My day job has seen me still going to work over the past few months but I can finally now begin to have a moment or two of calm to assess how racing and in particular our fledgling racing club has fared through the past few months of unchartered waters.
Uppermost in my mind is the way that the BHA have seemingly chucked owners onto the scrapheap, despite their protestations that they haven’t. In the early stages of lockdown I believe they did a formidable job in trying to get racing back albeit behind closed doors. But now that the industry is trundling along and money is filtering through at the top end, owners are clearly the forgotten entity. Without owners there is no racing. I believe many owners would love to take some kind of action but for many , running their horses is the only source of potential income, so choosing not to run is a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.
The governing bodies ought to be campaigning for all owners to be allowed on course for a day’s racing, not just for 45 minutes to see their horse run. That is ridiculous, given that pubs and restaurants are now back on track.
Next big point for me is the irregularities across courses in regard to difficult horses and loading up. On Saturday and experienced handicapper trained by a very powerful northern yard was given chance after chance to load. The horse bucked three or four times and the jockey did very well to stay in the saddle. This went on for about four minutes. The horse was eventually loaded and finished placed. Since the resumption of racing I wouldn’t like to guess how many horses have been classed as unruly at the stalls and have been withdrawn at almost the first sign of temperament being shown. Those horses now have to have a stalls test and because of the plethora of “unruly” horses there is a huge backlog of horses waiting for the test. Obviously those horses cant run until a test has been
successfully completed. It is frustrating beyond belief to see horses at some course given chance after chance and then at others, very little chance at all. Not good enough; whatever you decide, implement it fairly for heavens sake. I wonder what the figures are for unruly horses this year compared to the last 2 month period from last year?
Our racing club has had a frustrating time of it, like many others I would
imagine. One of our horses got spooked at Redcar on her third outing, after a long break since her last run. Previously she loaded up absolutely fine at Thirsk and Newcastle, but something at Redcar spooked her and she was withdrawn just before the off. What spooked her we have no idea? Seeing strangers with masks for the first time? Who knows. Trying to bring new members into the racing fraternity at this time, when owners cant even turn up and watch and have a nice day out, is proving almost impossible. Things need to change before it is too late. Yesterday I was delighted to see northern jockey Sam James make the most of his opportunity on Queen Jo Jo at York. Sam won on this horse when I was at Nottingham a while ago and he produced a really strong run to win then, as indeed he did yesterday. Group successes don’t come that frequently for some northern jockeys and I am thrilled that Kevin Ryan was repaid for his thinking outside the box on this occasion and offering Sam the ride. Even more thrilled with the amazing ride he gave her bringing her from last to first so even the cameraman almost missed her !
I thought holding Royal Ascot behind closed doors was a good decision. It seemed to be the right thing to do at the right time.
I hope that the BHA and maybe the ROA can now realize that now is the right time to actually do something concrete to look after the interests of owners. It was nice to see Francesca Cumani make the point so forcibly on ITV at the weekend. I just hope that the right people were listening.
Peter, Director at NE1 Racing Club.