Racing or Lorraine?

‘it’s great to be here’

 

If I had 50 pence for every time I heard that from a racing pundit or anchor – I would be swimming in a lake of champagne for the rest of my natural. The next time I see anyone from ITV, RUK or ATR mumble those bumbling fumbling words with their plastic smile, staring down a card of 4 runner races, I’m going to send them all to have their balls cut off. And that includes the men.

Before I open my trap. I want to say one thing to the boo boys about commentating on ITV and its output. Everyone knows what a huge star I was for Channel 4, I said what I liked, rattled a few trainers and one very gobby jockey who gets run out of more finishes than Excelebration. The days of pundits with something to say though, appear numbered 🙂

Do I miss Channel 4? Yes very much, it was a terribly professional output, winning awards for its coverage, regardless of what the Self serving Racing Post had to say about it. Led by the best anchor in British sport. Balding.

4

Am I bitter? Yes, I suppose I am. The suits have replaced a perfectly good product for a clone on the next door channel, who consign the show between The Cooking Channel and babestation, and predictably the numbers have tailed.

Whatever people tell you about how easy it is to find ITV4, it simply isn’t. Their average audience share (I looked it up, – jeez, how sad am I?) is 1%. Yes you got that right. ITV1 However gains 15% of general audiences.

Now we find Racing being bounced onto ITV3. How to relegate a sport to obscurity in very rapid order? Move it about to bolster 1970’s cop show numbers. Anyone not totally dedicated to Racing-simply isn’t going to find it, less bother with it.

Racing was represented by three main parties, all basing their decision purely on the fortunes of ailing racetracks. Messrs Fitzgerald (Racecourse media Group) Bazelgette (Jockey Club Racecourses, the architect of Kempton’s downfall) and of course Harman, the patsy for the BHA. Yet another loser they’ve backed.

These characters signed a deal in the full knowledge they were consigning Racing from terrestrial to satellite. For 4 million I believe the extra was. Why? I name these parties so you can make sure you bombard them with your views.

Fitz

Of course they envisaged a channel that could match the BBC for the crown jewels, Grand National, Derby, Royal Ascot were areas they imagined we could regain the type of numbers the Beeb gave us. To boot I’m sure global pool bet revenues were a factor to tracks starved of money by bookmakers. Persuading the BBC back to the sport, for less money of course, was not on the table. Why? Beats the hell out of me.

Let’s remember they argued ‘reach’ as the determining factor. That by binning the highly committed Channel 4, showing 90 days live racing a year! Somehow they thought it was achievable to beat their audience with ITV’s better share. Even though that audience share is largely based on Saturday night with Ant & Dec.

They backed a ‘commercial’ channel, who base programming on advertising cake, as opposed to a public service broadcaster, which both Channel 4 and BBC are. This is a key point. They balance every decision not just on money or viewers, but their importance to the community.

So the Lingfield All Weather finals headed to satelite and of course no Opening Show on that morning either. It was felt ‘The Sweeney’ (1970) – too important to sack. Incredible but true. Same true of Cheltenham, the Opening Line on ITV4 at a time racegoers couldn’t watch. ITV were committed to Lorraine. A star around longer than my mother in law.

Therefore up to Cheltenham we had managed circa 3 million less people watching our sport. And of course we know now the Opening Line managed a paltry 31,000 for the first day of the famous Grand National meeting, a record low for Racing. Once again, people acting for this sport contrived to make a giant mess. Don’t panic though – each one of these ‘executives’ will be in their offices on Monday. Everyone in racing sleeps with their sister. Jobs are not performance based in Racing.

The role of the betting based rag the Racing Post cannot be understated either. It shrieked for months about Channel 4’s viewing figures.  When ITV National numbers were embarrisingly announced as far lower than the output of Channel 4, the hypocrisy leapt to the fore in their defence in several notably obsequious columns. Mind you, it’s been a terribly smart move of the Producer of the Opening Show to introduce a revolving door of Post reporters onto its sofa, not least of all the Editor of the Racing Post. I don’t doubt the executives of Channel 4 feel pretty cheated by Bruce Millington et al. Far too few people stood up to say they enjoyed the Channel 4 difference.

Can ITV arrest the decline? Well it certainly has the potential, we all know that. But right now, let’s get one thing absolutely clear. It doesn’t have the commitment. It’s consigned a leading sport to a sub channel on up to 50 days a year. To include some of our most famous events.  ITV simply has to show the resolve Channel 4 did. Of course we know ‘The Professionals (1980) ‘ is likely more viewers than Plumpton, but what Channel 4 never did was sacrifice Racing in favour of John Wayne.

ITV have to be forced to give racing the prominence it deserves as a leading sport. Or the contract has to be set aside. It was a bad deal for the sport. If the architects stand in the way, they should be removed. Recognise the reality and make changes.

The last show of the Franklin era of Channel 4’s Morning Line achieved 350,000 viewers for the 1st day at Aintree. ITV’s quite dreadful Opening Line managed 31,000, and has dipped by 46% on Channel 4’s Morning Line. Of course the output is on the wrong channel, and the wrong time. Noted. But who’s fault is that? Franklin’s crew contained some of the baddest pundits in racing. Notably Francome and Mac. Quite why Big Mac was dropped, when at that time he WAS racing escapes me. It was a poor decision. I don’t doubt one the Channel 4 executive at that time was leaned on to make by those in the sport who think you grow it by telling everyone it’s fabulous. Racing’s most dangerous element.

The coverage has became vanilla, bordering on banal. Francome left of his own accord. I can’t speak for John, but I’m guessing when you remove some of his sidekicks and replace them with those with nothing meaningful to say, he knew his time was up. Should Mac return? Arguable. Should Nick Luck return? Definitely. I never understood the vitriolic attacks against Luck, one of the sports most consumate performers.

mac

 

Certain producers, and their bosses seem to take the view racing has to be a diet of patronising ‘it’s great to be here’ and  ‘what’s it like to ride a winner?’ Allow me to point out to you that the last crew to grow audiences, were the ones who took dead aim at the sport when it demanded it. It doesn’t stop people going racing. It adds value to a show and interest in the sport, oh yes it really does. If you’re about viewers Mr Cooper (OL Producer), split up the grinning pair of Bell and Harvey. It really is the most appalling fluff. Punters are your audience and they don’t want to hear it. Numbers are shocking and you need surgery. You’re force fed a diet of wonderful industry dramas to utilise. Irish non triers, Windsor prize money, field sizes in jumps pattern races. You ignore it all. Get some power on the sofa and start talking about what people want to hear.

harvey

You do have a solution, standing on the grass. Matt Chapman. Extremely popular with viewers on the more enterprising Attheraces. He gets rave reviews, because he dares to speak his mind. Of course I really do understand why Chapman is out doing that thoroughly pointless clerk of the course slot – it’s because you’re frightened of what he might say. He’s not Balding or Luck, isn’t possesed of their polish,  but he engages.

