The Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
Your weekly round-up of top racing stories in a nutshell
Racing and Racecourse
Royal Ascot 2020 will not be able to take place as an event open to the public. A statement from Ascot said “It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing.
“This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.” More at http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
The Guineas at Newmarket and Derby and Oaks at Epsom will not be staged on 2/3 May and 5/6 June respectively Jockey Club Racecourses have announced, due to the ongoing public health emergency.
Given the importance of the three-year-old Classic programme to the careers of that generation of horses, and the racing and bloodstock industries as a whole, JCR is now in talks with the British Horseracing Authority, participants and other key stakeholders, including the Horserace Betting Levy Board and commercial partners, to reschedule the first four Classics at later dates, once racing has resumed in Britain. More at http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
Arena Racing Company (ARC) is to donate over 50,000 free racing tickets to NHS workers with 2,400 free tickets available across each of its 16 racecourses and five greyhound racing stadia by way of thanks for the dedication and commitment of NHS workers during this time.
These tickets will be available once racing has resumed and it is deemed safe to welcome crowds back onto racecourses and greyhound stadia.
Managing Director of ARC’s Racing Division, Mark Spincer, said, “The period of uncertainty that the country is facing at the moment is unprecedented. One area of certainty, however, is that we are all hugely grateful for the amazing work that is being done across the NHS in keeping us all safe at this incredibly difficult time.”
“Once it is deemed safe for us to start racing again and welcome the public back on to our sites, we want to offer those who are currently working incredibly hard on our behalf, free tickets to come and enjoy an afternoon or evening racing as our way of saying thank you.”
“Equally, we recognise the tremendous efforts that other key workers across a wide variety of sectors and industries are currently undertaking for the benefit of us all, and we will look at ways by which we can say thank you to them also.”
The Peter O’Sullevan Lambourn Open Day, normally held on Good Friday, has been cancelled. An alternative date during the August bank holiday weekend was considered but that has been discarded due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
The silent auction raising money for charities and the Lambourn stable staff is going ahead, and bidders can access the auction online at https://www.lambournopenday.com/silent-auction/
Brian Hughes has been officially announced as champion jockey for the first time following the close of the 2019/2020 jumps season.
With 141 winners, the 34-year-old had a 19-winner lead over Richard Johnson when the season was brought to an unscheduled end on 17 March 17 by the BHA in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The season was scheduled to finish on 15 April at Sandown and a presentation will now be made when racing resumes.
Hughes told Great British Racing: “It has always been a dream of mine to become champion jockey, so to have finally achieved it is fantastic.
“It is obviously a little disappointing that we haven’t been able to see out the season as we were all looking forward to doing so and there were some big race days to look forward to, but current circumstances are out of all our hands, and racing’s no different.
Jonjo O’Neill Jnr is champion conditional with 61 winners – a tally which saw see him finish 10th overall in the main jump jockeys’ championship.
O’Neill Jnr, who was 20 winners clear of runner-up Ben Jones, said: “I feel very lucky that this year has gone so well. It’s all thanks to my main supporters, my dad and the Tizzards, who have been so good to me this season.
“I’m delighted to have won the conditional championship, it’s what I set out to do at the start of the season and there’s an illustrious roll of honour – so it’s nice to be included on it.”
Nicky Henderson won his sixth champion trainer title, with £2,533,862 in prize-money seeing him finish £192,550 ahead of 11-times winner Paul Nicholls.
Henderson sent out 118 winners, with four Cheltenham Festival winners highlighted by Champion Hurdle victor Epatante.
He said: “It’s a great pity that we haven’t been able to see the season out and it looked like the race was going down to the wire again at Sandown Park.
“But all of us know that the current situation is bigger than racing and something that everyone in the country is having to deal with and face.
“I would like to thank all of the owners that have enabled us to win this year’s trainers’ championship – it really is a testament to them and the horses that we have in our yard.
“Seven Barrows as a team are extremely proud of this title and my staff have been amazing, as they always are, and are doing everything they can to make sure all the horses are looked after during this time.
“I know that they and everyone else in the sport will be raring to go with the next season, as soon as it’s safe to start racing again.”
Epatante’s owner JP McManus took his championship division with plenty to spare, finishing £1.39 million ahead of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
McManus won seven races in total at the Festival, with Champ’s last-gasp RSA Novices’ Chase also among the highlights.
Paul and Clare Rooney have ended their ownership of jump horses to concentrate on the Flat.
In 2018 they told their trainers to no longer enter their horses at Cheltenham due to perceived safety issues, but later reversed the decision after discussions with the track’s executive.
The Rooneys’ racing manager Jason Maguire said: “It wasn’t totally out of the blue – they’ve obviously had a think about it and decided just to concentrate on Flat horses.
“They’ve had good times with jumps horses but they’ve also enjoyed good times on the Flat too, starting with My Dream Boat winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016, and they have just decided to concentrate their energies on Flat racing.”
Former Flat jockey Brian Connorton has died peacefully after a short illness on Sunday, aged 84.
