Some good ideas for racing, and some not so good
Mike Deasy on a racing strategy that could be doomed from the start, why fireworks are not a good idea at the races, getting grumpy at the races and more
With not a hint of irony, the BHA announced last week that racing’s leaders have “pledged to work together over the coming months to set a long-term strategy and priorities for the British racing industry.”
When did the penny drop that this was good idea? Shouldn’t it be an ongoing process? What have they been doings all these years?
The good news is that it has been agreed by everybody involved, owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and racecourses, that something must be done. But some of the stakeholders will have to make seismic shifts in their priorities if progress is to be made.
We’ve already seen two of the major racecourse owners, The Jockey Club and Arena Racings, having differing views of the BHA’s intention to cull 300 races from next year’s calendar – a drop in the ocean in relation to what’s required.
Jockeys, trainers and breeders are experiencing first-hand the fact there’s too much racing and hopefully can be an effective driving force in matching the programme to the equine population.
The Racecourse Owners Association will have prize-money as their priority, eg more of it, albeit I don’t ever recall them putting forward ideas on how this can be achieved.
It’s going to be like herding cats, but I hope, as the sport lurches from one difficulty to another, sense will prevail and they do actually find common ground for the good of the sport.
I’m just not very confident that it won’t be one big compromise and the strategy fails to address the dangers on the road ahead.
An idea that should never had been set off
Whilst they were spectacular, the fireworks let off from the stands at Epsom when the horses were down at the Derby start, or in the stables, enters into the realms of “when did they think it was a good idea?”.
A loud fireworks display only a few furlongs away from relatively young thoroughbreds was no way to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee Derby.
Jockey Adam Kirby has expressed his annoyance at the display, now joined by ITV commentator Richard Hoiles who couldn’t see anything until the smoke cleared.
However, what was a good idea was renaming the Queen’s Stand as the Queen Elizabeth II Stand, but maybe they could have done it when racegoers were present and not the day before the Oaks was run.
Talking of which, you have to feel sorry for Frankie Dettori and connections after the filly Emily Upjohn stumbled after the start and was then beaten a short-head by Tuesday (pictured).
Frankie wasn’t his, er, usual ebullient self when interviewed post-race by Rishi Persad and Lydia Hislop.
♦It was good to see Epsom adding a weaker lager at the bars. They still had the falling over stuff, but at least something less potent was available. Bring it on at all tracks.
No time to split on us
There are times when split-screen coverage is unavoidable on the specialist television channels when race times overlap due to delays. But RacingTV’s call to have a split-sreen during the Derby was ludicrous.
It was not the time to stick to their policy of showing every race live. They should have bitten the bullet and concentrated on Epsom, and left Listowel to one of its separate streaming options and caught up with it later.
Not so bright
Here’s an email I’ve sent to Brighton racecourse regarding their travel arrangements. I’ll be reproducing their reply when received:
I am writing with regard to a visit to Brighton racecourse on Tuesday 31 May. I would be grateful if you would confirm my understanding that you no longer operate the complimentary shuttle bus to and from the racecourse to Brighton station.
If that is the case, would you kindly let me know why the decision was taken, as it seems to me to be at odds with trying to get people to go racing.
If it is to be the case, is there any prospect of a bus service where your customers could pay a fare? Plenty I’ve spoken to would be willing so to do especially as traveling back to the city is now somewhat chaotic.
I downloaded the app of the taxi company that is widely advertised at your racecourse and booked a return cab before the first race with a pick-up time of 5pm, more than half an hour after the last race. At 4.50 I got a 10-minute reminder, at 5.10 I was informed my driver had been assigned. At 5.30 I made alternative arrangements and deleted the app.
There are some ways in which you could help the situation. First, signage for queuing at a tax rank and, separately, for pre-booked cars would be of benefit. Second, if you’re are no longer providing the service of a shuttle bus, maybe you could put information in the racecard where local buses can be caught to return to the city.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
I’m also awaiting a response from Epsom as to why access to the winner’s enclosure on Oaks Day was denied to racegoers.
Grumpy old man
Now it’s fair to say I had a dreadful day punting at Brighton last week. Yeah, I know, it’s in the script, but my experience with the taxis would still have made me grumpy even if I had won.
But, as one bet after another went down, my mind went into negative mode and I started thinking of things that irritate me at the races. Here’s my list (so far):
- Not being able to readily watch away meetings on racecourse TVs – Newbury are serious culprits
- Views of the course blocked either by foliage (Brighton and Doncaster could invest in some tree-cutters), or advertising signs – a huge hoarding for the Derby sponsor blocked a view from the stands of the hill at Epsom
- Racecourse commentators trying to find alternatives to “they’re off”, such as “away they go” or “they’ve left the gate” (and I don’t like the term “gate” either – this is not the US)
- Leaving drinks at a table to go and watch a race only to return and find they’ve been cleared – Ascot the main culprits
- Racecards – an absolute waste of money, apart from Arena courses where they are free (see below)
- Places on the racecourse where you can’t hear the commentary
- Racecourse entrances where staff stand and do little because they only deal with pre-booked ticket collection whilst those who pay on the gate have to queue to get in
- Bar staff who need to be told you want to buy a drink – sometimes they seem surprised by the request
- The price of drinks and having to pay before you get your beverage
- Areas usually available for racegoers blocked off for special guests or those who pay premium (silly) prices on big days
- Large hats that get in the way of watching the racing – a week of that coming up soon!
- Race times such as 3.02 and 4.27
Sorry if that’s introduced you to negative thoughts and you’ve started compiling your own racing niggles, but at least I feel a bit better.
Let the Post produce racecards
These scribblings have often lamented how poor, with one or two exceptions such as York, racecards are.
At some of the big meetings, such as the Cheltenham Festival and Derby Day, the Racing Post produces a free mini-paper, supported by the Tote, which knocks spots of the official £4 (or more) official programme.
As well as the Post’s racecards with the horse-by-horse profiles and selections, there’s other content such as the Jury view, the day’s lead tipster’s picks and big race form.
It would be much better if the Post’s content is used instead of that supplied by Weatherbys. I know they have to publish a lot of official guff but surely these days that could be available online. I don’t need to know, for example, who is in charge of catering.
♦ Finally, it was all a bit hectic at Epsom to give the sage of The Racing Hub, Gary McKenzie, due credit for his Derby each-way selection – Westover at 25/1. No doubt he’ll mention it in his column on Saturday!