And what happened to betting? Have you any idea what a huge share of audiences watch the show because they’re punters rather than breeders? You’re totally ignoring them. Racing and gambling like Bread and Jam. One exists for the other. Not this beauty of the horse nonsense. Who are these creative geniuses who don’t realise the majority of racing viewers bet on it?

Give Chapman his head as anchor of the Opening Line. Let him succeed or fail. Give him fiery people to bounce off. Put the smiler Harvey out to grass, and discover betting again.

chapman1

The afternoon show, I have to say I really enjoy. Again though it’s likely to struggle on the wrong channel on its lesser days and if those in front of the camera don’t know how to properly engage the viewer. Chamberlin is ex football. He won’t be used to a diet of ‘marvellous’ which pervades Racing coverage all to often. If you’re about keeping him on the show, there has to be more football about the coverage.

chamber

Finally allow me to quote from Andrew Franklin in todays letters page. He maintained racing would likely continue to experience declining numbers if the product didn’t undergo the kind of essential radical reform as undertaken by other sports. Cricket, football, grand prix, rugby. All significantly upped their game whilst we feed people 4 runner heats with horses 20 pounds apart in rating. Further we allow trainers to rip our best races to shreds. The sport is overloaded with product, underpaid in prize money at the middle and lower tiers, desperately struggling in the winter and more and more about a dire all weather content. Racetrack groups have been warring on betting and losing millions in income by extension, that air of snobbish indifference to the needs of betting.  Sport put on to keep tracks in work, and to please snotty trainers. It’s not harsh, it’s fact.

That’s got to be wrong. The current BHA isn’t man enough to take on this giant task, nor does it have the appetite to take on its masters, the racetracks. A new, thoroughly independent advisory has to be created to bring the sport into this century.

ITV, for its part has to forced to place the sport with exactly the same prominence as Channel 4  or it should be dumped. Racing is not a satelite back number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The real problem gamblers in the UK aren’t the punters.

 

Live in the UK, and it’s hard not to imagine certain large betting concerns as anything other than global success stories. Market leader Bet365 reported but a few years ago customer sign ups at 14 million. It’s now well past the 23 million mark. Their website appears the best ‘platform’ in sportsbook and gaming. If shares were available, I’d be buying.

winstone
How you ‘grow’ a company by such a margin, whilst remaining within UK gambling commission guidelines, is questionable. It’s abundantly clear the company’s move into China, in doing so somehow circumnavigating banking laws, has been a huge winner. In spite of the reasonable objections of the Chinese government. In their state, gambling is illegal. Even if it were legal, they should be entitled to reasonable taxes from the same. Bet365 lawyers argue it isn’t illegal if they trade with Chinese customers from another state. In other words, their lawyers have made it somehow acceptable. I fancy Bet365 execs won’t be vacationing in China any time soon. Their stay would be permanent.

Our own Gambling Commission set out its view on black market activity at its inception.

14.5 For each of these markets, the Commission will ask operators why they think provision of gambling facilities is not illegal either because they are licensed to operate in that jurisdiction or because they have satisfied themselves that it is not illegal for them to provide gambling facilities to those players. If businesses are relying on legal advice as part of evidence of responsible due diligence we will expect businesses to tell us who they have been advised by – we will not expect to see legal opinions as such but will wish to understand the legal rationale.

Fine, so the previous Commission executive decided not to pursue the matter, and awards licenses to bet365 to trade with UK customers dutifully every year.

Bet365 has also taken its business to Gibraltar, from where it’s safer from regulation and of course taxation. It has joined virtually every online betting company who originated in the UK, and do business with its citizens. Racing now ‘negotiates’ a voluntary deal with 365 and others there for its share of earnings on the sport. I really hope the Spanish invade that troublesome enclave. Such situations don’t make you popular with regulators, or governments. Bet365, for the time being, don’t seem concerned.

I say times change. Governments change and critically the regulator has changed. It’s muscled up. New management have arrived.
Leaving aside Ray Winstone, regulators, and governments for a second, I have observed over the last decade a marked deterioration in the relations between Bookmakers, and their customers. I regularly hear, see, and experience examples of poor behaviour. Relations between the two parties are at an all time low. I’m surprised anyone signs up.

Cloudy terms and conditions, offers based on tiny stakes, over generous odds, best odds guarantees, (even enhanced BOG), and free bets. A culture of giveaways, in which if the savvy customer habitually partakes, he finds himself restricted. Ostracised. A pariah. A beg-a-bet culture in the place of the former friendly ‘war’ between bookmaker and his customer. These days, the customer is part of a number crunching exercise.People sign up not out of loyalty, but naked reward. My Father would not be party to this style of business.

1489328_10153566948910012_1046682886_n

Nobody writes to you from these companies to thank you for your business. if you bet with Bet365 for example, you’re probably unaware who the bookmaker really is – they are in fact a private company. There’s no dialogue between bookmaker and client. Because you’re no longer a client. Sign up to lose. Win and move on.
When did it become the job of bookmakers to offer prices, so unsustainable, they choose not to lay a bet to so many of their customers at the odds they advertise? Isn’t this a trading standards issue? If not, then why not?

Have bookmakers ever behaved so poorly? It’s no wonder their image as acceptable business is at an all time low.

bookie2
Firms such as my own, in the absolute minority, focus on service. It distresses me on occasion to have to restrict a customer for persistent money trading. It’s a catch 22 situation, I have to be competitive to encourage new business, yet the odds I often have to proffer, to compete, are occasionally  unsustainable. We do our best though to make the customer experience more akin to British Airways Club, than Ryanair, and a punter who is fair with me, will be returned the compliment. I would see the practice of offering a price, and then not laying a fair bet outlawed. Why are punters treated with such disdain by bookmakers?
I haven’t been in a betting shop, since I stopped working in them in the 80’s. The landscape has changed of course, with Labour’s inglorious attempt to reform the gambling act in 2005. At a stroke they turned LBO’s from sportsbooks to mini casinos. It is an exageration to describe the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT’s) as akin to ‘crack cocaine.’ It is true, however it was never, and should never, have been the intention of good governance to create a mini casino in every high street.

