The Ebor at York – a proper racing festival
York’s Ebor Festival can’t come quickly enough me. It’s not just that it’s the return of top class racing after two weeks or so of less than scintillating action, but it also includes excellent midweek action at an unrivalled venue for Flat racing.
It makes the five days of Glorious Goodwood look lightweight in comparison.
Whilst we have some good memories of Goodwood 2018, such as Lightening Spear finally prevailing in a Group 1, Stradivarius on course for a stayers’ £1m bonus, and Battaash demonstrating his blistering speed, the West Sussex track didn’t command the standard of runners that will help convince the Pattern Committee into upgrading its “black type” races.
And it still has too much padding.
Crowd numbers were down too. Saturday was the usual sell-out and consequently I think we can say goodbye to it hosting the Group 1 Nassau Stakes if there’s no commercial incentive to return the race to the final day.
However, only Friday saw an increase, a modest 73 on prior year. Tuesday through to Thursday saw attendance drops of varying degrees, despite the staging of Group 1 contests.
General Manager Alex Eade said numbers were “around two or three per cent lower than last year” and seemed pleased with that. And, curiously, he blamed last year’s bad weather for the biggest drop this year, on the Wednesday. That, and the fixture was a week later this year.
Any suggestion the reason could be that Goodwood overcharges was not mentioned but it was interesting to read in the Racing Post Alastair Down’s comment that going to Goodwood left him with “an uneasy feeling that my pocket is ever so politely picked”.
Looking ahead, Goodwood must hope that negotiations with the Qatar government body, the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC), will mean their generous sponsorship of the meeting continues. They are half-way through a 10-year deal and there have been rumours that a break clause could be invoked.
To help steady the ship, there was an interview on ITV with Sheikh Joaan, a public face of the sponsors and a man who is keen for the support to continue. However, he stated he wasn’t part of the decision-making process, which was down to QREC, and it didn’t do a great deal to quell concerns that the benefactors could pull the plug.
Shergar Cup was a missed opportunity
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the Shergar Cup, but whilst there are fixtures on the same day, including Newmarket and Haydock, of ‘conventional’ racing, the one-off team event at Ascot has its place in the racing calendar.
And this year the outcome came down to the wire to make it an exciting event, well told by ITV Racing – who screened all six races and four more from the two other tracks.
Having attended the Shergar Cup on a number of occasions, watching it on TV was time well spent, not least because of the interviews with top international jockeys who we rarely see on these shores. That’s something you miss on-course.
It’s a shame that Ascot antagonised ITV with their upcoming deal with Sky Racing – a decision which resulted in the Shergar Cup being shown on ITV4 rather than the main channel, as had originally been intended.
Two weeks earlier, Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes pulled in an audience on ITV of 940,000. Sad then, for the sport, that a much lower number would have seen the Girls Team secure the team prize and Hayley Turner win the individual prize by a single point in the final race.
The Shergar Cup is probably the most successful afternoon’s racing to turn those who watch TV racing occasionally into more regular viewers.
The switch to ITV4 was a lost opportunity and Ascot brought it upon themselves.
You can’t be a nearly guilty
Whilst administering a prohibited substance to a horse on the day of a race has no excuses and deserves severe punishment, it is a sad state of affairs in which trainer Rebecca Batisman has found herself.
Her father Robin, the former licence holder, was guilty of administering a substance containing cobalt. He has been banned for five years.
His daughter was found guilty of running the horse which carried the illegal substance and for failing to exercise proper controls over the stable’s medical cabinet. She was fined £5,000.
A charge against her that she administered a prohibited substance was contested and she was found not guilty.
She was, however, told that she “came within a whisker” of being found guilty.
It is a term which I find unsatisfactory.
If there was insufficient evidence to prove the case against her, then she is innocent. You can’t have evidence which takes you “within a whisker” of being guilty – it either proves the wrongdoing or it doesn’t.
The disciplinary panel weighed up the evidence and came to their conclusion. If they felt it necessary to pass a comment as well as a verdict, then perhaps “the benefit of the doubt” is more appropriate. But even then, I’m not sure it merits saying.
Meanwhile, there was rightful criticism of the Batismans for breaking the rules of racing and they are paying the price.