Unibet’s favourite ambassador

There’s a dangerous saying in Racing. ‘How dare you question me?’ One could introduce  perhaps ‘I am beyond reproach.’

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But Nicky, you’re not beyond reproach, for a second. In fact it does appear to coin another well turned phrase, ‘he doth protesteth too much’

Whilst I personally find Nicky,  a most amiable sort, and of appreciable talent, there are two things which he has to take fully on board. One, racing fans don’t have reason to appreciate nor like the commercial stance you are adopting in relationships with Bookmakers. And second, you have to accept that the behaviour of those who work in your yard, or how information is utilised, will be the target for speculation, for as long as you maintain horses are in great order, only to withdraw them a couple of days later.

The ‘some journalists are dead meat’ comment, is unprofessional, and unjustified. Frankly it’s a dangerous precedent, from a yard that so dominates the sport. Journalists have an important role to fulfil, and it’s not to kiss people’s backsides. Fine, we all accept Racing press notoriety not for hard headed sports journalism, rather a deserved reputation for the supine. Printing the rubbish peddled by top trainers as gospel has long since reached epidemic proportion.

See this interview with Matt Chapman from ITV’s feed in which he denies there was a problem with Altior on the Saturday before the Tingle, and maintains there was ‘no issue’

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjn1YjumaXYAhXpCsAKHX7WAJ0QFggwMAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.itv.com%2Fracing%2Farchive-clips%2Fmatt-chapman-speaks-to-nicky-henderson-about-the-altior-controversy&usg=AOvVaw1OlX8-6oTcPV6qZcU03oJu

And here is Nick’s Unibet version which maintains there WAS an issue with ALtior’s breathing the Saturday before

https://t.co/4dfZFYlzfq

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to understand which version I am to believe?

 

To deal with each point. One, the practice of association with Betting companies is an abhorrent development, something Henderson should be fully aware is deeply unpopular. Let me remind people how companies such as Ladbrokes utilise information to their advantage, gained from accounts they operate,  as in the David Evans- Rule 4 saga. Anyone that imagines these betting behemoths behave with impeccably good manners when it comes to money must be living in some form of fantasy world. None of them behave well. In fact there’s compelling daily evidence to show how low they have stooped as companies in their pursuit of accounts and money. They’re bound to use associations with top trainers to their commercial advantage, and to penalize their customers therefore. And Nicky knows this, hence his exaggerated indignation at Cheltenham.  Unibet have no reason to release your ‘information’ promptly. They are not a news service.

Punters simply think they are being cheated, whether that’s true or not, such association used to be outlawed, for very good reason. The BHA haven’t supplied any rationale for this decision, and don’t expect a docile Gambling Commission to do anything about it either.

To boot Unibet have ensured the very latest flow of information from Seven Barrows, via their association with your stable Jockey, Nico De Boinville. Couldn’t get any more insidious.

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Henderson simply shouldn’t be releasing information via any medium other than the stable’s own twitter feed, or perhaps via the racing press feed. Good news, or bad news. A Bookmaker is simply not the right vessel.

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As a bookmaker, we were aware of very significant monies for Fox Norton, for the Tingle Creek in the day PRIOR to the withdrawal of the mighty Altior. And we were not alone as the news was all over Twitter. Betfair exchange and other bookmakers reported the same pattern of monies. Fine, Hendo may not have personally made a final decision as to the participation, but others quite clearly had leaked their doubts to their associates, as to the participation of Altior. The fact remains, some people generously helped themselves before the information was released, and they were proven correct. Who was leaking this information, or were they all better informed than Henderson himself? You were after saying the horse was in ‘magnificent order.’

One concludes either Henderson doesn’t know the well being of his horses, he’s waiting on the strength of the opposition to show their hands, or someone else in his organisation knows his charges better than he does.

Perhaps it could be the myopic focus on the Cheltenham Festival. A subject which concerns many racing fans, excepting the regulator itself. The Tingle, Fighting Fifth and many more top races decimated. The BHA far too slow to establish minimum conditions of entry for the Festival. Something they’re told by the likes of Henderson ‘isn’t possible.’