fobt

I make the following statements with absolute confidence.
FOBT’s are clearly massively addictive. They most certainly are the most profitable arm of any betting shop. They most certainly are being used regularly by the criminal element to launder money, (most likely unchallenged, staff aren’t after all policemen!) They have contributed greatly to problems in gambling. They have put folk out of house home, and worse. They contribute to violent behaviour in shops themselves, with machines routinely being vandalised and staff threatened.
Associations like the ABB will of course go about their business arguing against such claims. Indeed the only organisation outside the ABB to stand with the bookmakers on the subject of FOBTs, rather perversely, is the BHA. Another loser they’ve backed!  A focus on racing, rather than money, is long overdue from this body.
It is childish however to deny there’s no truth in every one of the points I have just put forward. There are degrees in everything, of course. I do not accept the argument about free choice in gambling if it creates a culture of misery for punters and hatred for the operators as perpetrators. We are not put on this planet to make gambling a nationwide problem. No one, Bruce Millington take note, walks out of a betting shop telling their mates what a great afternoon they had on a FOBT. They might well however say they enjoyed a day at the races, win or lose. It’s unlikely people walk out of Ascot hating Johnny Weatherby for the experience he creates. LBO operators can’t make the same bold claim.

mullen

Executives in charge of major betting firms operating FOBT’s have done themselves, and the industry they represent, no service whatsoever in their failures to aggressively deal with the evident problems they create. Or to pay to clear up their mess.  Acting like ostriches in the face of criticism from your own customers, reporters, Dispatches, Panorama, MP’s, focus groups, responsible gambling quangos, is neither wise nor realistic. Arguing there’s no ’empirical evidence’ FOBTs exacerbate problem gambling and damage relations is plain stupid. Short term profits equal long-term pain.
Finally, and before I give you my conclusions, there’s the issue of advertising. I’ve just watched Konta defeating her opponent in sterling fashion in Miami. Good girl that. In every AD break we were treated to a different gambling operator peddling their wares with their Hollywood actors. It appears the only control on the number of adverts the operators get to display is SKY’s policy of operators per AD break. Television, newspapers, radio assaulted by so many gambling companies it’s impossible to avoid. Without these adverts the Racing Post couldn’t exist, in so many ways.

At any time of the day – even when my children are getting ready for school, they’re faced with this insidious material. My Son is a bright fellah, I never talk to him about my business , nor will I encourage him into it. Yet he told me that weeks after he turned 18 he had a Betway account because of interest in E sports. He describes to me how easy it was to open an account and particularly to deposit. In his case using Paypal. He describes how everytime he visits the site he’s encouraged to deposit. How he received regular e mails encouraging him to gamble. How many Betway boosts he encountered offering enhanced odds. How they advertise money back on horse racing, in the form of free bets. Deposit ten pounds, get sixty to play with. And how many free bet offers stretch him to wager in other areas of the website. Most notably gaming. There he reports large winning prize numbers flash on the page, as inducement to wager in that section of the site. He felt many of these offers and refunds were specifically designed to encourage him into more addictive areas of the site. Were this your Son, would you not be more than concerned at his description of such activities?

http://www.goal.com/en/news/2994/betting/2017/04/02/34233862/betting-man-city-121-to-beat-arsenal 

He also reported seeing Man City at 12/1 from Paddy Power to beat Arsenal today. I’ve seen such examples on many occasion, from a variety of companies. In fact such offers are thoroughly misleading. In fact most offers of this nature pay you the correct odds in cash terms for your wager, and the rest in ‘free bets.’ In said regard, the 12/1 in betting terms as punters understand it, isn’t in any way factual. Punters understand 12/1 to £5 as £60 profit. It’s only once one researches the often complex terms and conditions, that you in fact find that the offer is actually refers to free bets. Coupons for more wagers. Exactly why is such advertising permissable?

22607_cheltenham-fest-money-back.jpg

Do the operators, peddling such filth, get together to control their output? Clearly not. The same executives who peddle their FOBT wares refusing to agree any cut in televised output, for fear of a non compliant operator jumping into the AD space they’ve left behind. Well lads, a cut is coming. Continue with no self regulation, and I see gambling following tobacco into advertising history. Good riddance.

How many problem gamblers are there in the UK? Let me hazard a more than educated guess.

2 million. That’s two million. Look at the gambling culture, the assault of advertising. Every telly programme and every high street. You’re naive if you think i stuck my finger in the air for effect.

lbo

These days therefore we have policies, incepted and encouraged by CEO’s and marketing of large betting concerns, increasing problem gambling to record levels. Want to fund your betting account? There’s a buffet of ways of doing it, to include credit card payments. Money you don’t actually have!

 

Proliferation of advertising, counter productive promotions, unsustainable pricing structures and avoidance of tax and levy. It’s more than fair to say, looking at recent history, that bookmakers have never been so unpopular with Government, regulators, and critically, their own customers. You can’t blame the regulators, clients or protest groups for their exasperation with this sector of industry.
Conclusions
Whilst the Government has stuck its hand out, for its share of FOBT revenues, I don’t doubt for a second they are deeply uncomfortable with matters we evidence every day. Pressure on Ministers from back benchers with questions in the House are a regular feature. New leadership in Government, and at the Gambling Commission, indeed new experience levels there, has brought fresh impetus to bringing these firms firmly to heel. An important supporter of betting, John Whittingdale, recently leaked what the rest of us had been waiting on for years. That machines in shops were heading for some serious regulation.  I welcome that.

Executives at large betting have ignored, or denied the issues for far too long. It’s regrettable of course people will lose jobs, but that’s the price of very necessary control in gamblng. If you’re the Chairman of a large betting company, and you’ve a CEO running about telling everyone they’re all wrong about the requirement for temperance in how you behave, you’d better source a leader fully committed to self regulation. Or you’ll find yourself without a license.

The last chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Jenny Williams, permitted betting to make claims about ‘money back’ offers, which were nothing of the sort, without fear of control.  She took the view licensees should know and observe their responsibilities. The ‘cool’ hand of regulation was in fact in absentia. Leave a supergiant to ‘self regulate’ and they’ll announce betting into China as legal, or blitz you with adverts. The new Chief Executive is made of entirely sterner stuff. Those selling alcohol, or cigarettes simply aren’t permitted to approach their customers in a manner condoned by previous administrators. Knowingly offering free bets and hooking clients into more addictive products by offering those wagers conditional on utilising a casino product, is, quite frankly, abhorrent practice.

Adverts simply have to be curtailed. The situation is beyond control right now. Why we suffer this assault to our weaknesses on a daily basis is beyond my comprehension. We don’t permit addictive marketing on our screens. Tobacco and alcohol are out. Why therefore do we bombard our children with Hollywood actors peddling the next goalscorer? It’s obscene, and long overdue for Government and regulators to intervene and put a stop to it. Make certain you add your voice to this important call for reasonable behaviour.

