Food for thought for bookmakers
Mike Deasy on food for thought for bookmakers
I like food. Thinking about it. Cooking it. Eating it. And, especially, eating it in restaurants. I also like reading about eating in restaurants.
But, with lockdown, eating out is not a possibility. However, with a touch of masochism, it is still possible to read about eating out, albeit it has tested the ingenuity of some restaurant critics on how to fill their columns when they too cannot book a table.
It’s much the same for racing correspondents – there is little to feed on.
Some restaurant writers, such as the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler, who told us south London residents of the delights on offer north of the Thames, have disappeared.
Others have, like a souffle, risen to the occasion. Some are learning online from top chefs on how to cook, with mixed results, whilst others are owning up to the limited contents of their food cupboards or resisting the urge to critique what their partners are preparing for them.
One of my favourite writers is Jay Rayner in The Observer. He’s become a bit nostalgic, with a recent piece on restaurants who have survived and succeeded by sticking to what they know. London’s oldest restaurant, Rules (pictured), older say than the 2000 Guineas and one of my favourites, being a case in point.
Apart from their speciality of traditional British fayre, game in particular, they will serve you a pint of Guinness in a pewter tankard.
In his latest piece, Rayner looks back at the original fast-food chains, before MacDonald’s arrived on the scene, spearheaded by Wimpy and the Golden Egg.
He then moves on to the current chains populating the high street and the challenges they’ve faced, which includes digressing from a successful formula.
And he writes about what can cause the food outlets to go off – moneymen and “the tensions between making money and making food.” He quoted his Radio Four colleague Nisha Katona, who set up a restaurant in Liverpool serving her take on Indian home cooking. She now has 10 branches.
Initially, she resisted overtures from investors; people, she says, who don’t understand food: “Too many chains are run by accountants.”
And an analogy was beginning to form in my mind.
As mention was made of cutting corners, tight margins, over expansion and being caught out by external factors, the comparison with bookmakers became obvious.
Unsustainable offers and concessions, refusing to take bets and generating bad reviews on what was on offer has led to contraction and closure.
As with restaurants, the moneymen didn’t understand bookmaking, and got greedy.
The last print issue of the Racing Post, before it was forced into disappearing from newsagents, was on 26 March. “See you soon” was the optimistic headline.
Skip a day, and the Post was back, albeit in a shortened form and only online, but it was the Post. So, for £2.80 a pop, it is still possible to get news of when racing might be back, how it might return and what is being lost in the meantime.
There has also been much help and advice for those in the racing industry and the issues they face due to the lockdown, and there are usual thoughtful pieces from the likes of Bill Barber, Richard Forristal and Lee Mottershead.
And, there is the benefit of editor Tom Kerr, whose column has been much missed since he was put it charge, adding his thoughts.
Calling them home
Meanwhile, the Post’s website has been digging into the archives and, just this week, there was a piece on commentator Simon Holt, on duty at Plumpton.
During the afternoon at the Sussex course, Holt met up with a would-be commentator, 16-year-old Kyle Merrick. That was three years ago. Now, Merrick (pictured) has begun calling them home at point-to-points.
Oh, and he’s also a contributor to The Racing Hub.
Good form guides
If racing does return next month, which today’s Racing Post reports as a 2/5 chance, it will be time to put into use the horses to follow lists, including those here on the Racing Hub from Doug Campbell and Gary Sears (http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-1vU).
There are also the annual books from the Racing Post, Timeform and the Racing and Football Outlook.
They are sticking to their usual recipes. The Post’s guide is divided into three courses – trainers, experts and 100 key horses. There are also stats for those who want them.
Timeform has a similar menu, but concentrates on its 50 horses to follow.
The Outlook guide is more rustic in presentation and the house speciality is stats. But isn’t it about time its racecourse map of York reflects that it is now a round course?
Stay safe, sorry about the puns. Bon appetit.