It is. Yesterday I heard the NFL, the world’s best sporting body, totally re-jig it’s schedule next week, to put all potential playoff games on at the same time. Doubtless upsetting giant TV networks. That’s how to run sport. Act

The truth is – Altior will be another one of those top stars who turn up in March, having not experienced a real race (of his class) in the six month lead up to Cheltenham.

The pigs ended up in the betting trough, and people are fully entitled to know why, since they are investing in the sport.

Associations with big betting companies by jockeys and stables has to be ended by this BHA. There’s no sensible regulatory reason for such deals, other than to upset the very people who funded the sport to the tune of 52 million last year.

Remember, Mr Rust, the only people to benefit from those deals are the best of trainers and jockeys. The little guys rarely share in such windfalls, and if it in any way has the whiff of impropriety,-  it has to be outlawed.

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Finally, I would add that Henderson’s ‘how dare you’ approach, as a top trainer needs to be roundly condemned, in all quarters. This arrogant approach, that if you dare question anything I do, in the manner so common in other sports, is damaging to the good governance of racing. nobody should be above fair interview. Tell me why Nicky Henderson thinks he only deserves good press?

It wasn’t so long ago Nicky, that you were handed the softest ban in living memory for doctoring records, to conceal guilt, and administering banned substances to your horse. I don’t doubt the shame of reporting in those days leaves a hurtful stain in your memory, but you have to accept that those journalists, then and now, are simply, and fairly, doing their job. You broke the rules, knowingly, and with appropriate disregard for the rules. It’s more than a bit rich to claim the moral high ground over your associations with betting companies, especially if you don’t bet with Unibet. I expect most people get their racing news from the Racing Post, or the Guardian. Aren’t these more appropriate mediums?

So Nicky, accept the brickbats as they come, because you most definitely benefit from a veritable avalanche of good press when your horses do well.

I suppose I’m dead..

 

 

 

 

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

 

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…

itv

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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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

National Hunt – a code in crisis

Racing fans comprise four sets of folk. The outraged form 49% (A). This group won’t hear speak or listen to any criticism of the sport, they either work for a racetrack, punt favourites over the jumps, or sit indoors with the curtains shut.. The disaffected, numbering 50% (B), a group whose numbers rise annually and constitute the biggest moaners in Racing. Escapees from the Betfair forum, sitting in their underpants at home whining about getting on. The third group go Racing, but only view it from corporate boxes, don’t drink beer, miss all the fights and haven’t a clue what’s really going on outside the box. (Group Q) Excuse merchants, apologists and evangelists form another strange sect (Group E). Then we have a small section of disaffected journos and pundits who’d better shut up or else (X)

The final 1% work for the BHA (Z). The persecuted ones. They would join St Peter being crucified upside down.

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The executive are selected by the racetracks on rolling three year contracts. The current Chairman knew less about Racing than my cat when he arrived, presided over some notable fails like Mathew Lohn, then quietly and ‘humbly’ voted into another 3 year term..

Now tell me – why would you vote to Chairman someone who knew so little about the sport? Why did he then go about the removal of a more experienced board in favour of amateurs with equal skill level? Why are commitees informed a reduction in the programme is ‘off the table?’

Is the regulator looking after the interests of racing, or is the system of election of the Chairman dependent on what he does for  racetracks? Chairman of the BHA isn’t akin to golf club captaincy.

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Look, I know you all think I hate the BHA (Group Z). Come come now, I’m not that bad really, honestly. I’ve made clowns of them once, but I’d like to think their decisions were based on regulating and promoting the sport, not battling bookmakers for cash. Truth is the BHA  (Z) hierachy is never going to act for Racing for as long as the tracks sit on the board and appoint the leaders.

Turkeys rarely buy Xmas cards. More galloping about the ovals keeps the track bosses in tweed and BHA execs in badges. Kempton makes more money than any other JCR track (Group A) – except Cheltenham. Pop there on a Wednesday night and you’d swear the gates had been locked shut. It subsists on an attractive Levy payment for every race. Three runners or fifteen, its all gravy.