Big betting has to pay for its ills. Hefty fees to the gambling commission certainly for those creating this problem gambling environment,  and a very substantial portion of their revenues to be utilised to fund independent research and treatment of problem gamblers. They need to learn how to behave responsibly as businesses. Profit at the expense of people simply isn’t acceptable.
It’s coming. If you’ve shares in these operators, expect a dip. Don’t imagine they can all survive the extra regulatory burden, despite their impressive scale. I see job losses, household betting names disappearing

ladbrokes

The real problem gamblers in the UK aren’t the punters. It’s the bookmakers. Pray for regulation.

I told you so..

The Centaur Arena could, quite probably, win the award for the smelliest sporting venue in sport. 4 enormous bars pump out Guinness at an alarming rate. The effluent of which has to go somewhere. Most of it is deposited by the bookies joints. People bet, fart and leave. If the Irish harboured any apparent animosity for the English, it’s down to Oliver Cromwell. NAP. Nothing to do with the bookies. Have pity and hold it in! The Centaur is a purpose built arena and our success as on course bookies there can depend on weather. Or so you’d think. In fact Wednesday, when it was warm and sunny, was busier than Thursday. Strange truism. Give em a pint, a pie and a giant screen and they will come.

farts

I take a substantial team to Cheltenham to handle the number of bets and make the payouts quick. The churn is vital for bookies, if I have their winnings – they won’t bet. I employ three fit birds to take the bets in a scandalous and outrageous attempt to use sex to sell betting tickets. No they don’t strip, at least not all the way. But it’s a more pleasant betting experience than betting with the old men outside 😊  My online website goes into overdrive, we’re not Betfair, but we make sure our racing odds and football match the likes of Bet3.65. It’s a critical week for betting and racing. And for my private client operation!

rebate3

Wear tweed or a silly Guinness hat down any high street in the country, people would laugh and point. It’s ridiculous garb, but Chelteniers wear it with pride. I used to have a hot girlfriend who bought herself a tight mini skirt in tweed. She looked the dogs bollocks, but everyone else looks plain silly. You need a new uniform..The fellah who led in the Gold Cup winner by the way, wasn’t wearing tweed – what’s that about? Didn’t HE get the letter?

tweed2

Since I was a very small boy, pre-gambling commission sensibilities and health and safety, I’ve taken bets at the Festival. It’s not hard to love the four day bash. So let’s dispel any myths I don’t enjoy and prosper from it. I love the whole bash and the organisation that goes into it. Clearly we all do. It’s the pervasive and damaging influence it has on the five months which run up to the great affair that has to change. I’ve been roundly critical of the impact on fields and competitiveness of top racing in National Hunt up to March. If as a regulator you’re not prepared to deal with the issues raised – and they are easily dealt with by the way, then you deserve to be criticised by pundits such as me. Although in this case, I have felt fairly isolated. Most racing commentators butter their bread by force feeding the masses a diet of ‘everything’s great’ for months on end. It’s so depressingly boring, I wonder how networks like Racing UK gain a single subscriber. Sport is full of controversy. Football embraces it. It adds to the quality and watchability of the whole thing. What’s wrong with admitting our failures, entertaining viewers and in such a way progressing the whole thing? Controversy will add, not detract interest in racing.

I understand why things are as they are. The top echelons of National Hunt trainers are some of the stuffiest men in sport. I sat last year next to Gordon Elliott on Ch4. I criticised openly policy which had top horses afforded cosy racecourse gallops after racing, after months of sitting in their boxes, instead of entertaining the public, as they are being paid to do. By punters and sponsors. Elliott’s indignant retort to me ‘what do you know about training hosses?’

elliott

As if that makes any difference? I don’t have to play football to know Leicester players deserve the collective sack. Nor do I have to train a racehorse, Gordon, to understand the practice of shielding horses from competitive racing and eating grass for months is bad for the sport. Such attitudes and practices have to be stamped out. Douvan is touted the best horse in racing. Where was he in the best races? Messing about in egg and spoon events at Cork. Real Madrid playing Bristol City once every two months. A genuine sporting farce. If ever a connection deserved to fail, it’s Ricci with Douvan. If you’ve the best – get him out winning King George’s and Tingle Creeks. Kuato Star did. Remember that one? He didn’t shy from competition, trip, opposition. Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power, Limini – the list of notable absentees or fails of Rich Ricci runners ar Cheltenham is long and distinguished. The policy of avoidance is a notable fail.

There are those who take issue with me saying such things. Comments like Rich Ricci can do as he likes because he pays the bills ta da ta da, (with our money by the way).. To those I say this. You can’t love a sport if you believe sticking a horse in a poor heat at Cork once every three months is in any way worthwhile.unless you’re talking through your pocket. Don’t forget Rich enriched himself at that crooked little organisation Barclays, dutifully paying off their fines I see, and now more famous for closing the accounts of legitimate businesses. In that regard they currently resemble bookies. Ricci of course has gambled freely with our money, now finds it difficult to do the same when it is his own charges that are involved.

douvan

The whole Douvan drama I enjoyed thoroughly. There will be a world of wailing as to his injury and debate one way or tother how it happened and what ifs. For most books the race was a meaningless betting heat – not the entire point I know. I am very strongly of the view- and I’ve made it plain for months, almost on my own I might add, that this diet of avoidance has a price. You rob the fans and indeed the horse of potential rich heritage. I view Ricci and his totally negative approach as a cancer on the sport.  Sending Champion hurdler elects to the Mares and a weekly buffet of excuses dutifully peddled by an all too tame racing press. Sorry to most hacks, but it is true. Folk aren’t buying your papers, and your columns are shrinking because we know Annie Power won’t face Faugheen. Yet you print it. Fine if you’d rather sell betting tickets than newspapers!

Mullins seems a jolly amiable fellah – and doubtless he’s doing what’s best for the stable by ensuring the owner sending him horses worth 300 thousand plus a pop continues to do just that. Every trainer needs material. He threw his eggs into one basket and lost Gigginstown. He left top animals out of the best of races, and now they’re injured. It’s arguable Douvan arrived too fresh to the Festival. It’s arguable horses bred to race are harder to train if they aren’t sent out to actually race. Only arguable I understand. Fans of the sport, cast your mind back to Kuato Star, and Denman. Had Ricci and Mullins trained these two, we would never have seen it actually happen. Fact.

Those of you who watched the Morning Line will have heard me criticise policy that leaves stars on the sidelines. Nobody likes to hear I told you so, but I did tell you so. I was hard on Willie for losing O’Leary when the topic was raised. It was simply poor business. No doubt there’s more to it than money. I mean who doesn’t negotiate bills?

