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.

Author: Geoff Banks Racing

UK's Leading Independent Bookmaker. We pay our tax and Levy to British Racing as an Approved Betting Partner. And no begging a proper bet here, large or small stakers welcome! Text, phone, APP or website. Private Client Wagering at its best. :)

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