Stop asking stupid questions
Mike Deasy’s thoughts on affordability tests by bookmakers and their stupid questions, the drive behind National Racehorse Week, and getting the fans back on track
If reports are correct, racing appears to have dodged a bullet with news that affordability checks as a possible feature of gambling reforms have been rejected.
It seems that people took on board, not least the Treasury, that the proposal would result in significant financial damage to the sport.
It’s highly frustrating then that more and more punters have complained about being asked “intrusive” questions when depositing money into their bookmaker accounts or withdrawing profits. The latter even leading to someone being asked how they were going to spend their winnings.
Number crunchers (no disrespect to our trends tipster of that nom de plume) are adopting corporate policies that are alienating serious racing punters who, if they can get on, face the tedium and irritation of being asked stupid questions.
They are the type of customers who will walk and bookmakers can then concentrate on the leisure punters who are better for the bottom line.
But if you alienate the major players you weaken not just the betting industry but also racing itself
The Bettors Forum are making what noise they can, but the BHA which often says how everyone in racing is pulling together should make it clear to bookmakers and exchanges that their policies are of no help to the sport.
Racehorse Week springing into life
Hats off to trainer Richard Phillips for his splendid idea of National Racehorse Week, a new initiative to celebrate the thoroughbreds who power our sport, which will be staged for the first time this Autumn; running from 12 to 19 September.
Trainers across the country will be encouraged and supported to open their doors to the public to shine a light on the high levels of care given to racehorses each and every day.
The week-long event will be bookended by the existing ARC Malton Open Day and the Henry Cecil Open Weekend in Newmarket, and the Epsom and Middleham Open Days.
During the week there will also be a programme of virtual events and a showcase of other parts of the industry and their contributions to the care that racehorses receive throughout their lives. The education charity Racing to School across its beneficiary schools, colleges and Pony Clubs, will have some activity days planned at training yards for groups of young people.
Racing Together will also be engaging the wider community in its education of the racehorse and the work and care that surrounds the racehorse.
National Racehorse Week was born out of an idea in 2019 by trainer Richard Phillips, to create a single event that the entire racing industry could get behind to celebrate the animals who power our sport and provide entertainment for millions. Whilst also providing the public and policymakers with insight into the dedicated care that they receive.
Since then, National Racehorse Week has gathered momentum and support from across the racing industry and is being funded by the Racing Foundation, The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust and Great British Racing.
Great British Racing in partnership with the National Trainers Federation will be putting on various activities as part of National Racehorse Week as part of the Horse Welfare Board Equine Welfare Strategy.
Richard Phillips, who has been doing the racing media rounds (pictured), said, “I am delighted to see the idea of National Racehorse Week spring into life. It truly is a fantastic opportunity for our wonderful owners, staff, trainers and jockeys to come together for a common love of the racehorse and a chance to show the public and policy makers that racing has absolutely nothing to hide. Racing has a great story to tell, so let’s get it out there and tell it.”
Phillips’ sentiment is backed by trainer Rebecca Menzies based near Sedgefield, she said, “I am so proud of the dedication and care that my team take in looking after and preparing our horses every single day of the year.”
“Being able to show the public what goes on behind the scenes is a fantastic idea and I am very much looking forward to welcoming them and showing everyone our wonderful horses alongside the first-class facilities we have put in place to ensure their optimum care.”
Full credit to Phillips for the idea and getting people and organisations to support it so enthusiastically. As he says, he’s delighted to see it “spring into life”.
It’s in contrast to another worthy initiative which is only showing signs of flickering into life – the Qipco Racing Hall of Fame.
You wouldn’t argue with the panel’s first two choices to launch the Hall, representing equine and human racing stars – Frankel and Lester Piggott.
Unfortunately, Frankel is unable to express how honoured he is to receive the accolade, and Lester resides in Switzerland so media appearances are not that straightforward.
If you want to get the Hall of Fame up and running then you need to honour someone who can appear in front of the cameras. Willie Carson springs to mind.
He’s worthy of the accolade and, judging by his interview on ITV on Saturday, he continues to be loquacious and, importantly, has recognisability beyond racing fans.
If those behind the Hall of Fame could show the same levels of energy as Richard Phillips and, whilst not compromising its credibility, elected inductees who can publicly accept their award, the Hall of Fame might also spring into life.
Tickets at almost all prices
My first day back at the racecourse will be on Tuesday when I head to Brighton and their inconvenient first race time of 12.30. I know, you wait for six months to be back on course and you start with a complaint.
What’s surprised me is that after Monday’s welcome back day, which has seen the four English fixtures sell out, it is pretty easy to get tickets to al all fixtures for the next fortnight – even Goodwood provided you want to buy into one of hospitality packages.
There are track owners who are worried people won’t return to live racing – perhaps the courses should be doing a bit more to remind people that they are back in business.