By the way. Mullins can sure train, Walsh can ride with great skill and sets horses up to fences in a manner I’ve never seen before. Head down controlling the stride. Elliott is unquestionably talented and deserves his moment in the sun. Let’s not confuse criticism of policy with their talents. I congratulate them on their performances- even if I done my cocos fielding against some of their winners..

To progress matters the regulators, and the influential JCR in this case simply have to grasp a few nettles and take on these overbearing trainers. Championship events must have pre-qualifying criteria. A minimum condition of entry. A minimum number of graded heats and class must have been attempted. It’s a norm in other sports. Racecourse gallops should be stamped out for horses who intentionally sit on the sidelines since December- or worse. And the total number of graded heats has to be slashed. Every single decision should be based on the betterment of the sport. Trainers will adapt. Mullins will not avoid Cheltenham if you tell him to sign up on February 1st. After the trials meeting if you ask why I mention this timeline. Ante Post wagering will return as currently it’s a dead duck.Interestingly, conditions of entry to the festival favours the Jockey CLub, who’s lesser graded heats have been turned into rather dull events by the withdrawal of top stock. Notable the King George, only saved by the enterprise and commitment of one Colin Tizzard.

There have also to be maximum ratings in certain races. Such as the Mares, to stop Champion Hurdle contenders plundering prizes lesser owners and trainers covet. They deserve their shot at fame and fortune at our best Festival. It’s vital to small owners and trainers. Expect them to pony up for horses and then see any chance they have of glory robbed by Annie Power? It’s simply poor business.

mares

Channel 4 I miss for their commitment and professionalism. I feel the new outside format for ITV was a required change, their afternoon show is really enjoyable, and Chapman for me stands out. It’s right a footballing man heads it up. There’s far too many ‘cosy’ pundits in this sport with absolutely nothing worthwhile to say. It’s right to stick a camera in a bettors face -bookie or punter, and get involved in the fracas. So many people watching have had a bet. The rest need resuscitation. I’ve not been on, but if they do ask me I’ll shake a few trees for you and maybe add a few more viewers. It’s not important if you agree or not with a pundit – just that it’s said if it has merit. Opening Line needs to move forward an hour and as most of the racegoing public have left by the time the show comes on.

I don’t agree with the moaners who think the festival is either too expensive, or too busy. Bums on seats answers that one. Will we all be there next year? God willing, yes. Will the regulators listen to my calls for more control on how the festival plays on the rest of the programme? Well, they should. To continue with the way it’s going, with northern racing and many trainers suffering, poor fields in graded heats and stars avoiding each other isn’t a recipe for success at all. Unless, that is, you’re happy with a five month chat about Cheltenham annually – and nothing else. I’d say it’s time for a well publicised crisis meeting, and let’s call it that, to show our commitment to jump racing. We all love it, it cannot be permitted to continue as a one week event. Show your support with comments on twitter – people are listening. Show you care too about this great sport.

app

The ‘Roast of Bruce Millington’

Open Letter to Bruce Millington – Racing Post editor.

 

Regards Racing Post headline January 5th 2017

‘Regulator’s concern at allegations of ‘Sharp practice’

post

Whether the regulator was concerned at what the bookies were getting up to – or the Racing Post- isn’t clear at this stage..

It’s tempting I understand to follow in leading betting experts like Tony Calvin, with his calls for police to be involved over a 16/1 chance shortening to 14/1 (big deal). I also completely understand a lifetime as a punter doing your coconuts, that you don’t run out every Christmas to get bookies a card.

You do run what is now another commercial arm of big betting, with horsey news stories tacked on the end. You’ve become the bookmaker Bruce- targeting the little firms at the sharp end whilst you quoff your champagne with the big bookie executives in their lovely private boxes. (For the veracity in that statement – please see the adverts in your daily rag)

The majority reading this will be fully aware of your ‘commercial’ approach to editing, that is when you’re not scribbling about referees, who scored the goal etc. If it’s a sponsor of the paper, careful editing and the very independence of the paper naturally sacrocanct to the almighty dollar. You make no bones as to who pays the piper.

In my opinion..

press

To boot the output of the paper you have responsibility for is evidently chastised by punters (readers) for its failures, in their view, to properly highlight issues with big betting, their muddy terms and conditions, nasty little machines and a thousand telly adverts a minute,. Months of adverts in the Post touting money back offers that simply didn’t exist, perhaps you didn’t notice as you banked the cheques?

QED – when you paste headlines inferring a trade body culpable in sharp practices, without a bit of Columbo work to ensure its accurate, and your best supporter is Big Mac, its got to be a bit worrying..in the meantime you make all of us look deeply shabby. All on your front page- so rarely utilised to criticise bookmakers. Given the quality of your work here, I find it all thoroughly unprofessional and cheap.

It’s tempting once again to turn on those who don’t prop up the paper, but stand in the driving rain – providing a lot of people with a valuable service- and keep racetracks in business.

I also contacted Gambling Commission Executive Director, Tim Miller. He was thrilled to talk to me. But they’re an honest bunch too. I paraphrase a bit in saying you ambushed the poor fellah with this drab. He confirmed to me the Commission, who regularly place investigators on course, (they come disguised as 16 year olds) had no evidence of any price rigging. Nor was any investigation in play.  Say it isn’t so? They therefore had no concerns, other than to respond to your headline. Did you therefore misrepresent their interest? They didn’t know what you were talking about. Nor did the SP regulatory commission.

To give an analogy, you rang up the police to ask if they would take a dim view of car theft, and they told you how nasty that would be, and you stuck it on your home page almost as if it had occurred. You could have helped yourself to yet another BHA own goal- but let’s be fair on the eternal fail that is Harman, he’s had a bad couple of years fending off Chris Cooke and The Dikler, can’t possibly monopolise the news every week can he? Gambling Commission weren’t confirming in any way Mr Smith’s comments. They know Andy Smith forms one part of a Christmas double act with Tony Calvin as the panto donkey.

It’s 5/6 each of two who’s at the ass end of the same.

So what was the basis of your stories? Rumour, or fact? Did you consider the livelihoods of those you so cynically cheapened? Most people don’t care about little bookies, but that doesn’t mean we deserve your unfounded reports. Were your reports, in fact, based on any known facts, or do you feel you have the right to say as you please?

Mr Smith was not in fact betting at Cheltenham. That’s helpful information isn’t it Bruce? A point not mentioned in the first report of skullduggery. I wonder if anyone bothered to check? I did.

