Friday, 26 January 2018


Natalie Express got her head in front close home to win a 0-70 handicap at Lingfield on Wednesday. It wasn't a news worthy item but Sky Sports News showed a clip of the finish, which would have given many viewers the idea that this event was of some significance.

Look at it this way. The Sky Sports News loops generally begins with a football story, sometimes cricket or rugby, but always concentrating on topical items of importance. So for a non racing fan, which form the vast majority of Sky Sports New viewers, it would not be unreasonable of them to believe that Natalie Express's win was the most important happening in the racing world on that day, just as the Sanchez transfer news had been in the more understood one of football.

They have been doing this for years and it is something that adds to the overall disjointed picture in which the sport is portrayed.There exists a general order of importance in all of the sports, a structure that can be grasped by most.

If, on a quiet racing day, they revealed that Nicky Henderson had announced that Buveur D'Air would be taking on Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle as his Cheltenham prep, then that would be a topical news item and one of some importance.

They could broadcast a recording comprising of the trainer speaking to a reporter on the phone accompanied by an archive clip of the horse in his box or on the gallops. The viewer would be able to appreciate that this concerned something from the top end of racing's pyramid. A briefing of high priority.

Instead, we are shown the finish of some low grade affair supported by a script that has been dumbed down and is read out by someone with not the slightest interest in the sport.Sometimes it can have amusing consequences.

When One Man folded up in the closing stages of the 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Moira Stewart, on the evening news, reported that the "favourite Old Man dropped away to finish sixth".That must have caused some chuckles.

There can be no other sport where those from within shape a favourable angle to its news. As an example, the headline article in the Racing Post this week of, ' Young Person's Game: millenials to fore in driving down age of racing crowds.' turned out to be far from what the headline promised.

Evidently, yet another survey, one carried out by a marketing company called Two Circles for  Great British Racing, revealed that 44% of the racegoing public were born between 1980 and 2000.

However, the results were taken from advance ticket purchases, which is generally how the work party groups will obtain their tickets for the 'cult' courses such as Chester, York, along with the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.

We know that the racegoers who make up these parties are almost all out for a day of drinking and feasting, something backed up when you delve deeper into the survey and discover that for 66% of those asked, the 'social aspect' was the main reason they went racing.

And for those who really did think that the future was a bright one for the sport, one revelation from the survey that really hit home was that 40% of the racegoers were female.

In fact, the picture accompanying the report of the survey on the Racecourse Association Website has a picture of two twenty something ladies on the course with staged smiles. One has tenner notes in one hand and a drink in the other.Some of those in the background also appear to be smiling for the camera.

No doubt some of these venues could put on an event with a concert, best dressed awards, Karaoke, and even lay some mats over the racetrack and have motorbikes whizzing around. Give the day a theme name with a local connection and you have the makings of a booming success, and all without any horse racing.

When Frankel was running Teddy Beckett was enthusiastically claiming that the horse will have won over a new generation of racing fans. Admittedly, for those already embedded in as racing fans the magnificent animal was truly appreciated.

However, flat horses rarely win over new fans.With some the flat game may eventually go on to equal or even surpass the winter game in personal affections, but the large majority are first hooked by the jumping game and most will still have it marginally ahead.

Late summer 1975. Grundy beaten in the Benson and Hedges. October and the eclipse of another star in the Arc de Triomphe, the mighty Allez France. The following month the reigning Champion Hurdler Comedy Of Errors reappears but he has challengers emerging. Night Nurse, Sea Pigeon, Bird's Nest, Dramatist. They seemed to run every couple of weeks, different combinations of them facing one another. If you never got hooked by this then you never would.

Frankel retired six years ago. There is no sign of a 'Frankel generation' of new racing fans appearing. They don't exist.

These good news interpretations of the sport tend to directly avoid the fact that racegoers are are of didly squat all use if they do not turn into regular horse racing punters. So unless these ladies are Laura Davies type characters, this will take out 40% of the audience.

So too with the majority of others who will enjoy their Summer Saturday day at York or Chester this year then return home and punt only on the World Cup ,pre-season friendlies, Cricket, or even the Grand Prix. Events at Saint Cloud, Naas or Pontefract on the Sunday, or Windsor on the Monday evening will play out unnoticed to them.

Sharing the headlines with these so called good news stories is the concern about the knock on effect for racing if as planned the maximum stake on the FOBTS is reduced to £2. We are told this will cause multitudes of LBO's to close, severely reducing media rights payments from the bookmakers. And the powers that be quite rightly realise that FOBT players will not suddenly turn their attention to betting on the nags.

It may just be that bookmakers have to turn back to taking racing seriously as a betting product and not just as the bacon in the mouse trap for potential FOBT addicts. It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out if the proposals go ahead as planned but it is probably too late with the emerging generations weaned on football betting.

They'll arrive home on a midweek winter day, watch the sport news and with it a clip from some low level, insignificant event from one of the AW tracks.They won't have any perspective for it and will conclude this was the chief newsworthy story in the sport.They'll think what a bloody awful sport it is.

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