Successful National Hunt trainer Kim Bailey on the joy of racing and why the sport is currently under threat
I am often asked why on earth I have been doing what I do for so long and primarily it stems from my love of jump racing and all that it entails.
My enthusiasm for the sport remains as strong as when I started out. But you cannot beat having a winner and seeing how the owners react to that, as shown when The Kemble Brewery won the bumper at Cheltenham two weeks ago. The celebrations in the paddock and in the pub that night made great viewing and Cheltenham Racecourse even posted it on their Instagram account.
A group of friends headed by Phil Andrews decided it would be good to have a horse and name it after their favourite Cheltenham pub, The Kemble Brewery. They called themselves the Breakfast At 10 Syndicate because they all meet up there for breakfast at that time before racing. They are huge Cheltenham enthusiasts, so to have a winner there was special.
You cannot help but be sucked in by the post-race atmosphere and that is one of the many reasons why I still enjoy training racehorses. There is nothing more rewarding than making people very happy with a win – and it’s not a regular occurrence, however hard we try!
“Inappropriate and discriminatory”
Racing is in a pivotal time as the Government and the Gambling Commission are trying to regulate betting with affordability checks and as a result stop many punters’ harmless pastime. Is this an infringement on their rights to enjoy the sport or is it a bid to try to stop addiction gambling?
Addiction in any form is difficult to stop, but making everyone face the same brick wall is causing many punters to bet illegally. The knock-on effect of a loss of betting turnover will duly come in the shape of lower prize money in the sport.
The industry is putting up a strong defence and asking all to sign a petition to stop its implementation. We believe such checks – which could include assessing whether people are “at risk of harm” based on their postcode or job title – are both inappropriate and discriminatory.
Shake-up to the fixture list
The British Horseracing Authority has made a major shake-up to the 2024 fixtures list, trialling a “premiumisation” of racing. This will mean 20 fewer jumps meetings, 20 new premier tier Sunday Flat fixtures and all-weather Sunday evening meetings during the early part of the year.
Like all changes, much of what has been suggested has not been met with a universal thumbs up. There will be a two-year trial period and it is our job to make it work, however difficult it might be to do so.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes announced is the drop in field size from 40 to 34 runners for the 2024 Grand National. Traditionalists were horrified and although I am sad to see this change, I still welcome the fact that the race is still here. Let’s hope that all 34 runners are not trained in Ireland!
For now, all I ask is that you sit back and enjoy our wonderful sport as it is – provided the weather gods don’t taunt us, we will offer up some great viewing.
● What do you think about these latest changes in racing? Let us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 9 November, 2023
You may also be interested in…
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.