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Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie in the world?

Not often you find a bookmaker prepared to answer claims from punters that they don’t lay a bet. Hopefully you’ll afford some credit

http://www.bookiedispute.com/?p=841 Check these claims out.

This is a blog from someone called ‘Rob’ – Rob is anonymous. He wants to make his claims without anyone knowing who he is. Not quite brave enough to make his argument in his own name. Right up there in the highest echelons of the Betfair forum. The place for unlicensed individuals to vent their spleen anonymously. Be as rude as you like and say what you like when no one knows your name can’t you?

Well no. You cannot. Check the headline ‘Rob’ comes up with

‘Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie in the world’ makes overwhelming suggestion that I don’t lay a bet. That my long standing reputation for laying a fair bet is in fact a sham.

His remarks are nothing short of libellous. The fact remains you cannot sit on social networking and say just whatever pleases you. If you  make allegations against another individual, those allegations have to be substantiated, by you, in as court of law. Being unaware that’s the law of the land, doesn’t give you immunity.

The last time I tested these laws was with one particular idiot who thought it would be amusing to describe me as a cokehead on Twitter. That little escapade cost him damages and expenses approaching fifty grand. That’s fifty grand for opening your mouth and letting your tongue wobble Rob.

In the last few months alone my office has paid out 93 grand to one customer and 55 grand to another. Both those customers still wager with me without any restriction. That’s a fact. And we have many customers who bet with us who do in fact show a profit on their betting. Wagering without any appreciable restrictions. Because their business is recreational, win or lose. We work our socks off to give the finest one to one service and all the technology, apps, mobile sites and websites, my nearest rivals deny their customers.

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But, and it’s a big but. There are plenty of loud mouth individuals on Twitter or the like who sit at home utilising expensive trading software like Bet angel, price scalping tools, odds scanners or the like, masking their IP address- only offering a bookmaker a bet because their odds have become out of date, and therefore bigger than Betfair’s exchange. Engaged in such activity marks your business out as professional. You’ve no complaint expecting us to help you run business.

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I certainly don’t run a sportsbook to help these unlicensed individuals with their money trading or arbing. I’m not here to support their activities and I do not have to justify not laying them a bet, or restricting such traders to pennies because I see them as simple parasites on my firm.

I don’t owe you a living, and you need to get that into your head. You can’t describe yourself as a ‘punter’ when your machine tells you to back Stau Bucharest on the Asian handicap because it’s less on Betfair. You’re quite simply a money trader. A punter has a bet in the Grand National, or the cup final, because that’s what punting truly is. Not what you do. Scanning bookmaker sites for potential trades isn’t punting. It’s trading.

Of course there are those who say, well you put those odds up so you should lay them. Well, of course we do, we don’t put up prices our customers can’t take. We don’t need a £5000 guarantee on ITV races like Coral offer (shops only of course, they’re simply not mandated to lay the offers they make) because we lay these bets every race, every day. And we don’t mind if the recreational punter helps himself, win or lose. But not the scalper. You justify what you do by saying we only want mugs. That’s not correct at all, we simply don’t want professional arbers. You’ll unfairly describe anyone not sitting at home with their trading tool scanning websites for margin advantages as mugs. That’s disrespectful. They’re not in it for the same reasons you are.

You’re an unlicensed bookmaker- looking for another bookmaker to put bread on your table. Are you serious?

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Let’s deal with Rob. He describes ‘a horse racing enthusiast’ who deposited money with me. Are you joking? Who’s this enthusiast? Name him. If there’s any veracity in your ridiculous claims let him speak for himself.

Let’s be honest here, the enthusiast is in fact our friend Rob, one and the same. Do you think anyone believes the ridiculous claim about some fictional mate who couldn’t get on, and he’s having a rant on his friend’s behalf. Don’t make me laugh. I mean who blogs about someone else’s betting problems?

He describes two wagers. He claims they were placed and neither ‘price was out of line.’ Do you believe him? Do you think it’s in the least bit possible that if those prices were achievable on Betfair exchange at the time, that he wouldn’t have availed himself on the exchange? Traders like Rob require bookmakers to lay them the bets Betfair cannot. That’s a fact of life. That’s precisely why they complain so vociferously. When the bookmaker inevitably restricts them, that’s chipping away at their ‘income.’ There’s a giant difference between someone running a business, and someone just having a bet. One has expectations of guaranteed profit.

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Of course not. Rob is a thorough going liar. Of course the wagers were giant arbs, or perhaps job money. It’s hard to say because we take thousands of bets a month and funnily enough we can’t find any ‘horse racing enthusiast called Rob’ who had anything like these wagers.

Do you think, accepting the possibility we couldn’t find the wagers he describes, but that they exist in some differing form, that we would have restricted this fictional customer after just two wagers if our information wasn’t utterly conclusive that not only these wagers, but subsequent requests he made weren’t all identified as selections picked solely because an arbing or trading situation arose to his benefit?

One final point in dealing with Rob, and the small army of Rob’s out there trading on Betfair in your underpants, forming your own bookie hating communities. A few months ago, I had the unhappy fortune to run into several hundred individuals who were using ghost ‘friend’ accounts to help themselves to bookmaker open account offers. Bear this in mind. If you’re using friends to place wagers on your behalf, there are two inescapable facts. One, your friend becomes your agent and is required to have an agent’s license from the gambling commission. And two, you’re effectively running a business, via agents and you’re liable for taxation on your punting and profiteering from bonus offers. Deal with that.

That’s why they’re anonymous. But your IP address gives the game away.

Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie? An attention seeking rant is the truth. You’re disrespectful, and dishonest. We work very hard to service our customers and lay their bets of all sizes. Been doing it for years. No BOT trader is going to wobble his tongue in my direction unpunished.

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Geoff Banks, bookmaker Newbury 20.4.13 Pic: Edward Whitaker

 

Featured

Champions Day – The Bookies view..