Born in Newmarket in May 1935, Connorton was as an apprentice with Derby-winning Newmarket trainer Norman Bertie, and rode his first winner, a 20-1 shot, Betsie May at Great Yarmouth in September 1953.
Three years later he joined Beverley trainer Snowy Gray, for whom he rode two of his biggest winners, Lucky Brief in the 1962 Dante Stakes at York with and Cheb’s Lad, the 1967 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster .
His total haul of some 600 winners ended a year after a bad fall in 1975.
Betting and Bookmaking
The Senet Group, the UK responsible gambling body, is handing over its assets and responsibilities to the new standards body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), as part of the BGC’s commitment to drive safer gambling across the industry.
Senet was established in September 2014 by four leading high-street bookmakers to help raise and maintain safer gambling standards. The body manages the MOSES retail self-exclusion scheme and the ‘When the Fun Stops Stop’ player messaging campaigns.
Since its formation, Senet expanded its membership to include many of the leading online and land- based gambling operators, playing a key role in the industry’s adoption of voluntary practices which have made gambling safer and fairer.
In April 2019 the Senet Group began a cross-industry collaboration project to develop an ambitious programme of industry reform, reflecting continued concern about the impact of gambling on vulnerable people.
The resulting package of Safer Gambling Commitments was announced by the BGC in November 2019 with the endorsement of all BGC members. As part of their commitment to safer gambling, BGC members have already introduced a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on advertising during live sport; substantially increased funding for research, education and treatment; implemented new ID and age-verification checks; ended any exclusive rights to screen FA Cup games and will implement a ban on betting with credit cards.
Following the transfer of Senet’s responsibilities to the BGC, MOSES will continue as an independent organisation.
Commenting on the announcement, Gillian Wilmot, Senet Chairman, said:
“The collaborative ethos at the heart of the new Betting and Gaming Council now offers the opportunity to combine resources to deliver safer gambling initiatives at scale. It is vital that the industry is at the core of solutions to protect its customers. Senet’s role in bringing the industry together and leading initiatives to protect its customers and secure its own sustainable future has added significant value.”
Also commenting on the announcement, Brigid Simmonds, Chairman of the BGC, said:
“The cross-industry collaborative approach pioneered by Senet became a blueprint which made the creation of the new Betting and Gaming Council possible. I would like to thank the Senet board, headed by Gillian Wilmot, and the team led by Sarah Hanratty for their hard work, dedication and the legacy they leave through the Safer Gambling Commitments, which provide a roadmap for raising standards across our industry. We look forward to building on that work.”
The Denise Coates Foundation, set up by the chief executive of bet365, has donated £10m to the University Hospitals of North Midlands Charity to support its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
UHNM chief executive Tracy Bullock said: “We are extremely grateful to the Denise Coates Foundation for this significant grant to support our staff and patients during Covid-19 and beyond.
“As a result of Covid we have rapidly established new ways of working but in some circumstances are lacking the technology to do this in the most effective way.
“This investment will help fund schemes and provide latest technology to improve communications between clinicians; between clinicians and patients and between patients and their families.
“Covid-19 is also affecting our local communities and this significant investment will also be used for initiatives with our partners in the community, mental health and social care to support them to support us.”
NHS Charities Together are to benefit from donations of over £2.6m from bookmakers who took bets on the Virtual Grand National.
The virtual race was shown on ITV on Saturday afternoon and drew an audience of 4.8m, a 30% share of the TV audience.
People placing bets were allowed a maximum of £10 win or £10 each way on the runners and bookmakers said that they would donate the profits they made to the NHS.
GVC, owners of Coral and Ladbrokes, has halved its projected monthly losses from the coronavirus outbreak from £100m to £50m.
The company said it was confident of achieving further savings and its shares rose by a fifth following the announcement.
Whilst the absence of live sport and shop closures had “significantly” impacted its revenues from the middle of March, net gaming revenues had risen by 1% in the first quarter, with online growing by 19%. The company announced that it would not be paying a planned interim dividend.
The Tote is working in collaboration with the Hong Kong Jockey Club to offer UK customers new betting opportunities on Hong Kong racing.
Tote customers will now be able to play the Placepot on meetings from the Happy Valley and the Sha Tin racecourses every week. The Placepot covers the last six races on the racecard with races starting at lunchtime in the UK for meetings on Wednesday, usually from Happy Valley racecourse, and from 6am onwards for Sha Tin meetings at the weekend.
Alongside the Placepot, Tote customers can watch live streaming and place race-by-race single leg bets throughout the Happy Valley and Sha Tin meetings, every Sunday and Wednesday, with the Tote’s new blog providing information and tips on the form for each race. Over recent race meetings there have been multi-million-pound race by race pools for Tote customers to bet in to via tote.co.uk.
All the racing is being streamed live on a watch and bet basis on tote.co.uk. This is available to all Tote customers who do not need to place a bet to be able to enjoy the sporting action. All new customers signing up to tote.co.uk will receive a £10 risk free first bet.