Racing week: Channel 4 talks continue

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  • Last-ditch talks between the racing industry and Channel 4 to try to persuade the TV channel to broadcast horseracing beyond the end of 2005 have continued past the original 31 May deadline.

    The station maintains that racing costs £5million a year to showcase and that the alternative use for the airtime could raise the same amount in revenue. It had imposed a deadline of last Tuesday for reaching agreement with racing and betting over annual funding in the region of £8m.

    Representatives from the British Horseracing Board, the association of British bookmakers, William Hill, the Tote and the Racecourse Association attended the crisis meetings.

    A joint statement said: “In view of the extent of the subsidy requested [by Channel 4] and the precedent such action would set, it was unanimously agreed not to meet the request. Both the racing and betting industries have greatly valued Channel 4’s excellent coverage of racing and would regret any decision to curtail it, especially in the light of the new commercial opportunities opened up by Ofcom this week.”

    Prior to Tuesday’s deadline, Channel 4 maintained that the station was ready to explore “a range of options” ahead of 31 May. Former champion jockey John Francome, who collected the Sports Pundit of the Year award last week for his work on Channel 4, questioned why the Horseracing Betting Levy Board had not “put hands in pockets”. The Levy Board maintained that it was beyond its charter to offer financial support.

    The impact of horseracing coverage on betting — an estimated 300% increase in turnover, and, correspondingly, racing’s income from betting — and sponsorship is the basis for Channel 4’s argument for a payment towards costs.

    A good week for . . .

    Disabled racing enthusiasts, after Wolverhampton staged its annual “Enabled Day” last Friday with free admission for disabled race goers and their carers. The racecourse has a further two dates this year — 10 September and 22 October — when disabled people can apply for free tickets to watch the racing action.

    A bad week for . . .

    Frankie Dettori, who has picked up a six-day ban following an incident at Haydock earlier this week. Dettori was the Royal Ascot’s leading jockey last season, but will miss the whole of this year’s Royal meeting at York as a result. The ban was imposed after Dettori moved his horse directly in front of another runner during a race. The other horse clipped the heels of Dettori’s mount and fell. Luckily, both horses and riders walked away unscathed.

    Take a break

    Jockeys are being advised to take at least two days a month off from riding this summer under a new voluntary code of practice. The new recommendations have been issued following concerns about the work schedules of some jockeys during the busiest part of the season. Any day spent away from the racecourse will be considered a rest day including suspensions, illness or injury.

    Penalty shoot out

    Sir Peter O’Sullevan CBE, flat jockeys Frankie Dettori and Mick Fitzgerald, former champion jump jockey Richard Dunwoody, and Channel 4’s John Francome and John McCririck will be taking part in a celebrity penalty shoot-out at Sandown Park racecourse on Saturday 11 June during National Courses for Horses day. The event is part of the Courses for Horses campaign, which is the first-ever national fundraiser to help working horses in the developing world. The horse racing stars will be attempting to score a goal against top goalie coach, Dave Beasant, of Fulham FC.

  • Don’t miss Horse & Hound Online’s reports on all the action from the Vodaphone Oaks and Vodaphone Derby. Horse & Hound’s extensive reportage of these classic races will be available in next Thursday’s issue (9 June, 05)
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