 

 

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A few years ago the Emperor of Jockey Club surveyed his tracks in response to a grand plan from British Racing for a season’s end panto. Cheltenham seemed too bumpy and that of grotesque tweed, ohh no. Newmarket can’t stand kids, hard to find, even with Google maps. Kempton is quite simply a nasty little shack, full of dead flies. He decided he’d make more cash if they went along with the plan to create a season ending bash, at which the finest Port and cheese would, of course, be served. Ascot had been busy building a structure so vast in stature, it created it’s own weather pattern. If you’re going to have a jolly event, it’s important you have a Swinley Bottom. Or Bottoms.

Let’s get the humble pie bit out of the way-I prattled on, along with a few other lesser mortals, that the timing needed revision. The fact remains the whole shebang was saved by the very participation of one horse. Frankel. Had he not bothered turning up in 2012 i believe, the BHA think tank would have been meeting to reconsider upsetting the our froggie friends by moving it back a month. I still believe that’s the best option if we are to secure participation of faster ground animals, but I was outvoted by people wearing waist coats and deerstalkers.

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Anyway, they threatened Teddy Grimthorpe with violence, and Frankel duly turned up. The party was saved along with a few jobs at Great British Racing. Ascot was the right venue. It has the infrastructure, class and grandeur to organise an end of season bash and serves drinks in a real glass. It’s been blessed with much better weather over the last few years, and with that the arrival of some of the top equine stars to entertain us. We can all be a toff for the day at Ascot..

Even the French send over the odd runner. Foreign equine stars are my absolute pension. Ridden by Thierry’s and Moet’s. All who think they can turn in to the Ascot straight, 6 lengths back, and possibly win. Mais Non, Espece de Cretin..

I quaffed a few glasses and joined the great unwashed in the betting ring. and the big bets were flying about on Order Of St George and a number of notably lumpy wagers set the tone. It was down and dirty and they didn’t seem to care if I lost.. David Power gave me some fun money for O’Brien’s star. He’s no shrinking violet when it comes to betting. My eyes were stinging, not the kind of bet you get with the Supermarket operators.. St George wasn’t however the only one they came for, Stradivarius was popular and a few saddos backed the French runner.. I should have discovered betting in running..St George touched 33/1 with the Bot traders.

Whilst Harry’s thingy was popular in the sprint, one other horse swamped my book. A fellah I recognised as a warm order, stuffed a chunkin my hand and said ‘put that on horse 5.’  I checked the board. Tasleet – 14/1. ‘Don’t you mean Harry’s?’. No, I’m sure, Tasleet.

I threw the money into the bag as if i stood such bets every day of the week. I gave David Power an interest for being such a nice fellah. He didn’t bat an eyelid. I got on with standing the favourite for a threatening lump. The race looked all over at the two marker with Harry’s sauntering along, – to suddenly be pressed by this Hamdam thing..my big chance lay in the whip, Hamdam doesn’t take to the whip for his stars, two cracks and out, the order of the day. Fortunately. I survived the race this time, back in front.

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I spot Lord Gosden in the walkway, surrounded by 20 or so press folk. ‘Tell us what you had for breakfast John, for the fans you understand..’
‘well I’m rather partial to kippers’ JG replied, in his most aristocratic tone, and they all looked excited. scribbling away. The Gosden accent bothers me. I know John’s public school, and they don’t talk like that. He’s done a study course in phwah phwah and taken the Missus along, so they can converse appropriately.

What he can do, is train. If they stuck a Galileo in his yard covering everything we’d be celebrating 25 English group ones (or you English would) He also strikes me as rather a decent sort, batting for a bit of fair play.

Chapman was also in the ring. Wearing some kind of welly boots, and blanking me for dissing the Opening Show. Even though he was caught on camera dozing off by all 32 viewers. ITV is a paradox, their Opening Show is quite dismal, their afternoon show is, I have to say it, great. I think what they do so much better than Channel 4 is deliver it with style, if not with the Channel 4 quality of production, but that’s quibbling. Everyone looks smart, and everything is great. If you bought the ‘it’s great’ on Sporting Index, you’d be worth one Oppenheinmer…

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But Champions Day is great. And so equally have so many of this season’s flat events. In said regard, ITV is totally appropriate. There are those that say I’m hopelessly in love with Francesca Cumani, but that’s a total exageration..

Nice mix on ITV with the intelligent Weaver and Brough Scott brought back from the dead (literally) Cumani’s accuracy with horse action and Chamberlin’s style. Nice, it works for me. Chapman eternally entertaining, he makes me laugh and offers balance, but don’t tell him that, his ego is insufferable. Somewhere in the mix I hope they find jobs for Luck and Cunningham. If you’re committed to the best, then have the best in some capacity.

Viewing figures suggested a half a million, far short of the BBC ideal we were supposed to be treated to. Here you have to blame racing for its failures. Simply far too many opportunities for horses like Enable, Ulyssees and Cracksman to square off. You think it doesn’t matter? Of course it does. Far too often television companies showcasing this sport are presented with half the available participants for a top race. Too many group ones, too many countries failing to co-operate and not enough stars. Cracksman hasn’t raced since York, swerved the Arc and the Breeders and its a miracle if he trains on as a 4 year old it’s a miracle as right now he’s worth as much as his Dad. The National Hunt is in terminal decline because we ignore this cancer. A sport that denies the paying public the best squaring off can’t hope for top viewing audiences when the other channel is showing Manchester United vs Liverpool.

Cracksman strolls onto the field for the main event, balls gently swaying in the wind. Let’s deal with any blithering idiots reading this. If you think Enable would have downed this machine with her far more workmanlike Arc performance, you’ve taken total leave of your senses. He destroyed a top class field, as indeed he did in the Dante. This is the best I’ve seen since his Papa. He would have danced all over the filly. FACT.

I’m sure we can look forward to Enable and Cracksman squaring off as four year olds. Not.

