Graham Fletcher: Why betting could be profitable for showjumping


  • Former international showjumper Graham Fletcher, now a highly respected trainer, as well as a breeder and producer of young horses, weighs up how digital betting could attract a new audience

    The top end of showjumping is currently generating some of the best sport I’ve ever seen. The recent Rolex grand prix at ’s-Hertogenbosch was simply fantastic, with all contenders flat to the boards before US rider McLain Ward emerged as the winner.

    McLain’s win plus his bonus amounted to €1m (£880,900). Compare that with the £500,000 collected by the same weekend’s Grand National victor Corach Rambler’s connections, and it’s clear that international showjumping can now even outstrip racing on prize money.

    It seems a pity, therefore, that more people can’t witness our high-quality sport; that they can’t enjoy the excitement, the atmosphere, the crowds, the horsemanship and the wonderful feelings that the riders and grooms so obviously have for these incredible equine athletes.

    Apart from spectators at shows, only those with a subscription to a showjumping app can watch – and they tend to be either the “already converted” or closely involved.

    Betting with on-site bookies has been tried by various shows, but largely failed. However, modern technology could provide a new and different opportunity. There are always 15 to 20 minutes between the last round of a class and the start of the jump-off. So if the odds flashed up on your phone during that natural break, there would be plenty of time to study the form and put your money on. I’d only suggest offering this for grands prix jump-offs when everybody is trying.

    Bearing in mind that top showjumping now has a worldwide live-stream following, plus tens of thousands of in-person spectators, I can’t help but think that if a company gave digital betting a go, it would be profitable. More importantly, it would start to bring in people from outside the industry to see what a great sport we have.

    A financial boost

    Because of the ongoing post-Brexit costs of taking horses abroad to compete, it’s great to see the British centres putting on international shows. They are of course much more expensive to run than national shows. At Chepstow two-star this weekend, they’re putting on two ranking classes. That’s fantastic for the riders, but a big financial commitment for show directors James and Matthew Broome, who must find £54,000 for the two ranking classes’ prize money alone. I really hope it works for them and I wish them a very successful show.

    “A top man and a great friend”

    The former international rider Mick Saywell, who passed away recently, was a great pal of mine for decades. The memories came flooding back as I remembered how we were both total competitors in the ring, yet all that was put to one side as I think of the great times we had on a night.

    Mick would help anybody; nothing was too much trouble for him. A sportsman who’s a winner and yet completely selfless is a very rare combination. In fact, I can’t think of anybody else that comes even close. Mick really was a top man and a great friend.

    Legends live on

    The organisers of the recent Welsh Masters were told that the ladies’ and gentlemen’s titles they’ve awarded for many years could no longer be used. But the show got around the edict by renaming their two main classes after legendary equestrians Liz Edgar and Jon Doney, both of whom we’ve sadly lost in the past couple of years.

    As the competition got underway, Alfie Bradstock asked the collecting ring steward how many ladies were left to go.

    “Sorry, Alfie, but you’re not allowed to use those terms now,” the steward told him. To which Alfie instantly replied: “Sorry, how many Liz Edgars and Jon Doneys are left to go?”

    ● Do you think betting would attract a wider audience? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your thoughts published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 27 April

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