The swing to sandpits, to include the gothically dull Newcastle straight (A), needs runners from the available horse population, and owners. If you’re a prospective jump owner, up against wannabee’s like Rich Ricci (Q and E), forking out hundreds of thousands a horse, – you can afford 65 pence a purchase. Ricci stables his muckers the Mullins pad, coffee machine, babestation and minibar in every box. Regular owners on limited budgets can’t compete nor cover the exxes. And your trusty milker can only hack around 5 or 6 times a year. On the all weather, chances are you’ll do better. Even if you’re the only one interested if it wins..

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It is a matter of pure fact belting out sand races at the rate of 3 meetings a day harms the winter code. Is there any chance a whole summer of jumps nobody cares about is a pointless exercise, for everyone except Plumpton? Or have i taken leave of my Scottish mind?

Jump Racing sacrificed on the altar of an engorged BHA all weather list . Months of 4 and 5 runner events. It’s not on, and time you fans stood up and demanded change.

This year, and with apologies the excuse merchants (E), the fields in jump racing have never been so poor. 3 and 4 runner events abound. When they’re strung out for 465 yards, this is what sporting people (B) call ‘uncompetitive’or ‘dull’- unless that is you like Formula one

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The ground isn’t firm. It’s good racing ground, so stop telling me a its akin to a bed of nails to a horse. Indeed they’ve been running all summer. And when the ground is good in April at Aintree – they’ll be running, this is what explodes the myth about ground..There’s simply too much racing and too few runners to support the code and it cannot roll on for 3 or 4 months in this vein every year, whilst we all sip champagne in our box, waiting on Cue Card. A couple of weeks ago we had 19 runner fields at Doncaster on the flat. 7/1 the field and 1/4 the odds if you’re a betting man. Competitive, and attracts people to watch on telly. Yesterday I watched Lydia Hislop (X) trying to make Wincanton sound interesting. She should have been awarded a DSO..

stiers

So Mr Harman and Mr Rust (Q E and Z) I know the issue of racing volume gets dull, but that’s because you refuse to accept it’s a failed system..  I fully accept your jobs depend on the goodwill of masters more interested in Levy than bums on seats. I’m staring at a Kempton card with 3 three runner races and a Carlisle card with a 2 runner heat. It’s your turn in the chair and you’ve got two years left to save a code so many love before you’re replaced by the fellahs who run Southern Rail (Q).

This is a sport very much in crisis, and you are tasked to act in the interests of the sport as a whole, even if the Trustees are more interested in levy grants. Do better than serve out your time and a 0.1 runner increase per race per year. We’ll all be pushing up daisies by the time you start delivering.

 

Or am I being too diplomatic??

ascot

ps. If you want to earn money from Betting, try enforcing a minimum margin on operators in return for hefty levy rate reductions. Not a tip you’ll get from the current crop of non execs..

Banks.(X)

THERE IS ONLY ONE DERBY

The Derby   Who could not enjoy the Derby? An iconic race on an unusual twisting track where the field drops into the straight and race downhill past rows of London buses. It’s one of the great British events. One of my favourite meetings of the year. buses On the eve of the Oaks, I was at Epsom to film a small fun segment for Channel 4. Hundreds of workers buzzing around, having meetings, preparing.  Epsom, whilst it is a great track, disappointingly only produces one meeting of merit a year. That’s not a comment meant to impugn Jockey Club. I think the reason being the unusual nature of the track makes running more premium events there difficult. I think that’s a shame. It also argues the importance to the track of a financially successful Derby.

Jockey Club Racecourses have a talent for organising large festivals. I’ve been behind the scenes on many occasions. It’s impressive. I don’t believe people realise how much is involved turning a racetrack that’s done nothing for months into such a showcase for the sport. Chairs, bands, bunting, car parking, food and drink. The organisation performs the same feat at Aintree for the National, Newmarket for the Guineas, Sandown for the Eclipse and of course Cheltenham, to name but a few. They know what they’re doing here. And I love every one of the aforementioned. I don’t want to suggest otherwise.

