Category Archives: Opinion

Saturday Night Thoughts

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A busy Saturday full of intriguing racing action is behind us. Some thoughts on the things that stood out me.

Kameko Wins 2000 Guineas

He appeared to be a rock solid chance beforehand but turned out to be the very best in a deep 2000 Guineas field: Kameko came late to the party with only the final furlong left to go when finally challenging for the lead. Eventually the son of Kitten’s Joy beat the Ballydoyle “money horse” Wichita… and he did it with a bit of authority.

I felt beforehand that Kameko should be a big player if he improves in a way one would hope he can as a three-year-old, given his consistent (particularly on the clock) and strong performances as a juvenile.

The fast pace surely suited him but that doesn’t mean he got it easy. In fact he had to fight for room and a clear passage. Over two furlongs out Oisin Murphy pulled Kameko out in what was quite a violent move, which in turn hampered Kinross rather significantly, who it seemed to my eyes, was just about to hit top gear and fighting to get through a gap himself.

Once in the clear, though, Kameko stayed on strongly, suggesting he will get further – which puts my suggestion that he has miler “written all over” him pretty much to shame.

What does hold true: he falls into the bracket of late foals that seemingly improve during the summer months exponentially, which rather nicely proves the point I made in my race preview that the later date of this years 2000 Guineas will have a profound impact on what type of horse it suits best.

A first British Classic success for Oisin Murphy – it was coming sooner rather than later. Derby next for Kameko? It would be a shame if not.

As for “my boy” Kinross: he raced a lot closer to a brisk pace – at least early on in the race – than I would have anticipated. He lost ground in the middle part, finding it all a bit too hot.

When it looked his race is over, Harry Bentley seemed to galvanize him once more which meant Kinross started to make progress and was about to be moving through an opening gap with about two furlongs to go.

It was then that the accelerating Kameko suddenly cut across and as a consequence hampered Kinross badly, who lost vital momentum. One could also argue Kameko was simply faster moving through the same gap Kinross wanted to get through too.

The drift in the betting to 20/1 SP was evidence that there was little confidence in his chances. So it looks he may not be quite as good as I have hoped. Nonetheless I still think he can become a top class horse. He finished 6th in a deep 2000 Guineas despite being badly hampered, though possibly need the step up to 10 furlongs to be seen to best effect. I retain hope.

Richard Hughes Calls Out Racingpost

If those from within the industry start to call you out it’s time to finally listen and step up. It’s clear that people are fed up with the substandard product the Racingpost is producing. What were usually disgruntled racing fans, now starts to spread to people from within the sport. That must be a real concern for the Racingpost.

I concluded as much last week that the paper is devoid of original content. If you charge £3.90/€4.20 for a daily paper that operates in a niche segment that is horse racing you better offer tremendous value – i.e. quality content – to justify such a steep price tag.

Tough Times for Ryan Moore

He’s one of the best, if not THE best jockey on the planet. But even Ryan Moore is a human being (seriously!). In fact he’s as human as any other jockey in that he can go through a bad run of form from time to time. Which is what he’s doing right now.

Racing is only back for less than a full week but Ryan Moore has clearly angered a lot punters judging by my Twitter feed.

The numbers look bleak: 21 rides, 1 winner. However, the reason for this may be as simple as he didn’t ride a lot of good horses. In fact, ten of his rides came on horses that went off 9/1 or bigger – some at much bigger odds even. Only one was a favourite: and won.

Hawwaam Is Back

I absolutely loved seeing the almighty South African superstar Hawwaam back (or close to) his best this afternoon. He won the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein in fine style where he was travelling strongly throughout and putting the race to bed rather easily in the end.

After two defeats in Cape Town where issues of travelling and settling in his new surroundings may have hindered him to show his very best, as trainer Mike De Kock suggested, the four-year-old clearly enjoyed his return to Turffontein, bagging a fifth Grade 1!

Rough Betting Days

Racing is back and been quite successful for me personally from a punting perspective. Three bigger priced winners from six bets before Friday. Brilliant!

Then came Friday. A bit of a shocker. Then came Saturday. Brutal. All bets lost. That in itself isn’t a problem. That’s what naturally happens if you back the big prices I do – 6 losing bets – isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t bother me. Normally.

What does bother me is if I don’t follow my Golden Rules of betting on horses. When I let myself down making poor choices and decisions guided by emotions and “gut feeling” and not by hard facts. When I know full well the horse is unlikely to be well handicapped but still follow through to back the “fancy”. Memo to myself: make better decisions. No bet no problem.

Opinion: Racing’s Problems bigger than ATR vs RTV

The TV landscape has changed and we’re now well within the first week of these new times.

Racing UK has taken over the rights to show Irish racing (as well as Chelmsford), while At The Races, the long-standing television partner of Irish racing, is gone from the scene there – they’ve bagged themselves the prestigious courses of Ascot and Chester in turn.

There is a rich history of why the rights have moved in first place – you can dig into all the wonderful details here.

I’m more interested in how this first week went and what it means or doesn’t mean for the future of racing.

