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
Trainer Martyn Meade has cut his links with Phoenix Thoroughbreds, the organisation set up by Amer Abdulaziz Salman, who was alleged to be involved in money-laundering and whose “regulated thoroughbred fund” never operated and had been put into voluntary liquidation.
Meade trained Phoenix Thoroughbreds top horse Advertise, winner of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, the Prix Maurice de Gheest and the Phoenix Stakes.
Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers (pictured) has attacked the BHA who confirmed that 23-year-old jockey Robbie Downey would have to serve a six-month ban for a positive cocaine test given out by French officials at France-Galop, despite Downey insisting he has never taken cocaine and was unable to follow the original proceedings, as he does not speak French.
Struthers accused the BHA of a last-ditch betrayal, which is vigorously denied. “This is a really dark day for the BHA,” said Struthers, speaking after a panel confirmed the ban would apply.
Struthers, together with the solicitor Rory Mac Neice, made an application on Downey’s behalf, requesting the BHA not to reciprocate the French ban handed down by in October. It was their understanding that BHA was likely to remain neutral and might even support the application. But, after taking advice from a barrister, the BHA had decided to oppose it.
During a three-hour hearing, Louis Weston for the BHA argued there had been no breach of natural justice in relation to Downey’s original hearing in France and that his application must fail. Downey’s only assistance in France had come from the jockey’s agent Herve Naggar, who agreed to make some representations on the rider’s behalf. However, Weston said that Downey had had the opportunity to hire a French solicitor and a translator.
Jockey Shelley Birkett suffered a dislocated shoulder during a race at Southwell on Sunday, having sustained a similar injury to the same shoulder two years ago at Yarmouth.
She was riding 16/1 shot Sea Shack when the dislocation occurred two furlongs from home in a seven-furlong race. The horse, trained by Birkett’s mother Julia Feilden, managed fourth place and might have finished higher up the order were it not for the injury.
Jump trainer Colin Tizzard has been sent a horse by the Cheveley Park Stud, his first for the operation which is more famous for its runners on the Flat. The horse is a five-year-old unbeaten point-to-pointer and she is one of over 20 jump horses that Cheveley Stud owners David and Patricia Thompson have in training, the majority of which are in Ireland, including Envoi Allen.
The connections of the Willie Mullin’s trained Un De Sceaux are relishing the upcoming clash with Defi Du Seuil in the Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
“He’s got that ability to tear the heart of a horse – especially when the ground is desperate,” said Colm O’Connell, son of owner Edward O’Connell. It’s a small field, but you don’t need many to make a great race – we’ve seen that plenty of times.
“If Ascot gets the rain that is forecast, though, I can’t see why you’d want to take on Un De Sceaux – he has destroyed horses on soft and heavy.
“It looks like we’ve got a rematch with Defi Du Seuil – and we’re really looking forward to it, because it is at a racecourse he likes, and there wasn’t much in it at Sandown. We were coming back at the line, and this is almost a furlong and a half further.”
Last year’s 50/1 winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, which was followed up by a Grade 1 win at Punchestown, Minella Indo is on set to have his second race over fences at Navan on Saturday.
“Minella Indo will hopefully go to Navan on Saturday for a three-mile beginners chase,” said trainer Henry De Bromhead. “I’ve been delighted with him since his run in Gowran.”
He was runner-up to the Willie Mullins trained Laurina on his chasing debut over two and a half miles.
An injury requiring surgery has ruled out Waiting Patiently, who was scheduled to run in Ascot’s Grade 1 Clarence House Chase, for the season. The Ruth Jefferson trained nine-year-old had just been entered for the Cheltenham Festival when it became apparent that he’d broken a small fragment of bone which needs to be removed.
Cloudy Dream, the runner-up to Altior in the 2017 Arkle, will not race this season. The 10-year-old trained by Donald McCain, hasn’t raced since October 2018 when he was third to Frodon in the Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree, when he picked up a suspensory injury. He is expected to recover fully, but time has beaten him for a return to racing this season.
Betting and bookmakers
Betting by credit cards will be banned on 14 April the Gambling Commission announced. The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries.
William Hill issued a trading statement which forecast profits of £143m-£148m, which would exceed analysts’ 2019 expectations.
The increase in full-year adjusted operating profit was spearheaded by good sporting results at the end of 2019.
The retail estate, which had seen the closure or nearly 700 betting shops, generated profits of over £70m.
Also performing above expectations was the gaming division after the acquisition of the Mr Green online casino a year ago.
Strong growth in the US meant that the company would break even in the expanding betting market rather than make an evisaged loss of around £20m.
The backers of online bookmaker Black Type, which was set up in 2016 with the aim of catering for high-spending VIP customers, are winding down the business, with the brand being maintained by its platform provider FSB.
The Gambling Commission has examined the high proportion of problem gamblers among the VIP customer market segment, who receive special offers, bonuses and hospitality. As a result, the Commission is likely to introduce strict controls which could impact on similar business models to Black Type.
William Hill have sold 35 betting shops, 33 of which are based in Northern Ireland and two in the Isle of Man, to BoyleSports.
BoyleSports now have 298 shops across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and are known to want to expand in Great Britain.
Media and marketing
William Hill have pulled the plug on their sponsorship of the Ayr Gold Cup, one of the biggest betting contests of the season, a race they have backed since 2009. They have also ended support of the Silver and Bronze Cups as well as the Group 3 Firth of Clyde Stakes and Listed Doonside Cup.
It is also thought possible that they could drop their St Leger sponsorship at Doncaster, a track owned by Arc with whom Hills recently agreed a new streaming deal.
Paddy Power are taking over sponsorship of the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month in a one-year deal. The race went unsponsored last year.
Subject to change. ITV/ITV4
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