore betting
operators, accepting bets by phone and digital apps, pay an appropriate amount
to the sport.
At the moment, bookmakers with a high-street presence pay
proportionately more (too much even) for their betting shop activities while underpaying for
their growing digital enterprises. Some companies, with purely digital operations, are
getting an entirely free ride - the system has to change.
week the BHA outlined their strategy for the sport and, while this inevitably
included talk of the Racing Right, Nick Rust (Chief Executive of the BHA) also
outlined creative ideas to achieve some ambitious targets including: a 20% increase in annual attendance, plus an additional 1,000 horses
No one ever thought a jockey could ride 2,000 winners – so if AP can ride 4,348
(all on his own), the collective efforts of the racing industry can surely achieve