Sunday, 10 September 2017


Yesterday was Vernons day.Do not allow anyone to tell you any different because as with all those other races that have undergone sponsorship changes,the original name will always stick .

It's a long,long time since the race was called the Vernons Sprint Cup.Thirty years in fact.You have to go further back to the last time it was run in early November,which was its traditional slot.

That was 1978.I remember that day well.A typical murky, November day, that never seemed to reach full daylight.The big race was won by Ryan Jarvis's  grey Absalom, from the French trained favourite Sanedkti,and Vaigly Great,handled by the up and coming Michael Stoute.

Moving it to the September slot has been justified.More chance of better ground, more interest too,as the original timing was when most fans had switched to jumping mode.The move undoubtedly assisted in getting the upgrade to Group One status,an upgrade which was one of the less dubious promotions.

But whatever,to the traditional racing fans it will always be the Vernons.Those who remember it from a time when it was the Ladbrokes Sprint and the name changes since,are from the generation of the sports betting fan, almost all of whom will not take an awful lot of interest in these issues anyway and could not care about the racing calendar or the 'Pattern'.

Sponsors like to speak of such things like 'overt branding opportunities',but when it comes to the widely misunderstood sport of horse racing,they clearly do not carry out meaningful research.

Betfred have been crafty with the Ebor.Sponsored by the Tote from 1976 -it had been the Terry's All Gold Ebor before that - Betfred put their brand name to the race after they purchased the Tote,along with the right to control racecourse pool betting for a fixed spell, making sure they would have had their name up in lights even if they sell on their ownership of the nanny.

Royal Ascot is deemed too treasured for its races to be 'tarred' by sponsorship,but that will surely change sometime soon as the Monarchy continues to modernise.Sponsorship of races at the meeting could come soon after the present Queen passes on,with each sponsor having to be specially approved of course,and God forbid any thought of dot com names in the title.

They all said the Epsom Derby would never be sponsored,speaking of which how many people could tell you who Investec are,and which events they sponsor?

Sponsorship and the Derby will always conjure up Ever Ready batteries to the last generation of proper racing fans.Many will know that Sir Gordon White was the chairman of the company and owned Hardgreen,who finished sixth to Troy in the 1979 Ever Ready Derby,which was a vintage renewal.

National Hunt racing has more traditional links with sponsorship than the Summer game.The Whitbread will always be known by that name,as will the connected Mackeson,despite the former race not being run under that title for many years,and the latter for an age.

But the most chaotic example comes in the shape of the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup.For many,Peter Easterby's exciting front running chaser Easby Abbey, springs immediately to mind with mention of the race,for others it may be Pendil or Titus Oates,or further back still,Flyingbolt.The roll of honour is impressive, and the 'Massey Ferguson' remains an event to look forward to on the run up to Christmas.

Unfortunately for the numerous organisations who have affixed their brands to the race,they are names that have slipped away to oblivion,despite plenty of water flowing under the bridge since it was run under the original title.You see,in the minds and souls of the final generation of the genuine racing fan,it remains the Massey Ferguson.

It was as long ago as 1980 when the race last carried the famous tractor firm title.JennyPitman's chestnut Bueche Girod, from the bottom of the handicap, made most of the weight concessions from the three that followed him home,Lord Greystoke,former King George winner,Bachelor's Hall,and Western Rose.

In 1981 the meeting was lost to snow.The following year the race had become the Kennedy Construction Gold Cup.It was a cracking renewal,Wayward Lad narrowly failing to give away 17 lb to Observe.It remained by the same name until 1985,when it was for a sole year sponsored by Still Forks Trucks and was won by the popular Combs Ditch.

In 1986 it changed to the Glen International Gold Cup,the sponsor being Terry Ramsden's investment firm.Next change was to the AF Budge Gold Cup in 1988,then finally in 1992 the beginning of a steadying period under the name of theTripleprint Gold Cup,the first running producing David Nicholson's sole winner of the race,Another Coral.

The last two runnings under the Tripleprint name came in 2002 and 2003,with Nicky Henderson winning both times with Fondmort and Iris Royal.In 2004 it was run under the related Bonusprint title for a single year.

Then it all went out of control again with the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup, followed by the Gold Cup, the Vote AP Gold Cup in 2010, a result of horse racing and Brough Scott's push for people to spend their spare time constantly phoning to vote in the Sports Personality of the Year Award.Three years of sponsorship by spinal research related charities came next.

Since 2014 it has been known as the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and will do so again this December.Their products will appeal to the wealthy hunting,shooting, and fishing factions who fit in snugly with the Cotswold communities,National Hunt racing,and Cheltenham racecourse itself.So,they are probably getting at least some 'Bang for the Buck',even if their name will cease being linked with the sport the moment their support stops.

The same cannot be said of the original sponsors.For it would be no exaggeration to state that Massey Ferguson,a Stateside company,arguably have the distinction of procuring more mileage from their sponsorship than all other similar ventures in the sport.

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