I stood Cracksman for an appropriate amount, – and lost an appropriate amount. Ryan Moore, who’d been brilliant all day, when not under a microphone, drove Highland Reel up Sunninghill High Street. In truth his chances on rain softened ground were limited. The French nags were, predictably, hopeless, and Barney Roy, popular in the ring was held up at the back, and stayed at the back. Two Enables wouldn’t have beaten Cracksman.

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I deposited some more money with the punters in the last as the favourite came from another planet to upset the day. I enjoyed some of the Ascot atmosphere with friends before leaving, observing thousands having a great time watching a couple of nice bands. No trouble, well stewarded, a lot of very smart folk enjoying a well rounded event. And yes, Newmarket, children actually do go free. Were I to offer one suggestion to Ascot, it’s to install some kind of sub air system to Swinley Bottom, the one area that jeopardizes meetings and diverts runners.

It’s a success. I don’t say that about the National Hunt, expect a few broadsides, but its been an excellent flat season and I believe we are heading in the right direction there. Ascot knows its job and British Racing got this one right.

Pass the sherry someone? Will they make me a steward now??

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Featured

Few industries behave as badly as Gambling

Imagine you walked into Waitrose -up to the crisp counter and there were three similar bags of crisps for sale for 50p. Watched three customers try to buy them. All at the very same price. One customer could buy the crisps freely at the advertised price. The second could only buy part of the bag at the price. The third couldn’t buy the crisps at all.

 

Would you consider that a breach of the consumer rights of two out of the three customers?

 

Were Ryanair to place an advertisement, on every platform, advertising seats to Paris for just £10, but in reality there were only a few seats available at that price. Would you consider that to be fair advertising?

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The first two paragraphs highlight just how badly modern large betting concerns behave, how their general business ethics have dipped– and simply get away with it.  Consider the following common practices:

 

They can advertise prices on any event and not lay them to each or any of their customers if they want to. There’s no acceptable lay to lose minimum. It’s available to selected individuals only. Essentially  they can adopt an unsustainable pricing policy and remain untackled by regulator, or government. Advertising odds, yet not undertaking to lay those odds to every customer on their books, not to guarantee to lay that price to everyone on their books, for as long as they hold that price. To selectively manage who gets a bet, and who does not, which at the very least is surely a serious issue for trading standards under every law, and honour, that I understand.

‘No industry behaves worse to consumers than the gambling sector’

 

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We hear daily grand claims of the 22 million customers of Bet365. What percentage of those customers are factored, and if so, why are they so restricted? How has it become allowable that one individual can wager- whilst another cannot, for whatever the reasoning?  If firms could only advertise odds available to many, as Ryanair are required to do, what claims would they be forced to bin? In other words, if it’s sold to but a few, how can it be legitimately advertised as such.

In doing so, and tacitly ignored by the various regulators and competition authorities, they’re able to beat off lesser competition with such unsustainable offers and deals they’re not in any way mandated by governance to give to their own customers. With business models based on far lower cost base, and a volume approach to betting. People don’t care about small business, but were I to tell you the small bookmaking sector, which behaves so well and contributes so notably to tax and levy, declines by 15% year on year, would you consider such advertising or pricing fair or reasonable competition?

Most of you know I grew up racing with John Banks, my Father. Were I to tell you in all the time I raced with him he never turned down a single offered wager, would you believe that? That he never chastised any customer for winning. Ever.

Times have changed.

When the Gambling Commission appeared a decade or so ago, I felt, as many did, for a very long time, that they were an exercise in futility. An expensive one. They took the view operators should know and understand the social code. The very soft hand of regulation. Such policy has demonstrably failed the means test. Let a big gambling firm have their way and they’ll proceed as fits their pockets. Many major operators have paid regulatory fines for compliance failures so pitiful in value, it’s good business sense to continue to behave badly and pay the bill. I feel change has arrived in the new CEO, who is now looking to license reviews, but I also fear that change takes far too long if politicians do not provide her with the necessary backing to get moving on overdue reform of my sector.

With problem gamblers exceeding a staggering two million of us, how do you feel about the regulator’s record, the to date for example on the proliferation of gambling adverts on television? To include questionable claims from even Hollywood star Ray Winstone about how he ‘bets responsibly with Bet365’ whilst reminding us that every 20 minutes? Does he in fact wager with them? And even if he does do as he claims, how is an avalanche of such claims supported?

Are the Senet group acting responsibly in a series of adverts placing the word ‘fun’ with far more prominence to ‘Stop?’ Even in the same sentence! Isn’t this a thorough sham? Clever marketing, telling you gambling is fun.

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The Gambling Commission of the past actively shielded big betting from necessary regulation, allowed adverts by the thousand, allowed free bets disguised as money back offers to be shoveled down vulnerable people’s throats, in mediums like the Racing Post, totally unchecked. I mean surely the Commission should be slamming the door on firms lying to customers about money back offers, and removing their licenses. But they didn’t. Why wasn’t and hasn’t the daily bombarding of gambling related ads been slashed, if they are at all serious about protecting problem gamblers and children from betting companies in every single telly break? After people become addicts is precisely the wrong time to close the stable door. The horse has already bolted.

Why is gambling treated in any way different to alcohol or cigarettes, is it some form of special case? Have the firms self-regulated here?  Or doing just as they please from offshore? I welcome the gambling commission, if, that is, they set about overdue and urgent reform in this sector.