JCR are, of course, the commercial arm of the once rulers of British Racing. They have a debt book to manage and of course it is vital to turn as many events as possible to profit. That’s business. One of their most successful tracks commercially is Kempton, tumbleweed blows about the place and never strikes an ankle. A product engineered for the shops.  Little wonder Newcastle looks on with envy. The turf tracks such as Epsom and Sandown can struggle if their numbers dip

 

photo-72

The Derby, arguably, is the second biggest draw in British Racing. For the last century (at least) its traditional slot was the first Wednesday in June. This was changed to arguably more lucrative slot on a Saturday. I have a big problem with this. I fully recognise the commercial importance of the event to Epsom and I also understand the stance adopted by the BHA in favour of large betting concerns in supporting so many race meets on a Saturday and more generally. I have been at odds with them on this subject because I do not accept the Sport itself benefits from this arrangement, nor the volume of racing, as advocated by Ralph Topping or Andy Hornby. They are running the sport to their gain and our ruin. If it was the case our beloved racing was ‘furthered’ by so many meetings on a Saturday (8 of whom competed with Epsom) – we would surely witness LBO’s about the country pushing racing in their shop windows. However the opposite is most certainly true. Shop windows are dominated with banners pushing the machines racing has no financial interest in. Shoving FOBT’s down our throats with warnings about ‘responsible gambling’ – You couldn’t make it up. BlcYya1CMAArtbN

 

Mr Topping, shortly to retire from William Hill I’m glad to observe, led the pack of casino operators with an offer of 5/2 Australia to win the great race. After the flop of True Story in the Dante, William Hill were 4/6. £1 wagered netted £2.50 on the day of the race, yet would have won just 67p in profit the month before – a mere 32% drop in margin. Had Australia had one of his legs amputated I think the move would have been a fair one.Most business models would collapse at 5% drop in margin. Its a decision based on trying to suck customers away from rival firms  – and driving them to other products. It’s a Levy wrecking exercise because it drives the whole industry to offering an odds-on chance at 11/8 by the start time, an industry 18% worse off thanks to William Hill. Roulette wins- Racing loses. Yet they claim to be supporting the Sport? Tell me how is Racing advantaged?

In shops more famous for restrictions on Racing and Greyhounds, the margin in betting terms  on racing has collapsed, and let’s be clear on this – this is nobody’s fault but the Bookmakers. It’s a world dominated by pennies on exchanges and casino firms warring on market share. And it’s the latter that provides more liquidity, and therefore more price impetus. I’m suggesting alliances with such organisations are a waste of time if all they do is run the finances of the product to suit their own ends.

I don’t blame Paul Bittar for seeking a more convivial level with these firms. But I believe he has to recognise the realities in such a relationship. British Racing is a standalone product. The sport has become the conduit, the vital fodder such betting companies require to camouflage the presence of LBO’s proliferating our High Streets, as well as provide the background noise. There’s little chance of a fruit machine empire being granted free licensing by a worried government, but one that claims to be based on Horse Racing? Well that’s just British. At least it’s a British lie. Any potential profits from the Derby clearly sacrificed at the altar of market share. Should you care? Well for as long as betting profit funds the sport then the answer is yes. It happens at every festival, with rivals outdoing each other in offers so attractive they’re bound to be loss making. I’ll be glad when Ralph leaves, the firm might return to Bookmaking. I appreciate my view won’t be shared by Betfair, who have eaten King Ralph’s lunch for years..