Of course old Andy has previous form with regards to letting his tongue wobble and making unsubstantiated remarks.. Odd that I’ve always liked Andy in a strange sort of way, he’s a character and there’s few of us left, but everyone knows he’s prone to this sort of rash comments.Nobody thought anyone would listen to him. Except you. Oh dear me.

What you did was garden variety irresponsible and lazy journalism to curry favour with a few punters. Oh those nasty bookies again.Grade A tosh. You haven’t a shred of evidence to support your position, although to be fair newspapers historically aren’t famous for caring particularly about the facts. .

donkey

I wonder if you appreciate using expressions like ‘sharp practice’ without foundation is on the risqué side? Just the kind of thing top wags like Jonathan Harvie QC eat for their lunch. You see the whole episode was picked up by ITV, ATR and Racing UK. All reporting on your little tittle tattle that never actually happened and getting richer in the accusations. I’m not minded to run to Jonathan because when all is said and done it’s the age old bookie vs punter battle. Your flank is exposed here.

rain2

If you understood what actually happens in the betting ring, you would appreciate that what occurs in instances where horses break loose for example, that the prices in the ring increase, as bookmakers follow betting exchanges almost to the letter.

If you understood what occurred at Cheltenham on New Years Day, you would have appreciated that there was considerable confusion as to whether this outsider was a runner, or not. That the betting exchanges, which bookmakers rely upon for information, had the horse also listed as a runner. That bookmakers are focused on business and quite often find it difficult to hear announcements. That the weather was diabolical and bookmakers were struggling with pouring rain and cold. That the whole mess was the responsibility of the ruling body. There was, at the very least, a thorough lack of appreciably accurate information. In the absence of official information, they bet with the horse as a runner. An out bloody-sider- likely no bookmaker even noticed he hadn’t passed them by in the gloom. There was no ‘conspiracy’ of sample bookmakers. These include some of the greatest names in bookmaking. Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes, Betfred. Such firms make up the lions share of any SP. Were they in your little conspiracy? Did we have a little huddle?

rain

If you understood how betting markets operated, you would appreciate fully that the major bookmakers, involved with the sample, don’t follow win only odds from betting exchanges, especially when liquidity levels for such selections are so low. And in respect of the associated place markets. Sample bookmakers don’t trade bets with exchanges, they accept risk and in doing so have to bet to an acceptable margin and in reliance on betting exchanges for price – the available liquidity. We’re not interested in Calvin’s £2 liquidity levels. Remember – he hasn’t laid an egg and imagines we’re worried about 24.0 to £9. It’s pub fare- pure and simple. And, by the way, it very regularly occurs for horses to ‘dip’ in odds just prior to the off.

You place a lot of reliance on this movement of a horse from 16/1 to 14/1 as the basis of your argument that bookmakers could have been colluding on affecting the rule 4 deductions. To defeat the simplistic argument of those who think everything is about exchanges- it simply isn’t when a boomaker has to make his place market ‘fit.’ Many bookmakers near to the off cut their odds in case of late uncontrollable action. For this reason, the SP is usually the worse price to take. A heady factor the conspiracy theorists neither understand nor give account for. How do you know a bookmaker hadn’t laid the horse and had a few wagers with sample firms? Everyone considered the horse a runner. Is it impossible, or do you simply prefer we sent each other a text when the opportunity arose to make ourselves 5p here and there?

And pray tell me Bruce- and for those other journalists who have so casually jumped upon this as something factual – what is the commercial benefit you are claiming large sample bookmakers would make from a 5p deduction – on a racetrack – in the pouring rain? Since most of those in the sample proper only bet on track.

Why were betting experts such as myself contacted for the sake of journalistic balance in this bunfight?

Finally, you would accept the view of the SP regulatory body, who reported that they witnessed no nefarious activity. That they had no evidence of bookmakers ‘contracting’ the odds as has been suggested. Now I’m no particular fan in how they operate, but in this case they have been quite clear. They saw nothing untoward. They must be wrong too.

andy-smith2

I fancy this little letter will remain on your school report for quite some time to come, enjoy your pie and chips tonight. Anyone with a passing interest in the truth – and I’m famous for telling the truth, coupled with a lifetime of experience in the ring, feel free to comment, and give Brucie the old rub down with a damp Sporting Life. In my view, the only ‘sharp practice’ in play here eminates from you Mr Millington.

My thanks. Can’t buy you all a bottle of brown ale, for ploughing through this- but you know I would if I drank the stuff.

gb33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kempton – The Bookies View

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way shall we? After a diet of fourteen Christmas dinners and far too much to drink, even the grossest type 2 diabetan fancies a break. The traditional Boxing Day bash at Kempton is just the place.

img_0683
As BanksBentley1 swished it’s way towards Sunbury Cross (why you have darkened windows) I noticed the good people of Sunbury had organised a Christmas treat for those heading to Kempton, by diverting power to the  traffic lights at the big roundabout to their Christmas trees. very civil of them. We drove over a couple of electric cars and parked in the Chairman’s bay.
Kempton isn’t a big track. It doesn’t take much to fill. Two small grandstands, one of which needs to be condemned. You can pick which one goes first. Plenty of concessionaires selling chips with curry sauce to the Diabetans and one of the best tracks in the country. Indeed it’s smaller All Weather affair is as good a surface as you’ll find. It’s great JCR resisted digging up the whole thing for Tesco. Sandown just wouldn’t be the same with it’s fancy Grandstand and driving range.
The crowd was noticably lighter, although still a positive turnout for their feature event- I was happy to see. Kempton officials doubtless in the street encouraging people in..
CSP do the parking and gateman duties at the little venue. Not for Kempton the nice old duffers in bowler hats from Ascot. No these were the nightclub bouncer types. ‘I’m VERY famous’ I told one Tony Calvin lookalike between enclosures. ‘I don’t care if you’re Simon Mapletoft’ he growled ‘you’re not coming in ere.’ Fine, I’ll buy a ticket
I doffed my hat to the bookies I knew, resplendent with their fancy light boards. They do their best to add to the Christmas cheer by paying out on a couple of favourites winning the two biggest heats. Well it is Kempton after all. I hoped someone would notice Kempton in amongst the 77 other races helpfully organised for the day – a mere 3.7 minutes apart for each – not quite enough to bet on. Planning for children by children.
Of course I had spent the week griping on Twitter to all in sundry (most who can’t spell by the way – don’t you go to skool?) about the pathetic turnout for the major races. To include one total no hoper entered in the graded hurdle, who couldn’t beat his grandmother home. Gray Wolf River, whose owner reasoned – reasonably, that by entering he was guaranteed a bigger pot than he’d ever bagged before.

