This weekend sees the 2007 renewal of the Shergar Cup at Ascot and this year sees a major shake up in the format.
Is it an attempt to make it more competitive or a last ditch attempt to revive a format reviled by most regular racegoers and punters?
Previously the event has been a jockeys challenge between UK and Ireland and the Rest of The World with the participating jockeys being awarded points for their finishing positions and the team with the most points talking the cup. The last two years the event has been so one sided it ceased being a meaningful contest by the fourth race. So this year there will be four teams The UK, Ireland, Europe and The Rest of The World to try and make it more interesting – for whom?
There is a fundamental problem with the entire format of the Shergar Cup, namely horse racing is not a team sport and there are very strict rules governing team tactics in horse racing – put simply team tactics are not allowed and every horse must run on its own individual merit. This hasn’t stopped jockeys in the event riding tactically in the past and such tactics have not gone unnoticed by the stewards. So if team tactics cannot be employed what next? Either dispensation is made to allow team tactics, in which case the event becomes even less attractive as a betting proposition, or it should not be run as a team event and a new format needs to be devised.
I remember at last years event even the commentator, Mike Vince, was trying to drum up jingoistic cheering, rubbishing the captain of the World team, quite frankly if I want Little Britain jingoism in my sport I will stick to football thank you very much.
Racing is about horses not jockeys, the nationality of a jockey is irrelevant to me and to most racing fans, as long as the jockey rides within the rules and does not abuse the horse than I care not if he is British, Italian or even outer Mongolian.
Now if the Shergar Cup was centred around the nationality of the horse that would be different. Hold the meeting at Lingfield or Kempton where races could be held on both grass and sand and bring horses from the USA, Australia, Japan and Europe and score the points that way, probably a better solution and less likely to lead to team tactics.
Read the letters pages in the racing press and there are very few voices speaking in favour of the event.
I shall be going to Ascot on Saturday, in the hope that the meeting will turn out to be such a farce that it will forever be consigned to the rubbish bin of history. In years to come I can tell the youngsters of the day that I was there when the Shergar Cup, like its namesake, finally disappeared without trace.
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