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25th April 2024 5:17 am

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

So much good news…

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As various bundles of intelligence thump onto my desk, the headlines make for depressing reading. (I say headlines – I am from the BJ school of thought. If you want heavy lifting with an explanatory note, you need Cummings SPAD software v20.x!)

Seven of the 19 Eurozone members will have debt higher than 100% of GDP before the end of 2020. Southern Europe will have between 12 and 20% unemployment. The global recession and low energy prices will reduce the need for expatriate labour forces in the GCC countries, resulting in redundancies and layoffs that might not be quickly replaced, (that is over 14m foreign nationals working in the Gulf region, of whom it is perfectly conceivable to see 30% unemployment). There is increasing chatter about an ISIS resurgence back into Iraq. Mexico is living up to its long-portrayed film vision of a failed, lawless state, permanently set in 1895 and ripe for revolution.

As if that weren’t enough, the SP system is being abolished/changed/ (ED: don’t use the word manipulated).

But first some background. An SP system was first introduced in 1874, and remained virtually unchanged for over a century. Bookmakers would gather the night before a race meeting at the Lord Raglan pub or the Macgregor Arms, and “Call Over” the entries and punters would take an ante-post bet. This began to be changed with the introduction of decimal money, the introduction of calculators and early computing and then, of course, the Interweb. The liabilities within their book allowed the bookmakers on-course to arrange their P&Ls by adjusting the Starting Price on offer, which would be judged by the local SP reporter from a collection of five or six representative boards to produce the definitive and official SP.

However with more and more punters going online, the introduction of Betfair and a toothless Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC), (they notoriously failed to act on the 2015 Grand National pricing which had an overround of 165% on the 39 horses), things began to change. In 2006 the first bookmaker to break ranks was Blue Square who, under the innovative leadership of Martin Belsham, launched their own pricing system. Others followed suit, but Betfair quickly became the single biggest influence on the SP market, with layers on the track simply trading the exchange price plus their own margin – but they were still not part of the SP system.

Now, and with the alacrity normally reserved for a decent coursing dog, the SPRC has formed a committee, written a paper, handed around the shortbread fingers and Nescafe, stuck dear old Lord Donoghue into the chair, (he used to advise Harold Wilson for Heaven’s sake!), and decided, as near as damn it, that because there will be no Tattersalls betting ring – no punters, no SP market QED – that the SP will be formed off-course. “Just a trial, old fruit”, “You won’t notice a thing” a lot of noises like a doctor about to give you a Rabies shot, which as those of you who have been in the veldt without the trusty Mannlicher will know, can be a damnably painful thing. Time will tell if this is good or bad, but once again there is the faintest whiff of ordure.

Like a Double Zero in Yankee roulette, if a bookmaker wants it, it’s rarely a benefit for the punter.

Sadly industry insiders continue to confide in me, their fear that by the time the powers that be wake up and realise the need to radically alter the “The Sport of Bookmakers”, it will all be too late. Six months of not going horseracing and the crowds won’t be back in numbers. Six months of not having a proper bet, (marred by a falling wage packet and the looming vision of 5m unemployed by March next year, and coupled with the awful whine of self-righteous, proselytising from the sanctimonious under 25s, and betting will be a thing of the past. Six months of paying for a flat horse that I cant see run? No thanks. National Hunt? “You don’t hunt any more so you don’t need to.” (I actually heard that from a vegan who smelled strangely delicious – but I had no Chianti.)

There is a solution and it is less. Less than acceptable to those involved. Less than the money they used to make but won’t see again. Less of all the jobs that insisted on a riding weight focused on a fit Victorian and some nice lads who wanted to earn 9/- a week and be taught respect for the Guv’nor. Less racing, less classes, less courses, less breeding, less sales.

Unsustainable racing couldn’t happen here?

  • 66% of racegoers rate Socialising as the most important aspect to their day out, followed by the racing itself and then betting third.
  • 70%+ of all racegoers, don’t go racing again that year – or next.

We need to change and fast because our pain now will be worth it tomorrow.

PS: Racing Tips soon I promise

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