Poor Public Perception

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,





6 Responses to Poor Public Perception

  1. Chris Rees says:

    I wrote to the Bha, more than 10 years ago, asking them to improve the quality of stewarding, because of the questionable activities of jockeys and trainers then.
    As we see today, little or nothing has changed since, despite the bland reassurance I was given that the ‘stipes’ were in control.
    Essentially, unless the stewards act on the day, then the Bha can say there is no problem.
    And the Punters Forum has had no impact either.

  2. Phil williams says:

    Hi David
    I must say that I am not by any stretch of imagination a horseracing expert but no one will ever convince me that quit a lot of races are ( thrown ) as am 85 and always bet for fun but it is very frustrating when even to my dim eyes I see most often a damp good horse favourite ridden on the rails and allowing himself to stay at the back and not doing the obvious thing =move out to chalenge makes no attempt to move off the rail until going through the motions of TRYING and just failing.
    Then I see the jockey riding a good fav and his arms and body going like a demented leprechaun but with no basic attempt to drive out and win even though their horse is so capable of beating all the others after race jockeys keep a straight face and the reasons given are so full of S**t, I only bet for enjoyment but surely it is so blatant that real experts must be aware of these two points.
    Another point is there any agreement between bookies and trainers about 7 horse races and 15 in handicaps ??*??? It’s amazing the number of races that are run denying punters a place.
    Rant over. Regards Phil

  3. Philip says:

    Stewarding in this country is a complete joke; they are picked from the gene pool that supplies all the hooray Henry’s who still dominate the sport; if brains were matches a lot them wouldn’t have sufficient to light a cigarette.

    Two days ago a Richard Guest horse was withdrawn because the ground was considered ‘unsuitable’. This was descrived as good to soft and the animal has won a mere 5 races on that surface. There was a horse withdrawn at Glorious Goodwood with the same reason given, the following day it ran in another festival race. Same distance, same track, same ground. Not a peep out of the stewards.

    Last year there was a horse in the RP where the form noted an explanation from the trainer as to why it had suddenly, out of nowhere, won a race convincingly, and were told it was because it was running on good to firm ground for the first time.

    The following season the trainer was asked to explain why his horse had run so poorly again(favourite this time)and were told that it didn’t appreciate the good to firm ground.

    This tells us two things: Trainers explanations are not kept on a permanently accessible separate database, so that stewards can look up a trainers record before speaking to them; that some trainers blatantly lie knowing that they will not be pulled on it.

  4. Tony Strachan says:

    I have followed racing for 50 years and it happens every day. Trainers running horses at wrong distances,hold up horses ridden prominently and vice versa wrong going the list goes on. It will never change. If a trainer gives an explanation regarding ground, trip etc, it should be on record in the horses form line and if he runs it again in wrong conditions he should be fined the first time and banned for a period thereafter.

  5. Steve says:

    I agree with all the comments, the only thing I would say is that if you follow racing closely you might spot some of these stunts, I do feel a bit for the ordinary race goer and punter.
    But , in a way, it is a bit of a reward for doing your homework.
    When asked I always say that in a , say 10 horse run of the mill race, half won’t be trying and a couple are so poor that they can’t win, the skill is sorting out which of the ones left will win

    • Mulldog says:

      I agree there is an art as a punter in identifying these “stunts” and personal profit can be made but for the greater good of the sport these kind incidents do racing more harm than good.

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