Marmite Racing

I have to admit I am a fan of the well known yeast extract product which people are said to either love or hate.

Marmite also links three of the most contentious subjects in racing, namely Derek Thompson, Matt Chapman and The Shergar Cup.

Derek Thompson or, as he likes to be called, Tommo seems to have found a niche presenting “Tommo TV” where he acts as a general all round entertainer and, like him or not, he does have this uncanny knack of engaging with the crowd, something even his most vocal detractors will grudgingly acknowledge.

Last week he was plying his trade at Brighton’s three day festival of racing – giving away freebies (of course none financed from his legendary deep pockets) and hijacking any likely looking suspect be they in a restaurant or by the parade ring, especially if they happened to have long legs and breasts. Personally, I don’t mind Thompsons brand of bonhomie . . . . in moderation.

I agree the Tommo approach and style is no good for the big festivals and major meetings but for the increasing number of family fun days he is the ideal host and he can engage with the first time racegoer. More seasoned racegoers can find him too much and even though I can cope with him in moderation, I had a period last year when I was at the same course as him for five consecutive days and towards the end I almost had to be restrained from doing something deeply unpleasant with his microphone.

By some perverse design the other two Marmite subjects were both at Ascot last Saturday as Matt Chapman co-hosted Shergar Cup day.

I have to confess I am on the “don’t like” side of the fence when it comes to Chapman, give me an afternoon of Tommo any day.

Although, with regards Chapman, I could so easily become a convert.

One area where he is exceptionally good, when he decides to take it seriously, is in interviewing jockeys and trainers, yes he can ask the odd inane questions but on the whole he asks the right questions, and he is actually quite knowledgeable.

Where he goes wrong is he has allowed his public persona  to get in the way.

 He seems to see himself as the natural successor to John McCririck, in he seems to nurture this arrogant, controversial public persona which deliberately sets out to court controversy.  

In the case of McCririck it is a façade, as away from the cameras he could not be more different. The trouble is with the façade McCririck puts up he is viewed in many quarters as, at best an eccentric, at worse a buffoon, which is a great pity as he does have some very pertinent points to make about this sport of ours,

I have only met Chapman  twice and I have the feeling he too is a different personality in private.

If he spent more time trying not to be so controversial, not fostering gimmicks like the ridiculous “Yeehaaaa”  he would be taken more seriously and, like McCririck I believe he has some valid points to make.

By saying don’t be more controversial the last thing I am saying is don’t stop pointing out what you see as wrongs but go about it in a more measured way, without the histrionics and you will more likely be taken more seriously, instead he is in danger of turning into a caricature of this monster he has created.

Now the Shergar Cup . . . . if you believed some of the things you read on the forums you would think the Shergar Cup is the end of racing as we know it.

I confess am a Shergar Cup convert - I loathed it initially but am now a great fan.

I accept it is an anathema to many - we are all entitled to our opinions and we all have our likes and dislikes but disliking something is no reason for banning it. After all I hate artificial surface racing with a vengeance but I accept it has a place and its fans, so I would not call for its abolition (a reduction maybe but not an abolition).

Some say the Shergar Cup is useless for betting, that’s as maybe. It is but one meeting out of 1,480 fixtures in the year and there were three other meetings the same afternoon for those who really cannot survive without having a bet and who did not want to bet on this event.

Some will argue that having a team competition is against the rules and spirit of racing but where is there any evidence of their being team tactics in the Shergar Cup.

Indeed the prize of a silver saddle and £3,000 in cash for the best individual jockey on the day will easily focus the mind of jockeys towards looking after number one.         

The racing was competitive, with some cracking finishes. There were ten runners in every race and there was a rare chance to see some decent overseas riders who would not normally be seen in the UK.

 In terms of the team competition it really did go down to the line . . . . and those who backed Ireland at 10/1 going into the last race will certainly not be complaining about the afternoon.

The team colours, whilst still not perfect, were infinitely better than they were last year. I was certainly able to follow all the races first time.

Many of the crowd may well have been there primarily for the concert but many were also interested in the racing. I spoke to several first timers during the afternoon and yes, shock horror, some said they really enjoyed the afternoon and would come racing again.

Look at it another way, without the concert many would not have been there at all, so there would be no chance otherwise to try and attract them to the sport.

The area in front of the stands were packed for the actual racing and it was always busy, as busy as at any Ascot Saturday meeting, round the parade ring.

I personally believe the Shergar Cup can hook in far more new racegoers than any number of Ben and Brian initiatives.

It wasn't all perfect, having Matt Chapman as the co-presenter was a mistake - but then again I am biased on that front, so I am probably not an objective observer on that one.

The "opening ceremony" was too soon before the first contest and the runners in the first were notably more fractious, I suspect because of what was going on in the parade ring.


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