Pause for favourite winning- and payouts

img_0684

 
This is a kind of farce only the National Hunt could put on. A heat so rich in prize fund, yet poorly attended, a horse, according to his owner akin ‘to a bicycle entering a Grand Prix heat’ could make it pay.
Yes, Yes, I know. Colin Tizzard saved the whole shooting match by making one of the bravest, and yes, noble decisions, in running his two specialist 3 milers against each other. One of whom could potentially have bagged the famous million pound bonus for winning 3 specific championship events. Throwing Fizzlecrack into the mix was a decision based on the sport and not the business. To that end I applaud all the connections involved.

Cue Card strolled by – head in the air as usual..such a ponce

Pause for favourite wins and payouts..

img_0685
To those who don’t get my point on the poor turnout and avoidance with Graded events in the winter in the 5 months before Cheltenham, I say one thing. If you don’t understand a sport is based on its top stars racing against each other, rather than horses rated far below their level to polite applause, then you don’t understand sport one bit and what it competes with for interest. If you want to see Altior bumble around against trees, pop to Seven Barrows, where the genial Henderson will let you look for free. This is a sport. Not a business. And the main protagonists should square off against each other more than once a year – that’s if we’re lucky.
Imagine if you will, a world where Rich Ricci owned Fizzlecrack and Cue Card. Both would be running at Cork, in a couple of meaningless affairs. What are the chances they’d square off on recent form? Try zero. What are the chances of Divan (the magnificent?) facing Fizzlecrack? Try zero.

douvan
So the next time you find me standing alone, crying out for people to do something about the disgraceful state of affairs in the beautiful code- try standing to post yourself and making a damned noise. At least highlight these comments if you agree.
Is there a brilliant Banks solution to the whole 5 month Cheltenham schooling gallop scene? Certainly there is. Like EVERY other sport, attendance should be based on merit and qualification. You can’t go to the FA Cup final until you’ve beaten 8 other teams. You don’t get to play in the US Masters until you’ve won several tournaments. Yet Annie Power can sit in her box for five months and turn up for the Champion Hurdle just because. It isn’t good enough. Sponsors, racegoers, television companies pay to see the best race against each other throughout the season. It falls to Jockey Club here as custodians of Racing and the over arching Cheltenham, to sort the whole damn mess out – to their benefit and their patrons too mind you. It’s for sure the BHA aren’t capable of dealing with the situation. Harman’s still learning what a conflict of interest is.
it’s traditional at kempton for Bookies to pop to the ATM for extra funds. Me, I went to several. I’m experienced you see. My customers know to wager on one side (small queue) and collect on the other side (huge queue). Fizzlecrack jumped two fences in one bound in defeating his opponents. And I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Will he handle Cheltenham? Well the only fly in his oitment is the tricky fences there. To take off at an open ditch at Prestbury 46 yards before the fence and trail your boots in can be toublesome. Given his performance however I see Cue Card disappearing to the Ryanair to join Djakadam, Divan, Faugheen and Annie Power. All of whom I’m sure hold a spare entry to the mares – just in case..
One strange event in the day however, someone backing My Tent Or Yours to win? What chance has he got, the fellah said. ‘To finish second?’ I asked. He looked puzzled.Clearly a novice.

After day one I sold the Bentley.

img_0682

 
Day two rolled around.I popped to the ATM, boarded my electric smug car and headed back to the scene of the crime. I noticed St Johns’ ambulance hanging round the bookie stalls, waiting on heart attacks and Tanya from Channel 4 in the crowd looking miserable, and she hadn’t laid a bet! The death of Channel 4 will be met with mixed reviews. for me it’s equally sad because I witnessed the effort first hand and I know it will be tough for ITV to live up to people’s expectations.

My office called every fifteen seconds to keep me posted on a raft of multiple bets running up on favourites around the  country, all running into Native River in the Welsh Grand national. This one for fifteen grand, this one for 26 grand. I groaned every time the phone rang. A punter thrust five pound into my hand after Native River hosed up. ‘That’s for you Son’ he said.
Very sweet of him. Next year I’m going skiing. No matter how expensive the hotel, it couldn’t be more than two days in Sunbury..

Jim Best – The Bookies View

ah, I love a good laugh as much as the next man, but some things go beyond funny-  the realm of ‘The Office’ for uncomfortable viewing. The only surprise in conclusion to the whole Jim Best saga, is how all the chairs remain at the table. I mean in ordinary circumstances you’d pull a few away as the executives returned to work after a hard day quoffing sandwiches in a cosy box over the weekend, eh?

Insiders in racing hate that type of remark. It’s the pub reaction rather than the considered approach afficianados deem  ‘appropriate.’

But if you drag your behinds on providing the sport with the best array of minds to run it, you probably deserve a little nudge heh?
I fail to understand how Chairman Harman and several integrity based officials haven’t been publicly cleaned out. The BHA is a business after all, the task in hand of putting on the best show possible. How many giant fails must we rack up before we pull away the chairs? Or is the inexperienced Harman simply doing as he’s told?  Can’t be a position based on performance..nor the independance of the regulator.

harman2
For the shadowy Trustees, responsible for appointing the Chairman of the BHA, you wonder what gamble they’re playing here with the sport.Moronic fights with the leading sponsors (the approved betting programme) a serious of embarrassing legal cases, an authority over budget. And now this bedroom farce over Jim Best. Don’t forget, if you’re an owner or a trainer- you’re footing the bill in fees.Have an opinion?

stiers
I warned key officials in August further pursuit of this case as excessively unwise. Of course I didn’t expect them to listen to me for goodness sakaes, I’m not that dumb.  A hearing so tainted by the involvement of a solicitor with an apparent conflict of interest.Totally unwinnable surely? 1.01 to Best provided the ban was sufficiently long to force him to appeal. Smart minds in the appeal board, keep the sentence light  – nobody likes their decisions appealed.
Rule no 1 at the Authority. If it’s embarrassing, keep your mouth shut.Everyone knows the fire drill.They never take the helmets off in truth.

Whether you believe the jockey, or the trainer. The fact remains one, the other, or both should be facing anything up to lifetime bans for the deliberate stopping of a horse. Not a jumps season. Personally I don’t think the case has been handled in any way in a manner commensurate with the duty of care’ (ha ha) the regulator owed to Best as a licensee. After the initial debacle, the matter should have been parked, pure and simple. I don’t like Jim Best, but the fact remains the panels viewed Johns as ‘untruthful.’ It was a pub ruling, not one based on evidence. He said, she said.