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A new manager has appeared for the commission of late. What she has been saying and how she has been approaching matters signals I hope a fundamental change in their approach. I for one wish her and her new squad the very best. The following remark holds many truths

‘Self regulation by gambling companies has demonstrably failed consumers’

The subject of FOBT’s in betting shops, creating misery to so many, is highlighted daily by problem gambling groups, and the free press. By free press I do not refer to the Racing Post, shackled as it is to big betting companies. Questions in Parliament are frequent on the subject. It’s so readily apparent of the seriousness of the problem, we don’t need empirical evidence on the matter as argued by the ABB. Frankly it’s a national scandal it has taken so long to be formally addressed. Once again a failure by companies to self-regulate, to control their urgency to make money off of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. These executives denying the thoroughly obvious harm such machines cause and refusing unilaterally a necessary and inevitable cut in stakes. If people are committing suicide, out of house and home – you’re a disgrace as a company, as an executive, to be responsible, in any way for such unhappiness. Gambling is supposed to be a fun pastime,  occasionally frustrating of course. Not an all enveloping depression.

It was never and should never have been the intention of government to place casinos every fifty yards apart in our towns and cities.

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Here’s a fact. I am one of but a couple of operators left in the UK who remain licensed and regulated here. Every single major betting company operates from offshore havens to avoid taxation and sensible controls. Those of us who do pay our taxes to offer services to UK residents penalised by the evident advantages afforded to offshore giants in British protectorates. Disgusting.

Newspapers, TV networks and other powerful mediums exist solely because they are propped up by sponsorship and advertising by big betting. How can they remain in any way independent challenging what’s going on? Little wonder it is the BBC alone who’ve expressed the most concern as to the behaviour of such companies. Racing also has sold its very soul to big betting – hardly snob value is it? The BHA and the Racing Post in bed together each protecting their financial well being at the expense of consumer rights and fair play.

Big betting often cross sell sportsbook customers sending customers of all denominations free bets for their casinos. Not what the customer signed up for, the far more insidious and dangerous product. Sharp tactics and no mistake, similar to someone who smokes being sent twelve free boxes of cigarettes.. A simple tactic, an unfair one, to induce gamblers toward the more addictive product.

Here’s the rub. Does my firm restrict some customers? Yes, a small proportion of my customers must be. And why? Because some of them unquestionably try to cheat and defraud my business, operating multiple accounts, imagining that it isn’t a clear fraud, utilising clever trading and expensive software to scalp my website for arbitrage and so forth. Members of secret little free bets clubs, scoping the web for these offers, and nothing else. Discussing subverting bookmakers and Banks alike. Coupon cutters. On reading these forums one becomes aware of how warped they have become, dipping to tactics and behaviour so dishonest they cheapen the ideals they claim to strive for. Not the intended honest battle between bookmaker and punter. Bear this in mind, the actions of such low life impinge on the true punter. They should be outlawed, chastised.

But to begin to compete, I also have to bet to similar minimal margins, offer similar deals,  if I am to attract customers in an online market place. There’s little point being 3/1 something if everyone else is 4/1, I’d be as well shutting up shop and joining the 15% decline. Some customers end up inevitably factored because they run business out  of my own, they’re neither licensed, nor pay the taxes due for what is in fact clearly a business, rather than a hobby. Such individuals bet in Bolivian division three if the market spoke in favour of one team or another and as a consequence our price becomes out of line and we attract purely one sided action. Not how a bookmaker survives, being exposed constantly to only ‘smart’ money. Many of these customers wouldn’t give you a bet if the World Cup, Wimbledon final and Grand National all occurred on the same day. To them it’s a business and they consider bookmakers their bank.

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Do I hate what I must do to remain in business in that regard by factoring customers or the pricing environment that’s created , absolutely I do – I find myself wedded by website to firms i cannot, and never will, respect, who can make price offers they don’t have to support. Where is the ASA?. I do not have a choice but to compete, but I see absolutely no reason why I should rival a company offering 10/1 Wings Of Eagles to win a race for the benefit of ‘new customers only.’ You cannot walk into Tesco and see a packet of biscuits sold for 2p for ‘new customers only.’

As I see it the Commission, ASA and government, not only needs to work on protection of consumers (going beyond advertising restrictions), but also protection of small businesses that are contributing into this economy in many ways far more than the offshore giants with hundred million pound websites and 200 million annual spend on advertising.

For how long can my industry continue to behave as if it has carte-blanche to create misery by exacerbating problem gambling unchecked, to new and unprecedented levels? To operate unsustainable pricing models and restrict those who can and those who cannot to partake. To price small business out of the equation as they lord it over us from the Isle of Man and pay little to nothing into the economy of this great country whilst plundering the pockets of punters, yes tax paying folk, here.

Not long if decent minded people have their way. Because decent minded people don’t run these operators.

 

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Tingle Creek – The Bookies View

I start the week at a responsible gambling conference held for on course bookmakers and hosted amongst others by the gambling commission. There’s a few cynical views I don’t agree with bandied about the room by career bookmakers, aimed at the hapless representatives of the Commission. Some say the GC is a pointless quango. I don’t agree.

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It’s hard though, to endorse a commission that claims it’s trying to control spiralling problem gambler numbers, yet makes no moves whatsoever to control the hundreds of television adverts aimed at the vulnerable and yes, let’s admit it, to our children, every single week.

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It’s hard not to be a cynic. One thing I’m certain of. If big betting is peddling James Bond lookalikes on our telly at 8am in the morning on every sporting channel we have? That’s gambling aimed at children. Let’s agree on that Ms Harrison.

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Here I am, teaching problem gambling control to the Gambling Commission..I’m struck by how self-evident such matters are – to everyone but regulators, who seem more bent on protecting big betting firms themselves.

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During the seminar, the phones started humming with texts for southern based bookmakers, bound for Sandown that weekend. Douvan out. He’s better named Divan.

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I don’t think anyone’s one bit surprised. It’s not as if this isn’t a regular occurrence from the thoroughly evasive Willie Mullins. It amuses me Rich Ricci is given oxygen on Attheraces to tell everyone but a day or two prior to pulling him out, that his horse is bound for Sandown. In defence of ATR, who else is there to interview in the sport, if not to prove his pure comic value? The channel’s job is to entertain. You cannot call Ricci a liar, because participation, once again is based on another one of their hometown gallops. No, Ricci isn’t a liar, but what’s certainly true, is your a complete idiot if you believe anything this man has to say about his horses, since he’s proved 100% wrong on multiple occasions. About his own horses.