From all what I could gather up until this Saturday it was a pretty unspectacular change. The horses still ran at Fairyhouse, Tramore and Dundalk – in fact the evening coverage of the County Louth track on Friday was fairly good with the likes of Gary O’Brien and Kevin O’Ryan providing insightful thoughts and analysis.

Today, the first Saturday of the new year, I had the chance to watch the now re-branded Racing TV throughout a complete day – a busy enough day, where they showed live racing from Kempton, Sandown, Wincanton and Cork.

Apparently there was a bit of moaning going on after Racing TV’s New Year’s Day coverage, which was equally a busy day, where it all was put to the test for the first time. And I can see why, as today was probably not a different experience to the one RTV viewers were treated to last Tuesday.

It was race after race after race. Bang, bang, bang. A little bit of analysis squeezed in before and after some of the races, mainly around Sandown, to a lesser extend Wincanton, where commendable Lydia Hislop did her magic with the little time she had – as she usually does!

In truth, this sort of experience isn’t anything new, compared to the busy days on the flat throughout the summer. What is different now: Irish racing. It has to be squeezed in as well.

And that is a bit of a problem. Simply because there was little to no time to squeeze any sort of meaningful analysis of the Cork races in. Certainly not before their respective off. At least afterwards we got to enjoy a few words from the guys in the studio.

But what can you really analyse if you’ve got the maximum lengths of four of five sentences to say before it’s off to somewhere else, because the next race is waiting in line?

It’s a tough spot for RTV on days like this, so I wouldn’t knock them for the coverage. They tried their absolute best. Ultimately we were able to watch all the races. At least that!

In saying that: you do not need a proper TV channel (an expensive pay-TV one that is) for a glorified live stream of all the races. The expectations on a TV channel, particularly a specialist channel like Racing TV, is one that does provide expert commentary, meaningful insights and proper analysis to all the races it shows.

I wouldn’t say that’s always what you got on At The Races in the past. But of course Irish racing was a premium product for ATR, so they gave it ample airtime – even during the busier days.

This is where Irish racing and Irish racing fans do miss out, if the setup remains as it is right now: i.e. all on one channel. I don’t think as negatively about the fact that RTV is behind a paywall, though – I did so in the past; not anymore.

Yes, ATR is much easier accessible as it comes with your standard TV bundle in most cases. But that doesn’t mean its audience figures are anything to shout about.

Anywhere between an average of 40-70.000 people turn in for ATR’s most viewed weekly shows with a paltry average viewing time of 1 minute (weekly, per person) according to BARB figures. Racing UK in contrast has about 50.000 subscribers.

So the notion that there’ll be much less eye-balls on the Irish product may not be totally wrong, but is probably exaggerated at the same time.

Least we forget that, at least in Ireland, the biggest race days and Festivals are shown on RTE. That’s not to say the “accessibility” issue is a non-issue. It’s real and in truth makes it more difficult for someone to discover racing zapping through the channels.

I would argue the problems of the sport of horse racing in general and Irish racing in particular are bigger than that, though. Because in earnest, those who already have an interested in the sport will find a way to watch the races regardless. Either subscribing to RTV, or by watching the ‘free streams” bookies offer if you have a bet in a race.

In fact, I have a few friends who live outside of the UK and Ireland and therefore have zero access to either channel on TV. Guess what? They still find ways to watch the races they care about as well as ATR and RUK. It’s not that difficult if you want it.

In my view the currently (still) ongoing discussion doesn’t tackle the real problems at all. The situation with the TV channels appears to be simply a ‘nice’ distraction. Something to talk about that anyone can have an opinion on even though in reality it isn’t really changing all that much that radically and certainly won’t impact the sport in such a negative way as some commentators want to make us belief.

There are issues, though, that do have a very real impact on the sport in the long run:
race day experience for race goers and owners or the changing public perception against racing horses – accompanied by a lack of public knowledge/education on things like the whip – which is directly in line with the most fundamental questions:

How to attract a younger audience?
How to create a steady flow of (new) racing fans moving forward?
How to create a better betting product?
Which in turn is also about this point: the availability of more data for punters and racing fans. Sectional times, as one example.

These are real issues. Or at least question marks. The problem of the future isn’t whether Barry in Newbridge can watch the 6.45 from Dundalk on his TV for ‘free’. Because he’s watching it on his mobile in the DART on his commute home anyway.

Now, coming back to Irish racing on Racing TV – I actually do trust RTV to figure out how to give Irish racing proper airtime, even on busier days. Maybe a second channel? Potentially a digital one?

Who knows. Times are changing. TV isn’t everything these days. Sport goes digital as well. In a few years, Terrestrial TV won’t have anywhere near the importance it still has at this moment in time.

One thing that Racing TV and all the relevant stakeholders involved have been rightly criticized for this week: the replay shambles!

Come on, you guys had months and months time to sort this out! It shows a general disregard for racing fans. The fact historic (prior to 1st January 2019) replays of Irish racing + Chelmsford are gone right now is not acceptable in this day and age. In any other industry heads would roll for this type of stuff.

At least, so it seems, light is at the end of the tunnel and a temporarily solution has been found.

With that, I am moving downstairs again to enjoy the rest of the Kempton card. A rather sedated experience with only one race every half an hour to prepare for, compared to the frantic pace of the early Saturday afternoon.