With the fixture log-jam on Saturday — racing at York, Chester, Ascot and Newmarket — we suffered like everyone else.
Due to the change in going, the jockey I booked for the first race at Newmarket was switched to Chester.
His main employer scratched his ride in the Group Two Superlative Stakes, and so we were scratching around at 10am on Saturday trying to find someone to ride at 8st7lb.
Unbelievably, or perhaps not, we couldn’t find anyone at the meeting without a ride in the first race to do less than 8st 9lb. As you can imagine, I was less than keen for the horse to carry 2lb overweight in a competitive handicap.
In the end we redirected a jockey — who is yet to ride a winner in 2014 and who had ridden for us only once previously — from the evening meeting at Salisbury to ride a 6-1 shot in a £40,000 race.
It didn’t work out particularly well. The horse is normally quickly away but dwelt from the stalls and finished fifth.
There are a number of issues at work in this example.
First, the horse scratched from the Group Two would not have been declared in the first place if we still had 24hr declarations.
Newmarket had over an inch of unforecast rain on Thursday, but with our 48hr declaration system, Saturday’s runners had been decided before the rain came down.
Secondly, there is no need for York, Chester, Ascot and Newmarket all to race on the same day.
But because of an Office of Fair Trading ruling 10 years ago, the racecourses can pretty much act as they please. What I can guarantee you is that nothing will change.
We will be complaining about the same Saturday for the foreseeable future, because Newmarket — who caused the problem by moving the July meeting from Tuesday to Thursday, to Thursday to Saturday — will not budge.
The reason for their intransigence is not because of an increase in attendance, because the meeting doesn’t attract as big a crowd as their Friday evening fixtures.
It is because of the revenue generated by selling the media rights of Saturday’s showpiece — the Group One July Cup — to Hong Kong (thanks to 48hr declarations) whose racing season finished the previous weekend.
Hong Kong is a shining example of how racing should be run. They race six times a month for 10 months a year and their turnover every Saturday exceeds what is bet in this country on the Grand National.
Their number of fixtures has remained the same, but their turnover rises every year. I just wish that all of our bookmakers, who call for an increase in fixtures every year, would take note.
Turnover on racing in this country is going down, but the Hong Kong experience shows that what is required is quality not quantity.
Our experience shows that having a log-jam of quality as on Saturday doesn’t work either. How can it when there is a race every five minutes?
Punters heads spin; they don’t bet more, they just become more selective or bet on cricket, football and tennis.
Last month the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced new regulations on the use of banned anabolic steroids. From 2015 any horse testing positive will be banned for 14 months.
What a good idea, you might think. But what happens if I buy a yearling that has been given steroids, perhaps as a sick foal, and it tests positive on its first start as a two-year-old?
As you can imagine, most of us believe this is a rule that, as it stands, is destined for controversy. What is for certain is that I can’t see many of us going to the US to buy yearlings!