Orfevre, Treve, Toronado, Camelot, Novelist, Declaration Of War, Intello, Moonlight Cloud, Sole Power, Sky Lantern, The Fugue.
Germany, Australia, Japan.
Most of the O Brien and Hannon yards.
None of the above chose British Champions Day. Now if you’re sitting there saying ‘well this reason and that’ – you’re not on the same page. Move straight to Holborn and collect £200
What we did get, Dawn Approach, Cirrus Des Aigles, Estimate and Talent. Speaking with my Bookie’s hat, these were the Bankers for the bettors at Ascot. With the exception of Estimate (and Farhh) both of whom had been out for months, it was confident Morning Line for me. The Bankers were readily opposable. In the case of Cirrus and Dawn, it’s fair to say their form for most of the year was nothing short of miserable. Yet they found themselves at the head of the markets. The cream of the current French Crop could and would have beaten them senseless- as has been proved the case in Races Like Le Marois. (Olympic held that form up in outstanding style, and for me was the best performer in the crop on BCD)
So, once again speaking with my Trilby and Shades on, these Bankers were considerably under-bet. Cirrus and Dawn were notably weak and whilst I was prepared to stand both for lumps, it proved impossible to field adequate sums at the prices I was forced to offer and ended up actually losing with Farhh and Olympic Glory. The point I’m making isn’t what I won or lost,- I mean who cares if I lose? I’m guessing most Bookies won yesterday, but not perhaps as much as the casual bettor would imagine. But if our Championship Finale is made up of so many notable absentees, suspect favourites– not to mention every potential Fast Ground performer out there – it’s clear to me we will end up with a product which caters only for soft ground specialists or second tier performers. Nor can it compete with a 4 Million Euro Arc in late October.
Let’s get something out of the way. I’m thoroughly in favour of the idea, and I absolutely enjoyed yesterday. Ascot is the perfect venue and it was right for JCR to concede the point and support the move. We did get a stirring finish to the Champion Stakes. We do need a seasons ‘end’ bash. It’s excellent for turnover and betting – the engine of the Sport. I get the impression some members of the Establishment view Betting as somewhat ‘dirty’, but the roots of the sport more originated in Betting than Breeding. The securing of Sponsorship from Quipco for the series has been a major achievement. And we should take very great pride in that.
A few negative points to consider. The crowd was well down on the previous year, and struggled to reach a level commensurate with the occasion. No Frankel or Excelebration .Equally no Treve, Moonlight Cloud or The Fugue. Two similar races in the QE2 and Champions on the same card, and an oddly sited apprentice race. Predictably it rained and we suffered several notable withdrawals in the lead up to BCD, and every horse who contested the Arc card was beaten. What effect will that have on future entries? I foresee a clear choice, Arc Weekend or BCD – and not both for the many superstars critical to the day.
I’ve been critical of the BHA and in particular Great British Racing on the subject and I want to put this in context. I’ve said openly the broad idea is a good one. However, in my opinion the day needs major tweaking if it’s not to remain the sub card to Longchamp or the Breeders. Supporters of BCD have been critical of the Breeders Cup. I’m not sure where they’re getting their material from because year on year it’s been supported by some of the best horses on the planet. What I do find as distasteful – the BHA’s consistent failure to properly engage with the Racing Public on the positioning of the day. Ask a question of them and it’s ignored. Their Press Officer tweets only to advise of carefully worded press releases. Evidently the cushiest job in Racing is PR for the BHA. There’s no discussion of decisions, nor the reasoning behind them. ‘I know nothing – Nooothing..’
Fine, if we’re talking about integrity, there’s perhaps an argument to keep matters ‘in house.’ However for issues such as British Champions Day, we’re met with silence. It’s almost as if ‘we’ve made our decision, it has to be right, you don’t understand, belt up.’ I find the whole manner the organisation engages with the Race-going public arrogant beyond belief. Has the arrival of the Australian lent itself to a mild easing of the wall of silence? Or is the Godolphin-Sungate-Egan merely proof nothing’s actually changed here except the face? It’s time to stop acting like a secret society.
Further, there’s far too many entrenched views in the organisation. Committees are formed of like-minded folk, and the same well-meaning individuals involved in various differing quangos. I’ve seen it in Public School boys Clubs everywhere, – and it’s got that same whiff of establishment. It’s time to move away from such cultures and employ people to make decisions whose views offer a broader spectrum. Such failures at the head of the industry isn’t assisted by a super pliant Racing Post editorial. That’s left to the Guardian and the Independent.
Whilst we’re on the subject of the British Horseracing Authority, why should it be the organisation lacks even one single Betting Expert on its payroll? So many decisions the Authority undertakes are affected by, or affect the Betting ‘cake.’ The only examples you’ll find at the Levy Board’s once a year Bookmakers Committee. Made up of the 5 biggest stakeholders in Betting. Hills, Ladbrokes, Corals, Betfair and Bet 365. Casino operators. I can only deduce the reasons for so many committees making decisions at number 75, without input from those thoroughly versed with Betting and its importance can be put down to pure snobbishness. I stand to be corrected of course. Policemen they have, Betting men they do not.
There’s a solution. There always is you know. It isn’t complicated. It may mean upsetting the French and the Irish. But the Irish have shown they won’t be hostage to the age old Pattern. And why shouldn’t the most powerful racing nation do so also, or is that not the British way? France is famous for bucking the rule book in so many regards. Should we feel obligated to respect their sensibilities? We could simply move British Champions Day back a month to Ascot’s September slot. Oh no, that’s just not cricket? Surely it’s just business – and good business? Give ourselves the best track, ground and poach the fast ground specialists from the French. Allez..
As to the ground yesterday – described as soft. Was actually ‘bottomless’ in places according to William Buick, heavy said Hughes and led to the first race – despite Championship status, being over 15 seconds slower than standard. Indeed every race was significantly slower than the ground report suggested it would be. Champions Day on jumping ground? Don’t be silly guys.
We simply cannot compete with the prize fund offered by the Arc, but we can compete on the quality of our racetrack, October ground issues in Paris and just getting our heads in front in the calendar. To boot, we may deal with possibility that those who took their chance at Ascot yesterday – who also participated at Longchamp, simply will not attend next year. Better horses – equals more prestige, attendance, network coverage, sponsorship deals. Last but by no means least, a horse participating on British Champions Day will make the Breeders Cup. Something people seem to forget. Bonus.
One other associated point. Future Champions Day. I very much understand the very excellent Jockey Club racecourses trying to preserve something that is distinctly Rowley. But a Friday bash the day before Ascot is simply unworkable. Nobody would drive 20 miles by choice to get to Newmarket on a Friday, worse the dismal trip home. Anyone going to Ascot on the morrow would need a helicopter – pure and simple. It’s a decision I would revisit. Fine – I don’t run Racetracks, but I’m as certain as Veuve is my tipple the loss in attendance, and by extension sponsors, will seal the fate of the meeting. Go the whole hog and move it to Ascot or tie it into the Cesarewitch. I know not to criticise the Baz, it would have been his brain child to move BCD from a track I know he loves, but there’s not enough petrol in the world to get most of us to Rowley for a Friday bash.
Here I sit, 9 hours after Lord Street’s show, listening to the thunder outside my house. The roads are full of deep washes, cars can barely pass. Bath is abandoned. Ascot simply would not be racing 24 hours later. Last year the participation of the great Frankel– even the event itself was in some doubt right up until 10.30am on the morning of Champions Day. Is this really something we should leave to chance? And do we really want to be slotted in between the mighty Arc and Breeders Cup cards, or do we just show them our rear end?
20 October 2013