A Flat Start To The Season?

In case you have missed it the 2011 turf flat season begins today, not with a high profile meeting at a big course, not even with Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting but at Catterick Bridge.

Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against Catterick and I have had many a pleasant afternoon there, however I am not sure how this fits in with the much vaunted “narrative” to the season that Racing For Change has been banging on about.

Sure enough we have the new Champions Day in October but even then the flat turf season limps on for another three weeks before finally ending at Doncaster, talk about “after the Lord Mayor’s show”.

However I wonder if Rod Street and his Racing for Change friends are playing a game with us?

Are they deliberately having a low key beginning and end to the 2011 season so they can announce, with a fanfare and flourish, a new structure next year which will start with a big meeting and end with Champions Day?  

Whilst I am generally positive about the new Champions Day, certainly moving it to Ascot is inspired, I still have concerns about the timing and its proximity to Lonchamp’s meeting at the beginning of October. Having Champions Day on the first Saturday in November, as the only flat meeting of the day and the final flat meeting of the season, would be more logical in my view.

Indeed, much as I am a great fan of Ascot I would not even object if the Champions Day meeting alternated between Ascot and York giving racegoers in the north the chance to see the action live.


A big news story within racing this week has been the u-turn from the Horsemen’s Group in relation to their tariff protest.

I have to say I am not in the least bit surprised at the turn of events.

The "top operators" were never going to play . . . . they were quite happy to let the small owners play the game, especially in the National Hunt season  but when it comes to the top races no way would they would take part.

It is akin to the imbecilic generals in World War One who made stupid, ill-considered decisions from the comfort their desks, safe in the knowledge it was the foot soldiers who would pay the price. In this case the top owners are the Generals and the small owners have been the foot soldiers.

As owner David Parry rightly put it “I feel I have been shafted.”

Even the so called  "support" of big trainers is questionable. The vacuous statement from the boys in blue last week is the biggest pile of bullshit and meaningless platitudes I have read in many a long day.

Then we had the bold statement from Hannon threatening to boycott Windsor but including the "get out" clause about running horses "if the owners insist".

At the end of the day when it comes to the big races on the flat the big players are not really that interested in the prize money. The real money comes from getting black type and increasing the stud value of their horses. The prize money, even at the tariff level, is peanuts in comparison.

The tariff was never going to work . . . it makes no odds to the likes of Arena or Northern whether the tariff was in place or not it would have no impact on their bottom line and would only impact if there was 100% support and races ended up as walkovers or with no runners and that was never going to happen.

Yes prize money is terrible but the solution / causes are more fundamental than what will be solved by the tariff protest.

Rod Street of Racing For Change has kindly responded to the above comments.

“There are no games from RfC regarding Flat season! Not involved in Catterick scheduling, though agree it's odd and Donny start would be ideal.

“On subject of seasons overall my view is that 'official' starts and ends of season are for the aficionado. For occasional or new consumers milestones are more significant. In which case the promotion of premier events and finales is where the focus needs to be. Both audiences can be catered for and co-exist IMO.”

Rod has now posted a fuller response, which can be found here



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