Bolger still not naming names
Mike Deasy on Jim Bolger still not naming names, ITV’s boost for the Breeders’ Cup, racing’s second-class citizens, BoyleSports enter the race for Hills, and more
There is no questioning Jim Bolger’s ability as a trainer, having already won over €1m in prize money this year. What is open to question is how he has gone about making claims that racehorses are being given banned substances and he knows who’s doing it.
What is also open to question is his repeated refusal to name names. That has irked the likes of fellow trainer Jessica Harrington who believes racing suffers when such accusations are made without substantiation. “Where is this all coming from?” she asked on RTE over the weekend.
It’s certainly unhelpful for a sport, which receives funding from the Irish state, to be subject to bad publicity generated by one its most respected participants. And, it is hard to know how long the claims can be made without resolving the question of just who is involved or is it conjecture.
Perhaps Bolger has made his inside information known to the authorities and has yet to see any public acknowledgement of the situation and resultant action from the regulators. He first raised the issue in October.
Next week Bolger could have had the opportunity to expand on his claims at a parliamentary agricultural committee hearing to which he and representatives of governing body Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Federation were invited.
Such hearings do not pull punches and Bolger would have felt the pressure over his assertions. However, he has declined the invitation, saying that having taken legal advice he is not in a position to appear before the committee.
Whatever the outcome might have been in the Irish parliament, the ongoing scenario concerning the use of performance enhancing substance is damaging the sport of racing in Ireland.
Questions continue to go unanswered, much to the frustration of some of those in racing where there’s a feeling of put up or shut up.
Sandown hold their biggest Flat meeting of the year with the upcoming Coral-Eclipse which, sadly, has missed out on a full house due to the delay to Covid “freedom day”.
What’s the betting that the Surrey track makes life difficult again for the waiting staff who provide the compulsory at-seat service for food and drink by changing the table numbers around, which they’ve done at every meeting so far since 4,000 racegoers have been able to attend.
Once they’ve got the hang of the online ordering, racegoers can then watch their order head in the opposite direction from there they are sitting.
ITV’s Breeders’ Cup boost
Two pieces of good news in the past week for racing on TV. In Ireland, TG4, the Irish-language broadcaster, will show Friday and Saturday’s action at the Galway Festival, adding to the usual Monday to Thursday coverage. Whilst Galway may be able to host a crowd of 5,000, giving the meeting further TV exposure on the free-to-air channel is most welcome.
Also on free-to-view television this year will be the Breeders’ Cup. Normally the two days are seen in Britain on Sky Sports Racing, taking much of the coverage from American network NBC.
But the contract has expired and this year is a one-off when the rights are not only available to Sky, but also ITV and RacingTV.
There is always considerable interest in the Breeders Cup in Britain, but the lack of exposure on free-to-view television limits its full potential.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if ITV Racing want to make a bid for exclusive British rights. Perhaps too, NBC might have a fight on its hands to show the meeting in the US. If it loses, will that dampen its enthusiasm for the sport including its rights to show Royal Ascot?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’m lost for words” – jockey Ben Robinson after the Jim Goldie-trained Nicholas T won thr Northumberland Plate at 33/1
Treated like second-class citizens
Stable staff should not have to share accommodation when they are staying overnight at racecourses. The fact they do so, most recently for Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate meeting, some experiencing disgusting conditions, demonstrates that poorly paid travelling staff are still treated as second-class citizens.
There might have been extenuating circumstances at Newcastle due to the large number of runners at the north-east track with many arriving the day before racing, but it is simply not good enough that a racecourse forces people into situations which most of us would not tolerate.
A service level agreement has to be put in place, and quickly. There are many examples of industries struggling with labour shortages and racing has long had problems in this area. We can do without racecourses making the situation worse.
Something good on Twitter
One of the most welcome Tweets this week was from RaceTech to say that its two cameramen, who fell 30 feet from a cherry-picker hoist onto the roof of a broadcasting truck at Hamilton, are expected to make a full recovery. And let no one say that racing should not have been abandoned.
BoyleSports enter the race for Hills
BoyleSports have made it known that they are planning a bid for William Hill’s UK operation when the bookmaker’s new US owners sell off assets outside of the States.
The Irish bookmaker has long wanted a retail presence in Britain but they could well face a bidding battle with Betfred’s owners, the Done brothers, who built up a sizeable stake in Hills.
But my money is still on a purchase by a capital investment company with an eye of increasing the value of the business, even if it is going to face tougher regulations.