Keep calm about the Derby, and carry on
It’s been 25 years since the Derby was last run on a Wednesday and those who believe that a midweek spot is best for the race have raised their voices this week, especially as the Blue Riband is seemingly up against it this Saturday with four other high-profile events taking place.
They are, in time order, the Cricket World Cup with New Zealand playing Sri Lanka at 10.00 followed by Afghanistan v Australia at 1.00 (Sky Sports); Exeter v Saracens in rugby union’s Premiership Final (ko 3.00, BT Sport); Champions League Final with Spurs playing Chelsea at 8.00 (BT Sport); and world heavyweight boxing that sees Anthony Joshua take on Andy Ruiz JR, effectively on Sunday morning (Sky Box Office).
There are various ways the health of the race can be measured against these rival attractions.
First, how many people watch the Derby on ITV. That’s likely to be impacted by a forecast hot summer’s day rather than anything else, but whatever the figures, it’s likely to beat everything bar the evening’s football.
Attendance will take a knock but, at the time of writing, tickets for the rugby final at Twickenham are still being pushed, with £65 tickets on offer to Premiership rugby club members for £20.
Betting turnover is another benchmark, and if we get a decent sized Derby field, it should hold its own. It may even be boosted by those betting on the football, and the bookmakers have a part to play here in cross-promoting the two events.
So, would a Wednesday Derby fare better? Answer, no.
The stands might attract the same numbers as a Saturday, although the willingness and ease at which people can take a day off work is vastly different to 25 years ago. The downs will not attract the same number of spectators.
A weekday TV audience will not match the Saturday afternoon figures.
Those who advocate the Wednesday return are entitled to their view and, after 25 years, it is no bad thing to question when the Derby should be held. But, as someone who has been to the Derby for the last 46 years, there were signs more than 25 years ago that it was losing its appeal in terms of numbers turning up.
And there is no validity in comparing the TV audiences when four terrestrial channels dominated the airwaves back in 1994 when Willie Carson won on Erhaab.
Had it stayed on a Wednesday, the slippage would have continued and probably accelerated. Saturday is the only day, and the sport should celebrate it, not look over its shoulder at other events with an inferiority complex.
A comma error
Times columnist Matthew Parris mentioned recently that these days what he types goes virtually straight into the paper and online. To test if anyone is checking his copy, he drops in the odd italic comma to see if it gets picked up.
A rogue comma wasn’t the only error that slipped through the checking process in the Times report this week of the Irish 1,000 Guineas by racing editor Ron Wright. This is the item’s opening paragraph:
“Hermosa, who landed the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket this month, easily followed up in the Tattersalls-sponsored Irish equivalent at the Curragh yesterday.”
One error is pretty much obvious, the other less so. There shouldn’t be a comma in the name of the Newmarket classic, although the Irish Guineas do include commas in their titles.
♦The old saying of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones is fully appreciated in these scribblings, not least when Harry Angel was once referred to here as Hairy Angel!
Caps off to Flo
It’s a long time since the Andy Capp Handicap featured in the Racing Calendar, but it’s good to see the Mirror’s Hartlepool hero, along with Flo and Chalkie, are still racing fans.
Acknowledgement to the Daily Mirror
Let’s see the horses
It used to be common practise for horses to go past the stands on route to the start. Along with watching the horses in the parade ring, it was a valuable way of judging their fitness and how they handled the going. That is now a rarity.
What must not now follow is horses only briefly appearing in the parade ring, as was the case with some of the races on Brigadier Gerard evening at Sandown last week.
The BHA should ensure that everyone is able to view the horses before a race, whether they be paddock judges or occasional racegoers who are given the opportunity to get close to the sport’s participants.
It was also common practise for the PA to provide the findings of stewards’ enquiries and interviews. It was good, therefore, to hear that Fontwell racegoers were recently kept informed of the stewards’ notices.
It did, however, remind me of a regular post-race announcement which went something like: “The stewards questioned trainer X about the improved running of horse Y. The trainer said that he couldn’t explain the reason for the horse’s improvement and the stewards accepted his answer.”
Come clean about the numbers
Irish Guineas weekend heralded the official opening of the redeveloped Curragh. A positive report of the new facilities has been published elsewhere on The Racing Hub and, by-and-large, feedback elsewhere has been favourable, with acknowledgement that facilities for owners and trainers were not ideal, an issue which is being addressed.
It’s a shame therefore that the Curragh declined to provided daily attendance figures for the three days of the meeting and, instead, said the combined numbers were 15,000.
Everyone wishes the Curragh well and it’s management would help such goodwill if it was open about its numbers rather than giving the impression it has something to hide.
Post brings back the tips
These scribblings noted that the Racing Post had recently dropped its tips from the regional training centres, except for a daily nap from the Newmarket and North correspondents.
It’s good to see that there are now more than just daily naps, and that Lambourn selections have been reinstated.