Good morning all,
I was amazed to see a report come out from Populus this week in which the reputation of racing took a bit of a battering, with the public perception of the sport seemingly pretty poor. They were asked whether they thought that events within the sport were “fixed” and only football came out worse. Even more surprisingly, the likes of snooker and tennis came out much better.
My thoughts on why this is on the main piece, along with today's selection.
It would seem, from Populus's poll, that around a third of the public, when asked, think racing is “fixed” in some way. Now, I'm not going to stand here and tell you the sport is whiter than white, and it's not a fortnight since Daren and I made a book on race to watch it begin, and say to each other within two furlongs “we're watching a bent heat.” It goes on, I have no doubt about that. Whether it's as bad as perhaps it was 40 or 50 years ago is hard to say from my viewpoint, as I wasn't around then, but with the advent of cameras at every racecourse, beaming pictures around the world, it's surely harder to try and pull stunts today.
At least, it should be. If Daren and I can spot something that looks fishy, why can't the stewards and the BHA? There's stuff that happens in virtually every race that needs questioning. Why did that jockey give up a potentially good draw to pull his horse over to the other side of the track? Why did that front runner get dropped in today? Why has that horse run on ground that the trainer has said that it hates in the past? Every race, stewards should be asking questions – just because there's no interference doesn't mean it's a cleanly-run race. The more questions asked, the more answers we get. The more answers we get, the more the sport starts to look less fishy to the public and more like something is actually being done to address those that want to cheat on a regular basis.
We, as racing folk, know what goes on. we know a trainer's methodologies, we know tracks where they have better strike rates, we know jockeys they like to employ when they have got one ready to roll. To an extent, that's all part and parcel of the game and they are merely operating (bending?) within the rules without breaking them. And if we don't like that, then we can vote with our feet and not bother having a bet. But if we really want to give racing a better perception to those on the outside, I suggest we start with stewarding – and make sure we ask far more questions that we do at present.
I have to say, as an aside, I was amazed that both snooker and tennis are seen as “cleaner” than racing. I've always thought it's easier to arrange a result when you've just two competitors rather than a dozen, and the stories that some bookmakers tell you about stuff that goes on on the Challenger Tour in tennis – well, it seems that someone somewhere always knows what's about to happen!
After the last couple of selections have run badly I approach today with a bit of caution. I'm at Newmarket tonight with Steve, probably working, and it should be reasonably busy as Chase & Status are playing after racing. (My son informs me I might like them.) It's the 7.05 that I've looked at as Swilly Sunset, the likely favourite, has been raised another 9lb for his latest win and needs to defy the handicapper again. He acts on soft, so there's no problem there, but he's up in trip as well and he could be vulnerable. Ghinia is the one that makes a bit of appeal – three runs on soft have seen her in the frame every time, she has some track form and if you forgive a poor one last time out, she'd been in good form before that. This looks a suitable opportunity and I hope she kicks on early, as there's not much pace on either and she could run the finish out of the others.
Good luck with all your bets today,