Cynicism, Offshore Bookmakers and The Grand National

As I write this on the morning of Friday 17th January I have to admit to having a bad taste in my mouth and I haven’t even had breakfast yet.

Today should have been a major fund raising day for armed services charities at Sandown Park, however the attempt to raise much needed funds has been seriously undermined by the decision to re-stage last Saturday's Newbury fixture today and Newbury offering free admission.

It seems Newbury and their sponsors Betfair are more interested in marketing gimmicks and making a quick buck than they are on the negative impact they will have elsewhere. Publicly officials at Sandown have maintained a dignified silence but I have hear they are absolutely fuming privately and who can blame them.

There are some who will say the restaging of the Newbury card is a great achievement and in a way it is but it is a pity it has been staged without fully thinking through the consequences.

Why couldn't the Newbury card have been staged on Sunday where it would not have had such a detrimental effect elsewhere?

I would like to think Newbury and Betfair would make a significant contributions to the charities who are going to lose out as a result of their cynical marketing ploy but somehow cannot see it happening.


The recent cold snap has again illustrated how much dependence there is on the so called “all weather” racing, now I make no secret I am no fan of that branch of the sport, however I accept some people do enjoy it and it does serve to help maintain the Levy.

Although why something as discredited as the Levy should be supported is beyond me – it is no longer fit for purpose and anything that actively undermines it should be encouraged.

Anyway I digress as I return to one of my hobby horses, the term “all weather” racing – it isn’t all weather. The meeting at Wolverhampton was abandoned because of snow,not the first time snow has claimed such a meeting. It has been called off because of fog – IT IS NOT ALL WEATHER RACING.

For goodness sake rename it artificial surface racing and do away with this misleading misnomer once and for all.


Newmarket MP Matthew Hancock recently introduced a private members bill to change how money for the discredited Levy is raised. With 18 of the top 20 bookmakers now located offshore he wants the Levy to be paid on a “point of consumption” basis.

Such a proposal is na´ve and would not work. With the increasing amount of betting now being executed online it would be incredibly easy to circumvent such a rule. Indeed I would see it as a great business opportunity as I would quite happily market softeare that could be used to circumvent such a ruling.

Instead of wasting important Parliamentary time introducing this bill the time should be spent abolishing the Levy and making racing negotiate a fair business arrangement without Government intervention.

Another interesting point is the 18 / 20 bookmakers who have moved offshore. If I were a shareholder in either of the duo who have not moved offshore I would be demanding to know why they have not done so. It is the duty of an organisation to maximise profit and shareholder return and, in the case of bookmakers, this is best done by relocating offshore.


From one anachronism, The Levy, to another the Grand National.

On Tuesday we had the unveiling of the Grand National weights, yes the Grand National is the only handicap where the official ratings are ignored and handicapper Phil Smith is given free rein to allocate whatever weight he sees fit, why?

Is he saying the official handicap rating is wrong? If not then why should different weights be allocated for this particular race if not to, for want of a better expression, manipulate the result.

Does it not further undermine the race?

What was once National Hunt racings greatest race has now, frankly, become a liability and it does the sport more harm than good.

It is run over a freakish distance, over freakish fences, more often than not winning horses are never the same afterwards - yes there are exceptions but they are just that, exceptions.

The race is, for good or bad, the sports show-piece event but it is becoming a liability and the damage it does to the perception of the sport far outweighs any benefits it brings.

How many renewals have not seen a fatality or serious injury to a horse - yet we offer this race as our showcase event?

I used to adore the Grand National - now I hate it and for me last years contest was enough.

I would happily scrap the National, tinker with Cheltenham so the Gold Cup is run on a Saturday and use all the marketing resources of racing to make that race the one that is in the forefront of the public's perception of National Hunt racing - how many unexciting Gold Cups have we had in recent years? How many controversial Gold Cups have we had?

There surely cannot be many people who would argue the Grand National is a better advert for National Hunt racing than the Gold Cup.



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