Tag Archives: Chelmsford

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.

 

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Thursday Selections: January, 3rd 2019

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A perfect start to 2019: Paparazzi delivered in style the first winner of the new year @ 12/1! It remained the only winner on the night, as Athollblair Boy ran a competitive race finishing third while Admiral Rooke didn’t last the pace.

I’ll have a full roundup of the 2018 betting year up over the weekend, similar to the on from last season.

…….

2.00 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 6 furlongs

For the low grade this is, this is quite a competitive race. The favourite looks sue to go well to follow-up on his recent success and you can easily argue a handful of these have a chance on their best to go close.

The one I like most on handicap debut is Point Zero. This lad is still winless after 13 career starts, however went close on multiple occasions, looking sure to win over course and distance this winter approaching the final furlong, just to be picked up late.

He clearly has an issue to finish his races, but some was also down to the fact he went off way too fast in the early parts of his races. Dropped to the minimum trip lately didn’t work to counteract this.

Point Zero looks a 6f horse to me. Ridden a bit more sensible early on and he could have enough left in the tank when it matters. Collateral form of his best 6f efforts suggest a mark of 67 is fair – in fact I believe, he could be a bit better than that.

The draw isn’t a huge help today, and he had a lot of racing lately, most notably only 3 days ago here over 5f – but he clearly goes well over this CD and could be well in at this grade if things worked out the way I imagine they can.

Selection:
10pts win – Point Zero @ 6/1 MB

…….

5.20 Chelmsford: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

The lightly raced favourite Holy Heart is sexy and could prove too good of his opening mark. However, it’s hard to judge what his recent win is worth, as the form has been franked subsequently but looked bad on the clock.

Proven class is 8-year-old Lacan. He appears to be as good as ever, certainly running to of 80 in all his recent starts, even though without quite finding enough to get over the line.

The handicapper drops him to 78 now. Not a lot but potentially enough: Lacan was a CD scorer off 82 in Spring last year. A big run seems to be expected: job jockey Rossa Ryan comes here for this one ride only.

Selection:
10pts win – Lacan @ 7/1 MB

Tuesday Selections: November, 13th 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

6.45 Chelmsford: Class 7 Handicap, 1m 5½f

It could be a tip in itself that Kieran Shoemark comes here for only one ride on the card. He rides Rip Van Winkle son Lumen. The gelding hasn’t shown anything in four lifetime starts but off a super low weight and opening mark on handicap debut in this poor race he looks one of the more likely contenders.

Certainly there could be a bit of improvement, the dam has produced a solid half-brother already; a good draw will a big help in order to settle in a fine spot today also.

Interestingly Lumen has another entry on the weekend at Lingfield in better grade. I take this as a positive nod toward his chances today, as he may be able to run again under a penalty, if successful today.

Selection:
10pts win – Lumen @ 13/2 MB

Saturday Selection: September, 15th 2018

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5.10 Chelmsford: Class 5 Handicap, 1M 5F 66Y

A risky shout out for long-shot Global Style here. He’s yet to win a race and didn’t exactly come close yet. However, he has a few half-decent performances to his name; most importantly his latest Windsor run.

That was a better race than this here today, he was pretty keen in first time blinkers and didn’t get the breaks when needed with a wall of horses in front, hampered slightly over 3f out and a bit more severely in the closing stages. Yet he galloped all the way to the line and wasn’t far beaten.

He doesn’t exactly cries out for a stamina test, but with first time tongue tie and the added benefit of the pedigree there is a fair chance he can last the 1M 5F 66Y trip today.

He’s only slowly coming down in the mark. It remains to be seen whether he can win off 71. But against lesser rivals there is a fair chance I reckon. Robert Havlin on board with a super record for Ed Dunlop in this type of races. Worth a nibble.

Selection:
10pts win – Global Style @ 22/1 PP

Monday Selection: September, 10th 2018

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5.45 Chelmsford: Class 4 Novice Stakes, 7f

Open looking contest. On paper there seems little between Balladeer, Just Later and Rockshore, who is in my eyes the most interesting of the trio, hence Balladeer certainly a wrong price.

But it’s Miss Green Dream who catches my eye with Harry Bentley in the saddle. The filly showed promise in two starts over shorter. Particularly the most recent run looks strong form on paper. She was minded in both starts also.

Stepping up in trip is surely what this filly needs judged by how she was outpaced in her two previous starts and on pedigree. The switch to the sand is interesting and may help her combined with the new trip to improve significantly, having the added bonus of a good draw.

Bentley and trainer Williams have an excellent record together this season. Particularly with two-year old’s. It’s possible that this race is only another stepping stone to when she’s going handicapping. But all the evidence mentioned above suggests she’s got as good a chance as the rest in the field at a much bigger price.

Selection:
10pts win – Miss Green Dream @ 10/1 Sky

Friday Selections: August, 24th 2018

Wet Dundalk Polytrack

5.45 Chelmsford: Class 6 Nursery, 5f

Bottom weight Sister’s Act sparks my interest here. This Equiano filly has shown early speed in her few starts before, totally unfancied though, it wasn’t a surprise so her finish flat.

She now makes her handicap debut off a low mark in a not overly competitive contest switching to the All-Weather which should suit her better on pedigree. Her mother is a winner on the sand as daddy Equiano has a sublime record on the All-Weather with his 2yo offspring over sprint trips, particular on left handed tracks.

Interestingly, trainer Peter Hedger’s record with juveniles on the All-Weather is also quite excellent (small sample size, but fits in well with his general performance in AW Handicaps).

With that in mind there is every chance Siser’s Act gets her act together today.

Selection:
10pts win – Sister’s Act @ 16/1 VC

Saturday Selections: April, 28th 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

Deep into April and here I was celebrating a winner at Chelmsford… well, it doesn’t really matter where it is as long as “the good thing” gets the head in front. Thursday selection Mancini (13/2) won well in the end, looking like a horse with more to come this year.

It’s been a pretty quiet April in general. The clam before the storm?

……

7.45 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Trappy affair, open and hard to judge some of these fillies and mares. One of those is Toy Theatre who returns off a 114 days long break.

She didn’t quite excel over the winter on the All-Weather after a largely progressive campaign in 2017. She won twice on turf, including over CD as well as a very competitive class 3 Handicap at Newmarket.

I don’t judge her too harshly on those last efforts on the sand. However, given she has to overcome a career highest mark and a lay-off one might wonder where the improvement is coming from.

It looks obvious to me: Toy Theatre had only 6 starts on turf. Three of those came as a juvenile when she wasn’t supposed to win. The other three came last season, starting with a tough assignment at Chester in a class 3 Handicap where she wasn’t disgraced in 4th place from a wide draw.

The other two times she won, seemingly showing a preference for softish conditions. That aligns with the fact that she was withdrawn due to unsuitable ground when the going turned fast.

Thy Theatre’s Newmarket win looks incredibly strong. The form worked out really well. She won a shade cosily, despite the tight margin, subsequently over CD.

Given that this here will be the softest ground she has ever encountered, showing in the past that this what she might prefer, the fact that she always looked a filly to improve with time and her potential scope for improvement on turf, I feel Toy Theatre is a rather big price in this open field.

Selection:
10pts win – Toy Theatre @ 9/1 WH