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19th June 2024 3:53 pm

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

Irish Grand National and a sunny Bank Holiday

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BHA CEO Julie Harrington has issued her Easter statement to tell the faithful that efforts to progress the industry strategy were entering “an important and exciting phase“.

However, according to Musselburgh’s boss, Bill Farnsworth, her statement masks a strategy devised with the bookmakers to declutter Saturday afternoons to better promote the premier fixtures  – a strategy being driven by what suits betting at the expense of racegoers. Thus he believes that Saturday’s Queen’s Cup meeting will be axed next year under plans being drawn up that will pull races away from Saturday afternoons and potentially reposition them at lunchtimes or on weekend evenings – almost certainly without the value-enhancing lure of terrestrial TV coverage.

In her statement Julie Harrington said:

“We’re looking to make decisions in the coming months about the structure, presentation, and promotion of our racing product, including the fixture list, funding, and the race programme. There is scope for so much innovation and improvement in these areas. As part of this, we are looking at how we use the shop window of our premier events to grow the appeal of the sport to existing and new fans, really getting behind those parts of the sport that work well. We are looking at how fixtures are distributed in order to ensure that our best fixtures are positioned in a manner which creates a more readily identifiable top end to the sport, presented in a shop window that engages customers, both existing and new, in a way which delivers tangible long-term benefits across the entire industry. At the same time, we are looking at how we use our core fixtures to increase the engagement of racing’s existing customers.”

Explaining that the BHA had (very luckily and very kindly) been given access to data from betting operators, in giving insight as to how bettors behave, (and once the key figures had been explained to her by the bookmakers), Harrington added:

“We are only part way through the process but we are already doing things differently. Access to this data is a vital piece of our new armoury, allowing us to factor fan and bettor behaviour into our approach to programming fixtures and races. Getting this right will result in a more competitive sport which is more appealing to fans, owners, trainers, the betting public and investors, and ultimately generating greater revenues which can filter down to our participants through prize-money……….. There is no doubt that this [new] governance structure will be tested when the big decisions have to be made, …. as ever, some decisions will benefit some groups more than others and some decisions might impact on some parties in the short term. However, in the longer term the objective is that everyone will benefit from an increasingly popular sport with a growing number of customers and investors. We are doing all we can to ensure that any decisions we make are fully thought through and the consequences understood. But the fact is that in order to progress the sport the BHA board will have to make difficult decisions…… The strategy is an opportunity to shape racing’s future. We have an amazing sport, but we need to work out how to grow its appeal in order to increase engagement of our existing customers and to attract new audiences….. We want to continue to have the best horses in the world bred, trained and raced here.”

Now forgive me if I appear curmudgeonly – but doesn’t this all sound a bit scripted by a marketing bod at Nobody could possibly believe that racing is an increasingly popular sport – because as we are also frequently told – every metric from ownership to attendance to prize money to staff retention to sponsorship is heading south.

Two thoughts cross my mind when I read this sort of knavery masquerading as the product of a considered and considerate thought process:

“Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.

Sky Masterson – Guys and Dolls

Talking of ending up with an earful of bookies’ cider, here are some TV tips and a punt on one of my favourite Nationals – i.e I have historically made money on it!

2:40 FAIRYHOUSE Donohue Marquees Juvenile Hdl (G2) (4yo) 2m 9 run

BLOOD DESTINY should win this but for a bit of sport, I’m going to have a small e/w on PARADISE LOST who likes Fairyhouse and seemed to hate Navan or mud or both LTO.


2:55 KEMPTON (AW) Racing TV Fillies’ Cond.Stks Cl2 (3yo) 1m 5 run

No Bet

3:15 FAIRYHOUSE Fairyhouse Steel Hcap Hdl (4yo+ 0-140) 2m5½f 22 run

ZOFFANY BAY is far less exposed than many of these and following an absence of almost two years ran a great race at Ascot on comeback, before being pulled up in the Imperial Cup. Too big a price and with six places available worth a small interest.

ZOFFANY BAY 2 pts e/w

3:30 KEMPTON (AW) Join Racing TV Now Cond.Stks (Colts & Geldings) Cl2 (3yo) 1m 5 run

No Bet

3:50 FAIRYHOUSE Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hdl (G2) (5yo+) 2m4f 6 run

MONKFISH has not been seen since his second in the G1 Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown to stablemate Colreevy two years ago. He has no miles on the clock (his 10 career races include two Cheltenham victories) and is not without hope. HMS SEAHORSE is being backed and is also not without a chance. Back both

MONKFISH – HMS SEAHORSE Win Dutch 7 pts – ½ pt RFC

4:05 KEMPTON (AW) Racing TV Rosebery Hcap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-105) 1m3f 14 run

EVANIA 2 pts e/w

4:20 FAIRYHOUSE McInerney Properties Fairyhouse Chase (G2) (5yo+) 2m4f 6 run

EASY GAME is looking to win this for the third time – but hasn’t been since October. MAGIC DAZE was a planter in the Mares Chase so is a swerve. FRENCH DYNAMITE is an uncertain selection – I would be more positive with no rain. He ran way better than his odds in the Ryanair coming a 6l 4th, and this could be a clever piece of placing by Mouse Morris – if the ground is OK


4:40 KEMPTON (AW) Racing TV Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes Cl1 (4yo+) 1m 9 run

LIGHTSHIP is taking a big step up here but she is a ½ sister to Lady Kaya (7f G3 winner – 2nd in 1000 Gns) and is 2/2 over the CD. Way too big a price.

LIGHTSHIP 1½ pts e/w

5:00 FAIRYHOUSE BoyleSports Irish Grand National Chase (GA) (5yo+) 3m5f 30 run

I have narrowed it down to just ten! [Racecard Nos: 5-7-10-13-14-16-17-18-28-29]. If I remove the LTO Cheltenham runners, who don’t appear to be having such a good Easter meeting, I’m down to five. Not Scientific – but you have to start somewhere and see whether there is a case for the remainder. Strangely that leaves two of the top 4 in the betting. Of those five, I’m backing four for 6 places with most bookies and 7 places with Skybet and Betway

 THE DEVILS COACHMAN 3½ pts e/w – PANDA BOY 3½ pts e.w – MUST BE OBEYED 2 pts e/w – MAX FLAMINGO 1½ pts e/w – 12 x ¼ pt CFC


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