Is the timing right to spend £900,000?
Look away now if you are a fan of sectional timing.
This week the Levy Board said it would contribute £900,000 towards the operating costs of all British racecourses having live sectional timing and tracking data by the end of 2021.
Apart from the belief that such data would help to attract new audiences to the sport and help bookmakers develop more compelling betting products, the Levy Board said the technology would “provide key data-based evidence for industry priorities, including equine welfare, integrity and regulation.”
The Levy Board should certainly be funding equine welfare, integrity and regulation. Apart from contributing to prize money, that is its raison-d’etre.
But, at a time when the financial pressures on the sport are building at an alarming rate, not least with a surprise shortfall of £17m in Levy Board income, is earmarking £900,000 towards sectional timing the right priority?
There will be owners and trainers, particularly of lower grade horses, who watch £900,000 heading towards sectional timing, of which not everyone sees the merits, and think, if only that were going into prize money.
I think they have a point.
♦ One aspect of data which will be beneficial is the news that five of the biggest bookmaking operators are to share data with the Levy Board race-by-race betting data for retail and online so that a better understanding can be reached on the types of races which punters find most attractive.
Whip penalties should hurt
We’ve had another chapter in the debate surrounding penalties for misuse of the whip.
As a guest columnist in the Racing Post, trainer Charlie Fellows said that his first Royal Ascot winner, Thanks Be, should have been disqualified because of jockey Hayley Turner’s misuse of the whip, for which she received a £1,600 fine and nine-day ban.
Fellow trainers, Sir Mark Prescott and Donald McCain, joined the call for horses to be disqualified when the whip use is used above the permitted level. The tenet of their argument is that if you break the rules, you forfeit the race.
That’s fine if it weren’t for the fact that people have placed bets on the horses, and bookmakers have warned that punters could be turned off horse race betting if results are overturned on the basis of whip misuse.
And, if there has been misuse of the whip, how long would it take before an enquiry is announced and then establishes a horse should be disqualified? Meanwhile, the betting market is in limbo.
Maybe the answer is not to disqualify the horse in terms of finishing first past the post, so that bookmakers pay out on winning bets, but withhold the prize-money if a breach of the rules has taken place subsequent to an enquiry.
It could be that pain felt by others, and not just the jockey, might result in a more cautious approach to using the whip, especially if there are jockeys who fall foul of the rules more than others.
Punters would still be able to collect on the “winner” and the withheld prize money could be redistributed to those horses which were placed behind that of a jockey who broke the rules.