The big story on the morning of the Derby – and the following morning, wasn’t Australia and his thrilling performance. The headlines were an England friendly. A French Open final won by a fox with nice legs. The Derby festival has competed in the past for critical airtime and exposure with England World Cup qualifying games and matches against Brazil. football

 

The same is true abroad, with their own sporting events in direct opposition to The Derby. Overseas markets are crucial to the success of British Racing’s commercial arm in selling Para Mutuel tickets and sponsorship. Our Sport also managed shoot itself in the foot by adding 8 other race meetings to the mix.  It’s all quantity. I hate using the term madness to such thinking, so I will use a different and less evocative term. Is JCR the only culprit in such activities? Absolutely not. York’s fabulous Ebor, Goodwood’s Stewards Cup. A couple of examples of races that are losing their identity.

I hear Channel 4’s Epsom figures as down 25%. That’s a very significant drop. Some would argue the format of the show as wrong. I’m no expert in television. I do, however, believe the network cannot be advantaged by forcing it to transmit in competition to so many other major sporting events, as well as air our sport in a more lucrative spot than Wednesday. I do believe Channel 4 should be beating on the door of British Racing to demand a better product to transmit.

Are such heritage events totally under the control of our racetracks as to when they are put on, or does the ruling body have to approve the change? I suspect the BHA has some control over such matters and if so I believe it’s time to resist further calls from tracks to move events to Saturdays where attendances gain, whilst the Sport unquestionably loses. I would go further. I think it’s time the sport restricted payments of Media and Levy to any more than two Premier Race Meetings on each Saturday. Broadly this means events such as the July Cup – would not be funded in opposition to Newbury and Chester’s big meetings on the same day. Is this so radical? Not really. Is it easily done in a BHA board with such a hefty racetrack bias? Ehm, er, well..

It’s time for a complete re-think on how we further the Sport both commercially, as in sales of TV rights and Betting abroad, and in its profile. Paralleled with providing improved midweek racing, to encourage traffic into our betting shops. We need to spread out the jewels – not compete for air time, coverage, newspaper space as well as for Betting by hosting The Derby on the same day as England vs Honduras. And yes, I’ll say it, less racing to deal with the issue of small fields. I don’t think people fully understand the negative impact on the sport when five runners set out to post.

And if you’re sitting there thinking the Oikball can’t compete with our Derby because we’re so fabulous? Bear in mind 1.5 Million watched Australia’s romp, and 7.5 Million watched the brainless ones flop about the field in a friendly. Let us not also forget sponsorship for the Derby was only recently saved by Investec who came in at the eleventh hour two years ago and doubtless saved themselves a few quid. Would a Wednesday Derby have been in the same boat for sponsors? Such investments prosper from sporting events from exclusive coverage and exposure.

epsom-derby

 

It’s time to stand up to the racetracks on this subject – and force these iconic sporting events to be moved back to their original midweek slots for a host of good reasons, contra their natural desire to profit more from a Saturday.  At the end of the day ‘ownership’ of the top races in the calendar carries a responsibility to produce more than numbers through the turnstile – although I doubt the Derby’s Saturday figures are that much better than when it was hosted on a Wednesday. I recall queues of traffic for the Derby. Last Saturday I breezed in. The race has certainly lost some of its mojo.

We should enthusiastically place Premier race events midweek with a rights and levy structure which encourages movement off of weekends. Why do we permit Chester, York, Ascot and Goodwood on one day and Leicester, Ffos Las, Windsor and Ripon on another? What are our expectations here? Would you walk into a store if the quality varied so much from one day to the next? Why was Newmarket for example permitted to move its July Cup from an unchallenged slot – to one where it competes and denigrated other fixtures, as is the case on ‘Super Saturday?’

Broadening the appeal of Racing involves dealing with the huge holes in the fixture programme left by top tracks abandoning midweek posts in favour of more lucrative weekend slot. Our winter and the great sport of National Hunt is dying on its feet, if you hadn’t noticed, with the smallest fields on record and a movement toward Cheltenham for the top horses which leaves months of high class, well-funded racing either subject to small ‘match’ races or worse simply won by lesser horses. Such issues are partly driven by a lack of control over racetracks and structures that permit horses to laze about in their boxes instead of being forced to compete in a qualifying number of races each season. We need tighter controls if we are committed to a quality product.

There’s only one Derby

 

Geoff Banks

June 2014