More to the point, there’s far too many opportunities for such horses, it’s easy to be ambivalent about one target or another.

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Or have you all forgotten ‘Vautour heads for the Gold Cup.’ Such short memories.

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What’s certainly true, is more than 24 hours before the non declaration of the Okie Cokey horse, insiders were helping themselves to 9/4 Fox Norton for the Tingle Creek, and Divan was subject to a notable drift on exchanges in the run up to not actually being declared.

This needs to be investigated, and promptly. It’s not good enough to argue that because antepost markets are much smaller these days, that there’s nothing to see here.

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The question to be asked of Mullins isn’t ‘will he be OK for Cork Willie?’ more pertinent ‘can you explain the drift of Douvan in markets prior to the official notification?’ – Who was running to the betting shop and why? Isn’t this the job of regulators?

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Why isn’t Mullins and Ricci telling everyone they’re withdrawing him the very moment the gallop is deemed ‘unsatisfactory.’ I’m super aware there are snobbish views with certain trainers that what goes on in the world of betting is beneath you. The integrity of this sport supersedes your personal disdain for betting markets or punters. And Mr Ricci does happen to be the Chairman of Betbright. He has to be seen as super clean.

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Major jumps meetings always draw a sizeable crowd. There’s little doubt pound for pound National Hunt racing bests the flat code for interest. Perhaps it’s because NH stars last more than one season before they’re retired to stud? Whatever, it’s for sure we need to do everything possible to promote a dying sport. Because chasing is terminal to my mind in British Racing. Under pressure from French prize monies and the growth in all weather product.

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So Matt Chapman is right to argue, and I accept, the small field contesting the Tingle Creek is an inevitability. There’s simply not enough grade 1 stock, especially given the BHA is far too free with grade one status gifts to tracks. To boot there’s a positive glut of opportunities for too few horses. I’m of the view Douvan is perhaps gone as the force he was. He’s a big fellah, must be incredibly difficult to keep fully fit. He put in a shocker in the Queen Mum last year, they’re fannying about again this year. That’s if he gets to Cheltenham. Participation seems odds against right now. See if I’m wrong.

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But its up to the sport to appreciate it’s in crisis here. Novice chase numbers have been appalling for some years, averaging 5 per race, and we’re simply not doing enough to arrest it. We all live and breathe a good Gold Cup, or Queen Mother. If we don’t find some way to get more owners interested in bringing ex flat stayers of some worth into this code, we’re in a lot of trouble keeping sponsors and punters interested.

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Sandown has to be the best viewing track in the country and used to win racecourse of the year. Used to. Now I’d hazard for a major racetrack it’s at nearer the bottom of the performance scale. A huge indoor arena selling Guinness from temporary bars, a dwindling number of concessionaires, hardly any coffee bars, and huge queues for the few that remain on a very cold day. Not enough money in coffee? Ask Costa Coffee how it’s done. For indoor areas, see Ascot for quality, bespoke bars, facilities, comfortable seating, and yes, style. Well appointed, comfortable and very profitable. The difference between Sandown and Ascot is plain embarrassing.

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Counter Ascot with Sandown. A big empty hall, is that honestly the best you can do? Under investment? Well it’s self-evident not a dollar more than absolutely necessary is getting spent. Imagination? None. Beer cups, yes of course, JCR are fully committed to plastic.

Where’s the drive to prepare Sandown for the potential closure of Kempton? A tired facility, and no mistake. A thorough lack of creativity or drive from Jockey Club. Vin Ordinaire facility, with superb viewing.  I’d like a look at Jockey Club’s financials right now an organisation I’d hazard a guess, in far from rosy complexion.

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The Tingle Creek, stirring, exciting, perhaps the wrong result for the punters this time, but for all that a great spectacle. I like to see Nicholls pick up major prizes these days, he continues with his success, even if Mullins gains all the available press available for jumps racing.

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Overall impression? Well I still find the day extremely enjoyable, and it’s evident many of the racegoers do too. Winter jumps racing can deliver for this sport some of it’s most noteworthy and exciting finishes. Those in charge of this sport and these racetracks need to discuss how we can wrest interest back from football, cricket and rugby. The underlying numbers are far from impressive.

The Bookmaker’s response to the Simon Clare show.

 

There’s nothing wrong with widening the appeal of a show. There’s little question Attheraces needed to breathe some life into their Sunday Forum, Attenborough couldn’t find more dinosaurs in one room most weeks. A betting debate, with Simon Clare of Coral – Ladbrokes, and why not? I’ve no idea why Coral have set themselves up to be the mouthpiece for big betting. It seems a hiding to nothing to me, but the opposition was predictably weak, and I have to say, extremely ill prepared.
Kevin Blake and Sean Boyce (ex Ladbrokes) provided the ‘panel’ anchor roles. Blake is an amiable enough chap, but as a betting expert? I’ve seen this many times, Racing producers reluctant to have their betting partners questioned, in any way or shape. In the absence of appropriate challenge to Clare’s remarks, let me provide the balance the show lacked.

Sean Boyce, my understanding as a current Ladbrokes-Coral ‘ambassador’ works for Coral’s TV output. Not revealed on the show. Hardly likely is Sean to properly debate matters on behalf of punters when he works for Coral – is he? Does anyone have any integrity anymore, or does everyone slavishly work for big betting? Here’s our impartial anchor doing his thing.

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Little wonder the show turned into an advert for Coral. If Simon Clare could have handpicked ‘opposition’ to his views he couldn’t have done better. Anyone know who produces this material?

The main theme was betting restrictions. Simon is right, all firms are engaged in restricting customers. Blake’s argument, that firms were being too precipitous in factoring so many, so quickly. He’s wide of the mark. It’s frankly quite useless to argue in such a vein, whilst the bookmakers choose to behave in the manner they do now. With a thorough disdain for the customer ideal.

