The Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
Your weekly round-up of top racing stories in a nutshell, plus upcoming fixtures
Racing and racecourses
The 2019 Irish horse racing and breeding industry statistics have been released by Horse Racing Ireland and confirm an increase in people attending race meetings in Ireland and continued growth in racehorse ownership.
The number of horses returned in training in Ireland – a key driver of employment – rose for the third time in four years, with a 3% increase in 2019.
New owner registrations were up by nearly 7% year-on-year with over 850 new racehorse registered owners registered, of which 600 were sole owners and partners, with 216 new syndicates.
Demand for Irish horses was strong with sales and exports increasing in both value and volume terms.
Commercial race sponsorship and contributions to prizemoney by racecourses continued to rise strongly, growing by another 17.3% in 2019.
Over 1.3 million people attended race meetings in 2019, up over 3%, and on course betting increased by 4.5% year-on-year.
Perhaps the most significant figure for 2019 however was the fact that, following a series of changes in betting tax arrangements, off course betting duty receipts collected by the government in 2019 amounted to €95m. These receipts, which have grown from €26m in 2014, comfortably exceeded the Exchequer funding provided for horse racing of €67.2m.
Plans for City Racing to stage an inaugural event in Liverpool in April have been shelved, and the backers of racing on an artificial surface in city streets must now await a meeting of the BHA to see if the concept is approved after trials in Newmarket last year.
It would seem unlikely that such an event would take place in Britain this year.
Whilst Brian Hughes has said that the jump jockeys’ champions is not a forgone conclusion following Richard Johnson sustaining a broken arm, Johnson has said that his chances of retaining the title are all but over.
Johnson is now expecting to be back race riding in four to five weeks which means he’ll be at the Cheltenham Festival and he says that is where his priority is, with a targeted return to the saddle on 3 March.
Hughes meanwhile had gone nine winners in front of Johnson after a double at Kelso, and his immediate threat is the weather resulting in abandoned meetings.
Henrietta Knight splashed out £370,000 on bumper winner Keskonrisk at Goffs UK January Sales on behalf of a mystery buyer.
During the bidding she was competing against bloodstock agent Tom Malone, who threw in the towel but was quickly replaced by Matt Coleman of Stroud Coleman Bloodstock, who seemed to have the upper hand with a bid of £360,000 but, after a giving it some considerable thought, Knight topped Coleman with a further £10,000 and secured the purchase.
It still remains a mystery as for whom Knight was bidding and it follows a winning bid last month of £450,000 for the Camas Park Stud consigned Gallyhill when, again, she saw off significant interest to secure the lot for an anonymous buyer.
John Balding has decided the to leave the trainers’ ranks, saying it is no longer viable to keep going. Balding, 74, has his stables near Doncaster and has turned out some 250 winners since he started in 1987.
Delta Work, Kemboy and Presenting Percy are set to do battle in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Delta Work, trained by Gordon Elliott, snatched the Savills Chase over the course and distance last month with the Willie Mullin trained Kemboy, on his seasonal reappearance, in fourth, one place ahead of Presenting Percy.
Mullins also has last year’s winner Bellshill in the race together with Cadmium.
Also lined up is Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John, who took the Irish Gold Cup, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup in 2017. She also has Jett as a potential contender.
Henry de Bromhead’s Troytown Chase winner Chris’s Dream, Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly and Warren Greatrex’s mare La Bague Au Roi also stand their ground for the Grade 1 race.
Envoi Allen has been taken out of the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, which still features Honeysuckle, Klassical Dream, Sharjah and Supasundae.
Instead, Envoi Allen continues to have entries in both Saturday’s Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Grade 1 2m6f novice hurdle and the 2m Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
Bangkok, winner of the Classic Trial at Sandown in April, tops the bill for Lingfield’s Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes on Saturday. The Andrew Balding colt was runner-up in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot behind Japan, the Strensall Stakes at York and the Qatar Derby last month.
Kachy will run his penultimate race of his career when he lines up for the Betway Cleves Stakes at Lingfield on Saturday.
Trained by Tom Dascombe, the seven-year-old broke the 6f course record in this race last year before going on spread-eagle the sprint championship field on All-Weather Championship day on Good Friday.
All being well, his final race will be the sprint championship again in April.
Two significant Irish raiders could contest Sandown’s Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on Saturday.
Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies was the notable winner of his first two races over fences, including the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse. In his third outing he was beaten by Notebook at Christmas.
The five-year-old also has a couple of entries at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend.
The Willie Mullins trained Laurina could also cross the Irish Sea for a return to Sandown where she has won over hurdles.
Those who might represent the home team are Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet; Nicky Henderson has Champagne Platinum, Precious Cargo and Pym; while Paul Nicholls has Grand Sancy; and Midnight Shadow could run for Sue Smith.
Noel Kelly has confirmed Decor Irlandais will contest the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in preference to the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Betting and bookmakers
On-course bookmakers have reacted angrily to “disproportionate” fines after seven racecourse bookmakers were found to be accepting bets from an under-age ‘test purchaser’ at Royal Ascot last year.
A 16-year-old, under supervision, was able to place a £5 bet with seven of 17 targeted bookmakers.
The tests were conducted by the Gambling Commission, together with officers from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Trading Standards, who said they were unable to comment until the cases were completed. The appeal process has not yet run its course.
The bookmakers, who are as yet unnamed, have been told they have to pay a fine of 2.5% of their annual gross gambling yield – the sum kept after paying out winnings but before other costs are incurred. In one case the fine is over £7,000.
The penalties are felt to be excessive compared to those imposed on major online and high street bookmakers.
The Tote’s new website is due to launch next month and is currently undergoing final tests. It will replace the totesport site, and will no longer offer fixed-odds betting.
Media and marketing
BoyleSports is extending its sponsorship of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse for another four years.
Ireland’s richest contest, which has taken place at Fairyhouse since 1870, and is run over 3m5f and includes 24 fences, has been supported by the independent bookmaker since 2014.
The 2020 renewal of the €500,000 BoyleSports Irish Grand National which also marks the 150th anniversary of the race, is the centrepiece of the three-day Easter Festival at the County Meath track.
This year, the Easter Festival runs from Saturday 11 April to Monday 13 April and the BoyleSports Irish Grand National is at 5pm on Easter Monday.
Paddy Power are the new sponsors of the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The race was previously backed by the now defunct Sun Bets and more recently by Sun Racing,
A new sponsor for the Mares’ Hurdle, which was supported by OLBG, has still to be announced.
Upcoming British fixtures
Subject to change. ITV/ITV4
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