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A really good morning

Friday, 21 July 2017

"About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age."

Gloria Pitzer.

02_Dixon
Dixon

It's a bright morning with a good breeze and it's a little bit cooler than of late. We've had a really good morning with a lot of horses being put through the starting stalls. This went off without a hitch and there are several unraced two year olds that will be on the track shortly. All the other lots have been cantering on Southfields Turf or the Rubbing House Polytrack.

06_Tlova
Topalova

Astrosecret didn't seem to like the rain softened ground yesterday at Leicester. She had every chance and just kept on at one pace. She is quite frustrating as she has the ability to win a race if everything goes right. We've no runners over the weekend but there will certainly be quite a few next week.

12_Shadow
Astroshadow

I don't always agree with what Tom Kerr writes in the Racing Post but his suggestion today I think will be taken up by one racecourse or another in the not too distant future. His idea is putting floodlights on a turf track. It's already happening in Hong Kong and Australia which is a great success and for some reason horse racing under lights, even the lower class races, seems more exciting. I know the weather helps greatly in both those two countries but I'm positive it would prove popular here.

47_Cantering
Cantering away

It will be interesting to see what the Irish Turf Club does after their inquiry into the void race yesterday at Killarney. This race was declared void 20 minutes after the finish as the winner was declared to have had an unfair advantage at the start. I think the decision to void the race was correct as in these jump races horses that are led in at the start should come in from the back and not from the front.

39_Ness
Ness Of Brodgar walking home

phil

Phil on Friday

Prize-money has long been an issue in racing. The Guvnor has been banging on about it for years. So have many other professionals, and of course they are quite right.

Consider 1957 – a pivotal year, you’d think, because it saw the first commercial sponsorship of a horse race in the UK, the Whitbread Gold Cup*. Oh! What a lucrative flow of revenue this sponsorship business must have promised …! Then, a few years later, came the Levy, another marvellous money tree …!

Of course there are plenty of diverse demands for a share of all this revenue, but what has happened to prize money in 60 years? I contacted the Bank of England to get an accurate assessment of monetary values between 1957 and now.

Look first at the top end. In 1957, Royal Ascot winners (it was a four-day affair then) received £72,084 and a few pence between them. According to the Bank of England, that equated to £1,594,960 last year. In fact, in 2016 the total race values (over five days) added up to £6,580,000. And that went up again this year.

When Crepello won the Derby in 1957 connections received £18,659 and 10 shillings (£412,364 in 2016 values). Last year the Derby was worth a total of £1.325 million, and this year went up to one-and-a-half million. Similar growth can be seen in other top races, even the Old Newton Cup…

So at the top end all is well, thank you very much. But what about the ‘little’ owners, the syndicates and the one or two-horse enthusiasts whose greatest ambition is to win a handicap at Yarmouth?

Again, look at 1957 when Yarmouth staged a July card not dissimilar to one last week. It was a two-day meeting  and on the biggest day winners took home £1,557 and 10 shillings between them. (Bank of England: £34,461 in 2016). The actual figure this year was £24,064, and pretty much every race was sponsored. Pathetic. This week a meeting at Yarmouth included a near £12,000 handicap. That sounds good, but the winners of seven races shared a total of £33,966 – still below the rate of 60 years ago. (There might be some slight discrepancy between the Bank’s 2016 calculation and this year – obviously the final 2017 figure cannot be known yet).

It is unfair to single out Yarmouth; there are plenty of other examples. But in 1957  Hamilton could run an average seller worth close to £6,000 in today’s terms, and at Redcar they managed at least a couple of sellers at their summer meeting worth more than £8,000 each (ref: Bank of England). The very lowest prize at that meeting equated to £4,580 in 2016 and these figures seemed to set the standard for ‘lesser’ races across the board (with no sponsorship or Levy!). Compare today’s prizes for yourself.

Out of interest, there were 416 flat racing fixtures in 1957. In 2016 there were 888 (573 turf, 315 all-weather) and 594 NH meetings as well. Perhaps more is not always better.

This is not a forensic survey by any means. Food for thought, though, and of course racing believed it had another great  injection of funds in 2006 when reluctant trainers and owners were persuaded to agree to 48-hour declarations because, in BHB’s terms, the “system has the potential to generate significant financial benefits for British racing from overseas betting”.  Has it happened? I’ve tried to find out and will report on my disappointments next week.

*The winner was Much Obliged, ridden by Johnny East who was later to become the much-valued head lad at the Guvnor’s Flint Cottage Stables.
 

We have one runner today at Leicester

Thursday, 20 July 2017

"We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible."

Francois de la Rochefoucauld.

21_HH
Warming up on Hamilton Hill

We had a drop of rain first thing, which has kept the ground perfect and more is forecast towards the weekend. We have had a really good morning so far with horses cantering on the Rubbing House polytrack and a few on Hamilton Hill. All has gone well and the horses look like they are starting to come into form. A rider or two would certainly help and we have vacancies for full and part-time riders at present. If you are interested please give the office a ring.

30_Clear
Clearance

It was a good run last night from Gee Sixty Six to finish third at Sandown. He needed a good push to get in the stalls, but once in, he was happy and he travelled well before picking up strongly in the straight.  I think the ground was slightly against us and by the time of our race, it had cut up even more. He is improving and will be winning races very shortly.

We have one runner today at Leicester. Astrosecret turns out again in the mile and a half handicap at 4.55. She got no sort of a ride last time and will be much handier today. I hope the ground doesn’t go too soft as she hates soft ground. She is another that could run well, like all of ours this week.

06_Untacking
Untacking after exercise

After last Saturday’s full programme of races on what they call Super Saturday, it is now moving to a quieter Saturday with no real stand out races this weekend. It can’t be beyond the wit of somebody to move at least one of the fixtures a week later and make it much better for all the professionals concerned. There just doesn’t seem to be any brain or willingness from the powers that be to sort out all the anomalies. We saw another yesterday with Hayley Turner making another comeback to win a race in a series worth £100,000. I thought this series was for up and coming jockeys, but rules are rules and they have not been broken, but why oh why didn’t they tighten them up so it gave the younger and inexperienced professionals and amateurs a chance.

IMG_0952
Gee Sixty Six in the parade ring last night at Sandown

There is a very interesting double page spread in the Racing Post on Irish racing today and how to attract and keep owners. The statistics at the bottom of page nine are striking, with active owners down nearly 2,000, syndicates down nearly 1,000 and individual owners down to just over 3,000. It is a big problem and all down to cost and prize money. The Irish authorities will do everything within their powers to attract people, but if the money just keeps going one way, it will be a thankless and futile task. We in England are on a similar stage, with prize money so pathetic it is unbelievable, especially in the lower regions. We have still not got the new money coming in to fill the coffers, but there is still a chance that somebody will challenge the ruling as the window for objections have not even opened yet. When that is finally done by the EU, there are two months for somebody to object. I am sure there will be a twist in the tail yet.

 
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