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It’s accepted by both ‘sides’ that punters have never had it quite this good, and that would be true. What’s also true is the current environment allows betting firms like Coral, or perhaps more saliently the market leader, Bet365, who drive the giveaway culture, to make false claim as to odds or bonuses they advertise so freely on every platform. I can think of no other sector of business that’s permitted to advertise products, yet can deny those offerings to such a large customer base.
If something is advertised, but is unavailable to many customers, that’s basically an unsustainable pricing module.
In making such promises on prices or bonuses, these major organisations presurise the smaller independent sector to compete on their terms. The smaller firms arguably behave with more honour and provide better customer service than major betting. They’re left shouldering odds they wouldn’t normally countenance, because that’s what customers expect. The independent secor of bookmaking has been in notable decline as supermarket betting has invaded their space.
The number of accounts that are restricted by the way in one shape or another run into the millions by the way. We’re not talking about a few individuals. It’s right to say that still means the majority still get their bet, but I see no reason why everyone should now be afforded the same service standard.
The argument isn’t therefore about who gets restricted, nor why. It’s about the culture of unsustainable odds and bonus deals which companies like Coral devise and promote every day. Of course there are those punters who benefit, make profit from bookmakers and the manner in which they operate these days. Evens each of two in a Rugby match borders on madness, where the only chance afforded the firm is an unlikely tie.
So Mr Blake, when Clare says that the majority do get their bets on? The question isn’t why more don’t, but why he operates a system of betting, he cannot support to all of his client base as a company.
Also Mr Blake, when Coral claim the moral high ground on lay to lose guarantees, the informed question goes along the lines of- ‘are the prices the same in the shops as online?’ Please write that down.
Many times Simon Clare mentioned how Coral were a licensed and ‘responsible’ bookmaker. An odd claim for a company who were fined 2.3 million pounds but a week ago! This would be their second substantial fine from the Gambling Commission. This for accepting a huge series of wagers from two individuals who stole a staggering amount of money, and they didn’t ask the question where the money came from.

It’s a company that in the last week didn’t deny, indeed even suggested to the BHA investigative team on David Evans, that their traders could well have cynically cut the price of a horse to benefit from rule 4 deductions. After, oh by the way, being told by the trainer that said horse was to be withdrawn. There’s a word for such activity, it’s called fraud.

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Attheraces chose either not to permit any discussion on this topic, or afford time toward this important subject. Despite the importance of the topic to Kevin Blake. Doubtless mindful of their sponsors. They will, of course, argue the incident occurred before Clare took over PR duties for both companies in the recent merger. Surely though the question in discussing how bookmakers behave has merit. Do Coral also indeed ‘buy’ information in the manner ladbrokes did (by providing better odds to Evans)? How do they use such information? There’s no excuse for the decision by the broadcaster not to ask the question. The information is fully in the public domain and the Ladbrokes own regulatory officer made such suggestion himself last week.

Clare himself also commented on the rule 4 issue on behalf of both firms “We will also never knowingly shorten the price of a suspected non-runner to benefit from an improved Rule 4 deduction.’ Draw your own conclusion as to the use of the word ‘will.’
Of course in claiming to be so responsible, Simon Clare side steps the minefield that is the FOBT debate. He says moves to restrict FOBT stakes should be based on empirical evidence. So Mr Clare, are you providing this evidence? How is such evidence comprised? The number of times a machine is booted to death? Perhaps in the number of verbal and physical assaults on staff? Perhaps its in the number of suicides by customers each year?
It’s a widely held view by the general public, as well as players themselves, that these machines shouldn’t just be restricted, but since it was never the intention of the 2005 Gambling Act to create casinos in our High Streets,  should in fact be removed, period. That’s not going to happen, I forecast another substantial fudge from the government.

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Simon does have the good grace to look embarrassed in arguing the merits of FOBT’s – I’ll give him that.
The topic came round to a guaranteed lay to lose. To me, this is an utterly sensible solution. Indeed on racetracks, small bookmakers did use to operate such a guarantee, very successfully. Again the Coral spokesman argues against the need for sensible controls. Why? Because he knows current policy simply make said scheme unworkable?
Mr Clare also peddled Racing’s biggest myth. The BHA support for machines. Failure from racing to support their money making schemes, would result in shop closures and a consequent loss to Racing via media rights fees. But Simon, there’s no ’empirical evidence’ for that. Is there? As an embarrassed Boyce pointed out, bookmakers are fully adept at creating betting opportunities , and making profit in the potential absence of FOBT’s. Hell, they run shops on minimum wage basis and often with just one staffer present, who doubles up as the cleaner and refreshes the change tray. They can get by.
Overall the show came over as yet another advert for big betting firms, notably Coral. Many claims made during the hour went totally unchallenged, or were mis-understood. I’m guessing the producer realised this when he put on this soft porn for an important sponsor. But where’s the backbone?
I don’t accept the panel was balanced, it left a sour taste in fact, yet another advert for sponsors in my view. Nor do I accept that Coral, or any of their betting peers are in any way ‘responsible.’ Just about every major operator has been hit with hefty fines by the regulator for unacceptable failings in how they behave to customers. This isn’t an accident. If the regulator had any guts, it would have instigated license review on several major betting enterprises a long time before now. Let’s start with the removal of those firms who contravene the’grey market regulations. Ping Pong Wang Chow Mein Stoke.
Simon Clare ended Coral hour by challenging Kevin Blake to another duel under the lights. Kevin’s a nice fellah, but he’s completely out of his depth here. If Coral, or even Attheraces want a proper debate on the behavioural standards of big betting companies, I stand ready to challenge their assertions. Bring it on, this ‘fight’ has been too long in the offing.

 

Aidan O Brien. A dose of reality.

Roll up for your Ladbrokes sponsored, 18 page Aidan O Brien pullout, in tomorrow’s Racing Post.

