Catch Up Time

This week I thought I would revisit some of my recent musings.

A few weeks ago I was making the point, regarding the mooted 150 cut in the 2011 fixture list, it would not be enough and a cut of around 500 fixtures would be required if the sport was to become financially viable.

Last week the 2011 fixture list was finally published and what did we see, a cut of 23 fixtures after, it seems, racings rulers caved into pressure from the Horseman’s Group, one of the many self-interested faction sin racing, who seem to lack either the ability, desire or intellect to see the parlous state the industry is in.

Can racing really survive with the current levels of prize money?

As I write this I am on my way to Newcastle races where three of the contests offer first prize money around the £1,500 mark, yet the BHA are saying courses should be aiming for a £3,000 minimum – why is this being allowed to happen.

Those who disagree with me will point out these low value races are oversubscribed. That’s as maybe but they are oversubscribed by frankly useless horses, who should not be seen on a racecourse.

The 2011 fixture list is not all bad, there are some good initiatives coming from it.

I like the idea of season Champions Day and especially at Ascot rather than Newmarket. My one reservation is the timing as it looks to be planned too close to Arc weekend, which is fast becoming the fitting climax to the European season. It is a pity the BHA have seemingly ignored French concerns.

I also like the idea of weekend Premier fixtures, providing a focus for weekend racing.

I would however like to take the initiative a step further.

I would like to see a two tier system of racing in this country.

The top tier would roughly equate to the current Class 3 or better with the lower tier the current Class 4 and lower.

The top tier fixtures would be fully funded. There would be at least one top tier fixture each day from Wednesday to Sunday, with a minimum of two each Saturday and Sunday.  In addition there would be a minimum of two top tier fixtures on a Bank Holiday. Provision would also be allowed to retain existing Monday or Tuesday Festivals.

There would be additional top tier meetings allocated subject to a) sufficient funding and b) sufficient horses in the population.

For the tier two meetings there would be one half-funded meeting every day with two scheduled Monday and Tuesday’s.

Other tier two meetings could be scheduled but they would have to be fully funded by the racecourses and / or bookmakers.

Opponents of a wholesale slashing of the fixture list point to the knock on effects in terms of trainers going out of business and the associated job losses.

Whilst such losses may be distressing at a personal level, it should not be a reason not to introduce such swinging changes.

Nobody has a God given right to be in business as a racehorse trainer, the racing industry should be subject to the same financial constraints as the rest of the world. If a business is not viable then it has no right to survive.  

If a training establishment cannot be viable then it should shut down.   

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It seems I managed to upset the Racing Welfare Charity when I railed against James McQuillan’s performance at their fund raising day at Huntingdon on August Bank Holiday Monday.

In one comment it was implied that by criticising McQuillan I was also criticising their fund raising efforts.

Let me put on record here and now I have the utmost respect for the work carried out by Racing Welfare and I wish them every success in all their fund raising ventures, which are for a worthy cause and I would encourage anybody with an interest in racing to support them.

They also pointed out that McQuillan provided his services for free at Huntingdon that day. For that he is to be applauded, although I would expect anybody providing a service for a charity to provide their time for free.

The worthiness of the cause nor the “celebrity” providing their services free of charge does not, however, change my view that McQuillan is wholly  unsuited to carry out MC duties at any racecourse, regardless of whether it is a charity day or not.

Racing Welfare also tell me they had more positive than negative feedback regarding McQuillan’s performance …. It would be interesting to see the demographic breakdown of those commenting. How many of the positive comments came from those who were really interested in the actual racing.

If he was fund raising at a village féte or at an event away from an actual race meeting then, by all means, use him.

Where people are attending an event, in this case a horse racing meeting, where the charity fundraising is secondary to the main event, then those attending should not be subjected to such asinine utterings … especially when the onslaught was relentless.   

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I also mention my attempt to visit all the UK racecourses in 2010, which floundered when transportation issues thwarted a trip to Redcar.

With two further Redcar meetings scheduled it was still theoretically possible to complete the “full set” but other events have now prevented the achievement.

Ironically the course that finally prevented the goal being achieved was Perth, ironically one of the courses I also failed to visit last year.

I was all set to visit their final meeting of the season. My flight was booked, car hire was arranged.

I even went to bed early as the alarm was set for 04:30. A hour into my slumbers the phone rang, the type of call one always dreads, to hear my Father had just been taken into hospital.

So that finally was the end of the full set quest for 2010.

I don’t think I will bother in 2011.

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This weekend is the Arc meeting in Paris and it is fast becoming one of my favourite meetings of the year. Not only do we have the Arc itself but the undercard is now beginning to ooze class.

It was a close shave this year. Normally obtaining Press accreditation for the Arc has been a relatively simple process. You wrote to France Galop in July and you received confirmation within ten days.

This year, due to demand exceeding availability, they introduced an online system for requesting accreditation, with a closing date of mid-September.

All well and good but decisions regarding accreditation were not made until after the closing date, which means accreditation was only confirmed in the last fortnight. Somewhat difficult when there are flights and hotels to book.

Last weekend at Ascot there were some very illustrious correspondents complaining there were, at this late stage, no hotel rooms available in Paris for Arc weekend.

One often sees caravans parked up in the Bois de Boulogne and I understand the owners are very “accommodating” – perhaps some of the hacks could stay there.

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And finally a message for one of my regular correspondents – Bob the point-to-point man.

Bob, I am not ignoring your e-mails but with both the addresses you have given me the replies bounce back as failed when I try to reply to you.  

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