Racing deserved better than this sloppy journalism
Mike Deasy on sloppy journalism at The Guardian, Chelmsford one stop away from being a proper racecourse, good reasons for trainers to reject prizemoney offer, and more
“Cheltenham’s Covid controversy rears its head again as crowds return”
So said a headline above a piece by Greg Wood in The Guardian before Cheltenham staged its October Showcase meeting.
I was at Cheltenham last month for the return of crowds, 19 months after the 2019 Festival when the pandemic took hold, and Covid did enter my thoughts.
Not because I felt at risk by being in a large crowd, but because I was concerned that the return of racegoers to jump racing’s HQ would generate cheap journalism from hacks looking to fill column inches by regurgitating unsubstantiated links between the crowds at the 2019 Festival and the early spread of Covid.
What I didn’t reckon with was a respected racing correspondent raising the question in 2021 without quoting any experts expressing concern about an average of 14,000 spectators descending on Prestbury Park over the two days, potentially spreading the disease.
Indeed, I’d been amongst larger racecourse crowds over the summer at Ascot, Doncaster, Goodwood and York. While, at London Irish rugby’s home matches, I’d been in much closer proximity to fellow spectators, to which you can add numerous journeys on London’s Underground.
Many larger crowds have attended other sporting events over the summer and autumn months. None seemed to have been mentioned by respective sports correspondents as posing a threat to those in attendance.
Wood quoted a number of Cheltenham racegoers, all of whom were happy to be back at Prestbury Park, but none expressing any major anxiety about returning to the Gloucestershire track.
He also speculated that attendance at the November meeting might require a Covid passport. It hasn’t.
This was sloppy journalism. It’s hard to know what came first. The despatch from Cheltenham or the headline.
Whatever it was, the sport and The Guardian’s readers deserved better.
Chelmsford racecourse is making good progress towards staging racing on it’s new turf track.
With the running rails and the furlong markers in place, there’s a target of next summer for the action to take place on grass as well as the all-weather surface.
All that remains is for the construction of a grandstand on the opposite side of the home straight so that racegoers can view all the action around the Essex venue.
Then Chelmsford can become a proper racecourse.
Why did trainers rebuff Arc’s prize-money offer?
There’s been quite a lot of disgruntlement this past month when an offer from Arena Racing for more prizemoney was turned down by the National Trainers Federation and the Professional Jockeys Association.
Arena were critical of their generosity being spurned and the Racehorse Owners Association are unhappy that, as things stand, their members will not be able to avail themselves of the largesse shown by the racecourse-owning company.
The cross-party racing group in Westminster also questioned the wisdom of turning down the prizemoney offer.
So why did the trainers’ organisation, and the Professional Jockeys Association, walk away from the offer?
The simple answer is that the increase in prizemoney was on condition that a number of all-weather fixtures at Arc tracks would be increased to nine races.
The wisdom of that stipulation was rebuffed by the trainers. Their argument was that the widely held view of there being too much racing would be further exasperated by adding more races to a day’s card.
Arc would benefit from the added races through media rights payments. So, to make it possible, they needed to dangle a carrot in front of the sport’s stakeholders in the shape of increased prizemoney.
The Racehorse Owners Association, it seems, would be happy to accept the offer. The trainers appear to be more aware of the long-term implications.
The cautious reaction of the trainers looks to be the wiser response, especially with mounting concerns about small fields.
Who is doing the damage?
Flutter Entertainment, owners of Betfair, Paddy Power and Sky Bet, recently disappointed shareholders with a 5% cut in its earnings forecast due, in part, to punter-friendly results which resulted in a £60m hit.
What I’d like to know is: who is managing to get on to inflict the damage?
Making a book
About four years or so ago I placed an advance order with Racing Post books for Victor Chandler’s authorised biography.
The months went by and the scheduled publication date was delayed. There followed an announcement that the Racing Post would no longer be publishing the book.
Then, after a couple of year’s silence, the book resurfaced. This time the publisher is Reach Books, the publishing arm of the media group which owns the Mirror, Star, Peoole and Express newspapers.
What that means is prominent advertising across the Reach portfolio of tabloids. Sales can only benefit from such promotional exposure.
Whether it’s any good will be left to the in The Racing Hub’s upcoming Chrsitmas books feature, which will reflect a rich year for racing titles.
♦Your link to The Racing Hub’s guide to this year’s Jump annuals http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-7zx