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Look, I get everyone likes a winner. And I understand the often unpleasant comments some folk make when you dare to criticise certain Irish horse racing personalities. I mean if you followed and backed Aidan’s group one runners you’d be in clover with 26 wins in Group ones this season. And sure we know he’s a nice guy and a hard worker. I’m not crabbing him for that.

But.. check this list out

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Oops. On the very week everyone is slapping Coolmore on the back, we hear Churchill (3yo) Caravaggio (a baby) and Highland Reel (grand old timer at 5) retired to further the personal worth of those involved.

Check out some of last  year’s entrants, rather departures. Australia, Camelot, The Gurkha. All available at attractive stud fees, and oh yes, I know everyone swallows the excuses peddled for their departure. spots on their noses, heat, a really nasty rash.

An effective and successful cash cow, not always the heroic outfit elements of the press feel bounden to peddle. Of course I know they’re about their jobs, who wouldn’t, but let’s the rest of us keep our feet planted firmly in the mud.

What I simply don’t understand is the lack of balance in reporting on an organisation like Coolmore. All that power in one organisation? They can, and frequently do have sufficient top of the line stock to field between 3 and 5 runners in every Group 1. Why is everyone so surprised at their success? Many of the Irish group races may as well be run in Ballydoyle. Rarely more than a token Godolphin participant.
O Brien plunders the Group one market in England because he can, because he has the tools, because there are frankly too many Group 1’s. He threw in 6 participants in the Derby, and his ‘outsider’ won. How many trainers can send six realistic chances into the blue riband event? Five sired by the outstanding Galileo. That’s 5. A success pattern that’s gone on for as long as Galileo’s started outputting the very cream of racing bloodstock. Galileo is Coolmore. And before Galileo was Saddlers Wells and a reputed three hundred and fifty MILLION in stud fees.

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Other than stoic politeness, keeping them quiet, I’m sure those considering investing in a horse with the potential to compete at racing’s top table are far from impressed at the stud fees, or purchase prices they’re being forced to shoulder in Coolmore world. NOT reported so freely, that.

It’s arguable the likes of Clive Cox wiped the floor in training terms this year, buying horses cheaply and producing the goods. AOB simply cannot fail with the stock. Of course that comment is bound to ruffle a few feathers who’ll declare it’s always possible to lose, but please, get a grip of yerselves, he had three in the Chester vase to escort Venice Beach home. Oh and one from his son. There were 8 runners.

Fail? He’d have to be a complete fool

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And yes, he has a stable jockey who is pound for pound ten clear of his peers. The quite outstanding Ryan Moore. We can add Moore to Galileo. How many trainers get that?
Let’s tally it up so far. Galileo, Moore and 350 million head start. Not too bad.

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It is, quite simply, a massive imbalance in power. It’s a fact. An obvious fact. We surely don’t need to state the obvious do we? Well, I feel we do, because all I’ve read for years is how amazing Coolmore are. To my mind though, they’re Real Madrid, Man Utd, Juventus and PSG rolled into one outfit. Squaring up to them are the biggest underperformers in the sport. Godolphin. And I remain a Sheikh Mohammed fan resolutely. But his staff have not turned up.

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So yes, Aidan is indeed humble, because he’s no fool and to trumpet such evident success with said material would be obscene. And I like his attitude immensely, he lacks the patronising snobbery of some in racing, but no bother, I’m not about to sit back and listen to one sided reporting.

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Does Aidan manage these stars to their best performance? I think the writing is on the wall in that regard- he’s supremely good at delivering the right winner, even increasing stud values by a form of rotation of his talent. His placement and tactics are superior. I’m not crabbing his ability.
Turning to that Derby, and the master trainer’s tactics. Check out Wings Of Eagles at Chester in this video. In my opinion Chester stewards shamefully failed to address. Six good cracks in the last 2 furlongs for Venice Beach – none for Wings of Eagles. He wasn’t averse to the whip at Epsom. I can be wrong here- but the question simply has to be asked by officials when they see this.

 

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Give thought to the the National Hunt code these days appears far less likely to benefit from flat stayers switching code as in Istabraq’s era, with policy retiring horses at three years of age. Frankly it’s a ridiculous state of affairs. And why isn’t it being declared as such? Sub servience.

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Unlike the hugely unenterprising Willie Mullins, i do appreciate very much that Coolmore races their stars against each other, not all of whom appear to be off for their life, commonly utilising pace makers, an issue authorities need to correct. However, it’s still great for the sport to see Order Of St George, Winter and Capri squaring off in the ARC. It’s refreshing. Not what Willie would give us. In this regard I want to make clear AOB and Coolmore don’t shy from competition.

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Keep also in mind the effect on ownership for those less fortunate than John Magnier. I mean not to demean his achievement in dominating flat racing globally, he’s been eating Godolphin’s lunch for some years. I doubt he’d worry about what I think as Galileo goes about his dailies 🙂 Old bookmaking friends Derek Smith and the mighty Michael Tabor are no slouches when it comes to the business of racing. This is a powerful and enterprising triumverate of business talent.

Guess what? I won’t be getting a stable tour of Ballydoyle next season..but Aidan, personally, you’re a star Sir.

‘All our profits go to Racing’

A noble catch phrase from the Jockey Club. The once esteemed ruling body of racing.

‘All our profits go to racing.’   Needs work in my opinion. Far more appropriate ‘All our drink profits go to Racing’ – because THAT’s true.

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Amy Starkey, the publican in charge of Newmarket, today banned under 16’s from attending her Newmarket music nights. It’s little surprise as Newmarket has for years gone unpunished by the local authority and the regulatory BHA for a series of brawls taking place on its grounds. Who wants children to witness such behaviour? Cynically I’d add that families spend less than the gangs of young men and women Jockey Club target in their advertising. That’s what they are. Gangs.

