No complaints about the BHA’s equine flu action
The BHA is no stranger to coming under fire, and a few salvos have come from this direction. But, with the outbreak of equine flu and the decision to suspend racing, these scribblings are in full support.
It was a case for the BHA of being caught between a rock and a hard place but the course of action was the right one. When vaccinated horses were found to be infected by the strain of influenza there was little choice but to impose the lockdown until the extent of the situation became clear.
As a result, we lost six days racing, a shutdown which could easily have been caused by severe winter weather. But there was a “weather warning” in the shape of advice from the BHA in January to give horses a flu vaccination booster. Maybe it should have been a stipulation, but nevertheless a warning was issued.
Those who heeded it have their horses running more or less to their intended schedule. Their owners being well-served. Those who decided against taking precautions must now weigh up the consequences.
It’s not good enough to say that had they been forced to give their horses the booster they would have done so. They are the ones who got it wrong.
Everyone abhors the violence which broke out at Haydock on Saturday involving around 25 people on the lawns in front of the stands with a terrified mother and child caught up in the middle.
Whatever triggered the violence, it was caused by drink and drugs, as it was in the summer at Ascot and Goodwood. As it has been on other occasions at other racecourses.
The subsequent condemnation for a violent outbreak, clearly caught on smartphone cameras, was swift. As it has been about previous incidents.
A spokesman for Haydock said: “We are extremely disappointed by the incident, which is completely out of character with a jumps fixture in February.
“Our security teams were on hand to bring this under control and eject those involved, and we had ample security to do so.
“We involved the police who we are continuing to work with on this matter and those involved will be banned from Haydock Park and all other venues in our group.”
Whilst there may have been a sufficient security presence to quickly end the violence and eject those involved, it didn’t prevent it from happening.
During the course of the afternoon, was anyone turned away from a bar? Were any patrols in place with sniffer dogs to seek out drugs?
The presence of dogs at Sandown Park, part of the same group as Haydock, seems to have disappeared but word still comes this way about queues in the men’s toilets due to drug-taking.
And there’s that mention of the violence being “out of character” for a jumps matting. Does that mean it is not out of character in the summer on the Flat?
Haydock has worked hard in recent years to win back racegoers but this will have hurt them and does nothing for their reputation, with one racing journalist describing the track’s racegoers to me as “the least discerning” he encounters.
Of course there are Haydock patrons who love their racing and are as knowledgeable as any in the country, but their numbers may well dwindle after Saturday’s incident, thinking twice about their safety and of those who go racing with them.
Racing attendance was down overall across the country last year, with such reasons given by the Racecourse Association as the impact of the weather and rival sporting attractions.
Reports of the violence at Ascot and Goodwood will have also been a factor and the required action is to manage the serving of alcohol with robust refusal to those who have had too much.
It will reduce their anti-social behaviour, send out a message and reassure other racegoers that their safety and enjoyment is being prioritised. It will have its cost on overheads and bar takings but it would be a wise investment.
Irish racing’s TV folly
Disgruntlement is beginning to be voiced more loudly and more often about how Irish racing is being covered on Racing TV. And, on Saturday, when RTV were blessed with riches, the folly of awarding the contract to the premium-priced service became clear.
A beginner’s chase of some merit wasn’t shown until half way through the race, the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase was subject to split-screen coverage and RTV did not to show the mares’ bumper at Gowran Park.
A Racecourse Media Group spokesperson said: “As it turned out, we showed the finishes from 39 of the 40 races across the five fixtures, with the unfortunate exception of the final race from Gowran Park.
“We usually adopt a common-sense approach to when there are clashes, but at one point we had four races in 15 minutes, which is far from ideal.
“Racing TV members can access a racecourse-dedicated feed via Racing TV Extra, available on the website and apps, when the schedule becomes congested like this, but we accept that not everyone has access.”
That’s all well and good, but Irish subscribers pay a monthly fee of €31 and deserve better. What’s more, they pay to see all of a race, not just the finish.
Whilst RTV got it wrong in what they did or did not cover, the situation is not entirely of their making. They were fully entitled to bid to show Irish racing.
The folly was SIS, managing the negotiation process, awarding RTV the contract without a requirement that there was sufficient capacity to show Irish racing in its entirety on TV as well as online.
It’s too late now as the deal has been done but perhaps RTV could show willing by delivering Irish racing on a dedicated channel. Otherwise the folly of the present situation could be resolved when the contract comes up for renewal by the rights going elsewhere.
Ripon’s Winter Dash card based eight-runner race run on social media whilst racing was in lockdown reminded me of an old family boardgame I used to play fifty-odd years ago called Minoru, named after the 1909 Derby winner owned by King Edward VII.
Five horses raced down a track, moving towards the winning line depending on the turn of a card. You could bet en each race and the horses had longer or shorter odds depending on how many squares they needed to complete in order to reach the winning line – longer priced horses had to move more times to win than shorter priced horses.
Some years later I was involved in a charity event and decided to recreate a version of Minoru to help raise funds. So badly did I calculate the odds that I was paying out on almost every race and had to dig deep into the ‘bank’ in order to ensure the charity benefited.