Of course the BHA could deal with such matters by introducing a new rule o racfing. One of the ill judged ride. You don’t need to prove a jockey stopped or pulled a horse, nor that he ever intended to. In such instance Barry Geraghty would have justifiably been banned for one of the worst examples of poor judgement, in my opinion, in recent times on Noble Emperor, not stopping the thing, which would have been unjust. And the punters who backed the unfortunate animal would have been satisfied. It seems to me it’s either prove they stopped a horse, which is nigh on impossible, and mostly thoroughly untrue, or punish them for generally poor performance. A far lesser offence. Why is it left to me to come up with these ideas? You could call it the Banks rule.

I have no issue, and find it odd, that the appeals body took the view cutting a deal with Johns as somewhat shadowy. Its common practice to go easy on the lesser individual in legal cases. I’m with the BHA on that one. Write that down. It doesn’t happen too often I descent to their level of performance. Cutting deals with witnesses is quite common and should not have surprised this panel

To the appeals panel i say this. If you deemed, somewhat dubiously, to find Jim Best guilty of cheating, you should have handed down bans befitting such a crime.

No, Sir E Bob, this panel perhaps more concerned with the appeal to the High Court and the inevitable cost of the BHA defending their handling there. Doubtless as in the Speculative Bid case, the Judge would treat this regulator with the same scorn handed to them by Judge Charles Harris. What were you thinking of with Lohn, etc etc, let’s have him in etc etc
I’m hearing Jim’s wife has applied for a trainers license. With a ruling which permits Best to remain on licensed premises, we can end up with a situation where the regulator finds an individual guilty of stopping horses, yet doesn’t lose a day’s work.
Idiots in a job.  Do pass the port will you?

Greenham 2
Geoff Banks, bookmaker Newbury 20.4.13 Pic: Edward Whitaker

Douvan – or not Tourun

We’ve somehow come to expect as normal the practice of avoidance in racing. Potentially the sport’s biggest star will sit out this week’s Tingle Creek. Not because of ground concerns, low sun, or an eclipse of Jupiter’s 3rd moon. Quite simply there are other opportunities for the horse and a clash with Un De Slow doesn’t appeal to Willie Mullins. Willie simply doesn’t race his best stock against each other. Period.

Now, when I scream the place down about said policy, I’m met with three responses. The sheep say nothing. There are those that have made money backing Willie’s charges who will hear no wrong because he’s lined their pockets. And there are those who fundamentally disagree with this trio of self-serving individuals.

Namely Mullins, Ricci, and Walsh.

rich

Of course, nobody should be surprised at Rich Ricci. The flamboyant banker who’s trousered a great deal of our money, now sees a cheap opportunity to dominate a sport. And for him it is pennies. On ATR’s excellent ‘on the line’ show – Chapman gently chided Ricci on his tactics. Douvan and the Gold Cup was briefly discussed. You could see Rich visibly wincing at the prospect of risking his star against the likes of Thistlecrack.

Let’s fairly the blame for racing’s issues with top races not fulfilling their potential squarely at the foot of these men. Fine Mullins can train, Walsh can ride, Rich can bank the odd cheque. Those of you thinking they’re heroes for delivering us such quality animals, consider this. Were the likes of Douvan, Annie Power, Faugheen, Arctic Fire or the ill fated Vautour owned by differing persons, as opposed to the hands of one man, would we be more or less likely to see at least three of these performers in the one race – the Champion Hurdle, where they clearly should be competing? Did the trio not pull out Vautour from his intended target, claiming he hadn’t worked sufficiently well, yet to place him in the far lesser Ryanair to provide yet another opportunity for the lads to stand on the podium?

I note Ricci persuaded his own betting company to refund Vautour gold cup backers, after he maintained GC was the no 1 target. Those who wagered with other companies appeared less lucky. Perhaps Rich you should refund them?

Imagine you were an owner targeting your mildly lesser animal for the Mares race and Annie Power turns up, or Vautour in the Ryanair. How are such important sponsors of the sport advantaged, encouraged? Would you expect to face the Champion Hurdler elect? It’s time for Cheltenham to impose a ceiling in ratings on the participation of certain horses in such events, for the sake of those essential smaller owners, and yes competitiveness.

Who recalls Ruby Walsh’s indignant stance on Channel 4 when I dared to criticise the policy on Quevega, and her participation in a race several grades below her potential. A grade one winning mare running in the lowest rated race. A sham and no mistake.

Cast your mind back just a few years. If Paul Nicholls were to adopt similar policy, we would never have been treated to Neptune Collonges vs Kuato Star vs Denman so many times. It simply would not have happened

kuato

If the leading jump owner of our generation, the amiable and shy JP MacManus, adopted said policy, many races over a decade would have been trashed. To be fair a great deal of racing’s top owners, Sheikh Mohammed, Abdullah, Magnier, and O Leary have provided exactly that- competition. They race their horses in the grade appropriate to their ability.

If Lewis Hamilton dropped to Formula 3, or Andy Murray to the challenge tour, surely you’d think that odd? If you bought a ticket to see Manchester United and Alex Ferguson declared they could only play Liverpool in the cup final, refused to play anyone but Scunthorpe and kept Giggs and Cantona on the bench-  would you not have been angered by his lack of ambition?

For these reasons, the denial to the sport from this trio of racing their best in the correct race or grade has to be criticised, and often. I’m thoroughly tired of those fawning to individuals so bent on self at the expense of the sport. Douvan will head to Cork in a meaningless exercise. Once again the regulator(s) are failing the sport in allowing promotion seeking owners to work the system. No grade 1 horse should be permitted in such lesser grades. It weakens the fabric of ownership, competitiveness and betting turnover.

When I read of Ruby Walsh, a genius in the saddle, but sour as a lemon out, telling bookmakers what nonsense it is to offer Douvan at 5/1 for the Tingle Creek,  I genuinely wonder if he realises just what a giant hypocrite he is. One of the architects of avoidance in the sport. Part of the problem, telling us we’re fools because we can’t second guess his team. He’ll jump off Douvan to ride Un De Sceaux, by the way.

douvan

The solution is to tell Ruby Walsh to do his talking in the saddle.

Incidentally, if you had £20 on Douvan at 5/1 to win the Tingle Creek – you’d lose £20. His next outing will be at 1/8 odds at Cork. If you joined the gamble, to whatever level, you’ve lost your money. And the blame for that lies squarely at the door of Mullins. He declared the horse right up to the last hour.If you backed Un De Sceaux at 4/1, I fancy you’re kissing Willie’s backside.

If you bought a ticket at Sandown expecting to see one of these great stars turn up, you’re likely disappointed. I welcome the decision of Michael O Leary to remove his team from WM, it can only serve racing. Fans mean less to this trio than a podium in March, and it’s time to call them out, not apologise for, tactics so damaging to the sport.