An Open Letter to Rod Street

Dear Rod,

I am writing this letter to ask you to reconsider the format of the semi-finals of The Filly Factor and, in the process, avoid a potentially embarrassing situation.

Now if I am not mistaken the aim of The Filly Factor is to try and find a female commentator to break into what is exclusively a male domain and to also promote the cause of women in a male dominated arena.

Whilst there may be debate in some quarters concerning the suitability of the timbre of some women’s voices, that does not concern me here. The aims are laudable and there is no reason why there should be a female commentator, so long as the criteria for selection is to the same exacting criteria currently used for male commentators.

 My genuine concern is this weekend’s semi-finals, as they are currently proposed, will not only undermine what is being set out to be achieved, it will actually set back the cause of female commentators.

I was at Newbury races yesterday afternoon when three of the semi-finalists were having a training day. As part of the day they were allowed to share the commentary of a charity race at the end of the card. Now I do not normally remain behind for such novelty races but yesterday I made an exception.

To be brutally frank the efforts of all three were embarrassing and cringe worthy.  One of the three is an experienced broadcaster and even she was struggling to identify runners in an eight runner race.

Now I am not criticising the ladies taking part, they are all doing their best but commentating on a horse race is not a skill acquired overnight, It takes plenty of time and practice, not a couple of afternoons watching a professional commentator.

Yet these ladies are being asked to provide a racecourse commentary, in public, this weekend when they clearly are not ready for it. These brave ladies run the risk of humiliation and embarrassment, through no fault of their own, for the sake of a competition.

By all means go ahead with the semi-finals but with their commentaries being kept on a closed loop, rather than being broadcast over the PA on course. That way, should any of the ladies freeze or make errors they will not be exposed to public scrutiny, humiliation or ridicule. The two winners can then undergo some intense training before the final in July and the final in July should only go ahead if the finalists are of sufficient quality.

They are not even being helped by the venues. At Bath there is no second commentary position and even yesterday afternoon there were negotiations in progress to try and find a suitable commentary position for the finalists. In the case of Doncaster it is known to be a very difficult course from a commentary perspective and couple that with the usual large fields it again puts additional, unnecessary, pressure on the participants.

I appreciate I have only heard three of the eight in action but is is worrying the three I have heard are the ones considered to be the front runners.

Also has anybody considered the public reaction to these commentaries? Top price tickets at Doncaster on Sunday are 32. How would you feel, if having paid that amount of money,  you then had to listen to a “commentary” which was not fluent and from which it would be very difficult to actually follow what is happening – if it were me I would  be demanding my money back.  

For everyone's sake please reconsider what is planned this weekend.



Rod Street has responded to my letter and his response can be found here


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