The last ‘racing’ experience reported upon involved grown men trading punches in front of children just yards away. Children struck by flying bottles. Bruised, frightened and shocked, whilst JCR executives claim some form of moral high ground with their punchy logo. Quite horrific

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Racing has hit the tabloids three times in a few weeks. Incidents at Newmarket, Lingfield and even the smartest of the bunch, Ascot. We shouldn’t be headlining for these reasons.

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Let’s get this right. Children not welcomed. I don’t know about anyone else, but it was as a child I learned to appreciate this sport. What a disgraceful decision.

I’m little surprised at the inactivity from the regulator here. They live below JCR in an incisidious arrangement far too unhealthy for the sport. There need to be distance between the BHA and those feeding from the pot. Someone needs to move out if independence of the regulator is to be respected fully.

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I’ve witnessed many brawls over the years on Jockey Club property. I’ve never once seen a senior executive or track manager come out to find out what the hell is going on. I wouldn’t want anyone out there to be in any doubt this body has gone well beyond the boundaries of decent behaviour as it seeks to prop up it’s creaking empire of tracks.

It’s all about the dollar. Top events such as the Derby moved to Saturdays, in a shallow attempt to court the corporate dollar. We absolutely know the Derby would receive more worldwide exposure in it’s traditional Wednesday slot. The regulator should be empowered for such races to order what’s best for Racing, to include the removal of feature events from certain tracks, not pander to  Jockey Club profits. What I see at Epsom these days are some of the worst excesses of alcohol abuse in any sport I’ve attended. Totally uncontrolled drink sales in every ring in the place.

Let’s also not forget the environmental catastrophe left for our children created by a mountain of plastic beer beakers. Tens of millions of them every year to be disposed of somehow.

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Should tracks like Newmarket have their licenses suspended by the BHA, if not by local authorities? Absolutely, they should. It’s time for this regulator to step in and order a halt to behaviour which ostracizes traditional racegoers, members, children and pensioners from enjoyment of their racing experience. Give Newmarket a six month holiday and order it to behave. If you cannot produce a product fit for children to attend you need to give yourself a thorough shake. No use having a regulator more focused on giving novice jockeys ten bay bans, but ignoring far bigger evils is there?

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Every other sport has cleaned up their act. Racing sinks deeper into the sump. Racing isn’t about drink, it’s about the sport. Football doesn’t permit alcohol on its terraces. Why do we? What goes on on the green turf is what racetracks should be focussed upon. Not this shameful behaviour.

 

 

Davy Russell – a few questions

Plenty of chest beating at this one – and I’m not here to defend or applaud Russell over this. The Racing Post has seen fit to crusade harder for a ‘result’ here than it dared to criticise (at all) their sponsor 888 Sport for its failings, in continuing to make profit from serious problem gamblers. Twitter has exploded with many individuals offering views for, or against, Russell’s actions. Many of those criticising his actions have seen fit to use some pretty evocative language.

But here’s a few questions you should ask yourself

  • How many times, if at all have you ridden a racehorse? Or ridden at all.
  • If you’ve never ridden a racehorse how difficult do you imagine it can be?
  • If you’ve never ridden either, and you’ve commented on the affair, what makes you specially qualified to offer judgement.
  • A punch is a term humans use, is it appropriate in this case ?
  • The video of the incident is widely available. Did you see the behaviour of the horse prior to reaching the training fence?
  • Were you aware the horse made several attempts to throw Russell going to post?
  • What effect on the potential for success is this likely to have for the horse and connections?
  • Are you aware it can costs upwards of £30,000 a year to train a racehorse?
  • Success is the determinant of the animal’s likely future, is it more or less likely connections will continue to fund its training if it’s ill disciplined?
  • Are you aware of how unsuited racehorses are to other lines of work, such as eventing, without considerable investment and retraining?
  • Are you aware that thousands of racehorses are sold annually for horsemeat to the European markets? Estimates vary in numbers here of course but percentages vary between 30-70% of retirees.

 

Of course the last question is the most difficult for people to accept, or read about. And for sure Racing has taken major steps towards re-homing of ex racehorses. But let’s deal with the harsh reality here. A difficult, recalcitrant or under-performing horse has a dim future in this sport for simple financial reasons, and someone has to be prepared to find a home, or harder a job, for the likes of Kings Dolly if he can’t be trained.

An unruly animal is less likely to be taken on by top pilots, and by extension far less likely to succeed as top jockeys are more than half the battle in events where the participants are but a few pounds apart in ability.

A well trained and disciplined horse has the best chance of succeeding and of course paying its way in life. Behind the scenes, many horsemen- even if in this affair they’ve typically kept mum on the subject and left Russell out to dry, do in fact discipline their horses. This can be in a manner those among us whose only experience of animals is a cat or dog, could find hard to understand.

In this age of social networking, we see people in the public eye scrutinised as never before. Political correctness has soared out of control as finger pointing from a largely ignorant mob has arisen. This isn’t about a horse being beaten. It’s about celebrity bashing and people’s self worth at the expense of others better qualified.

Thoroughbreds are large, excitable, exceptionally powerful and yes somewhat dangerous charges who require arduous training and control by some incredibly hard working and caring folk. I for one don’t condone anyone losing their temper, but at the end of the day the horse was simply badly behaved and threatening the jockey’s well being. Those of you out there sitting in your underpants howling in front of the keyboard haven’t the first clue if you believe another jockey could, or would, have done better. This particular fellah won a Gold Cup and been twice Champion Irish jockey. What’s your record in the saddle?

Face facts, they do require control, Kings wasn’t ‘beaten senseless’, it wasn’t akin to a pub brawl. You’ve likely never ridden a racehorse, and therefore haven’t the first clue how difficult, even impossible, they can be to control. I’d rather see a horse brought to heel than sent for slaughter. If you love the racehorse as I do, there’s a strong case that what Russell did was right in practice, especially when one considers his own welfare. His only crime to do it in front of a world of keyboard warriors.

 

 

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