Thursday, 17 February 2011

Professionalism in racing

Glad to see the rescheduled meeting going ahead at Newbury tomorrow. Awful scenes last Saturday with the freak electrocution of two horses before the first race. You just can't write procedures in a manual to deal with something as bizarre and unexpected as that. Criticising the officials for running the first race after that is easy in hindsight.

One thing that British racing needs to get right though is its professionalism. Jockey Hadden Frost on Tuesday went for home a lap early in a three-mile chase and then ended up with egg on his face when crossing the finish line only meant he had a lap left to go. The jockey made a mistake, fair enough. But to let him off with just a slap on the wrist isn't good enough. This is a professional industry. Punters lost tens of thousands on that horse across the country; they get nothing back for his incompetence. Stewards said the penalty range for this infringement was just 10-14 days, so he got the midpoint of 12 days. Soft as butter.

This isn't the first time it has happened, and it won't be the last. Do racecourses make any effort to stop this from happening? Nope. Why not look at other sports and see what they do? Harness racing around the world has races over a few laps, as does athletics. What do they both use to make it clear there is one lap to go? They ring a bell as they pass the winning post the penultimate time. Crystal clear. It doesn't even need to be a real bell which requires someone to stand there, it could be electronic and activated remotely. IT ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE.

Just like when jockeys take the wrong course in a jumps race when they are supposed to know exactly where to go. Jockeys should do their homework for every race at every course, it's their job. But, in the heat of the moment, they can lose concentration and their minds go blank. It happens to all of us at some stage. Why not do everything feasible to avoid it like put out a few traffic cones where they switch course? It's not that hard. Start looking at racing like a business rather an amateurish hobby and so much can change.

I've harped on it before and will say it again. If British racing wants to become stronger then it has to stop taking the piss with punters. It's a professional industry, if you want it to be treated as such, then start acting like it from within. Punters deserve better, and when that happens, bookies will be more willing to contribute to funding the sport...

5 comments:

  1. Hi Scott,

    It does make me wonder why race courses don't take some initiative to put such things in place. Like you say, it isn't rocket science. It would be a good publicity boon for those who entertained such ideas and if a jockey went on to make a mistake they could at least state the fact that they do all they can to overt these events which do make racing look akin to a hobby rather than a professional body. Frost's mistake would have only been overted by appreciating the distance he was running at the start of the race. I'm not sure if that is sign posted at the start (perhaps it should be). Clearly with him riding his horse for a 2 mile race whne it was in fact 3m 1f, he would have no hope of winning the race whatever method they had in place at that point. It is another disappointing episode for punters who were literally robbed of their money. The ban of 12 days was soft. If the course put more time into making these situations less likely to happen then they could truly throw the book at these 'lapses of mind'. The key point you state (which beggers belief) is that authorities never learn.

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  2. if he knew the horse, he should have known the distance of the race. I'll give him benefit of the doubt and suggest he probably knew until distracted somehow. Split-second brain fade and it all went pear-shaped for him. It will happen again, so it's about time racecourses treated it like a workplace accident - investigate it then find ways to stop it ever happening again. Nobody died, but punters did their money cold and if that continues, the industry just gets weaker and weaker...

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  3. Couldn't agree more with this blog post. I posted the same basically on the Bet Angel and The Toy forums and emailed into ATR with the views.

    As you say it will happen again and next time there will be a call for longer bans, then the next time and then the next time....it will just go on until they do something.

    It isn't really the jockey who suffers in the long term. Yes he gets 12 days but he can still work in a yard he just cant race ride. But the industry is the main loser as they create more disillusioned punters and generate more bad publicity.

    It seems to me that no one in racing is willing to take responsibility for these things. It will happen again this year no doubt as will someone take the wrong course. All for the cost of some bells and cones!

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  4. This was an error that could so easily be put right very simply by ringing a bell as horses entered the final straight or approached the 2nd-last fence.
    What I find difficult is that punters blame the jockey and the jockey suffers the ban.
    Ashley Cole missed a penalty at the weekend versus Everton that went nowhere near the target. A professional footballer being paid £120,000 a week and he cannot hit the goal from 12 yards?!? Does Cole deserve a 12-match ban for gross tardiness at a penalty kick? No - yet I reckon far more punters money was lost on that kick than on Haddon Frost on a Tuesday in February.
    Let's put things into perspective.

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  5. Wayward - a key point of the issue there is that football isn't begging, bitching and threatening court action to squeeze more money out of bookmakers, which inevitably comes from punters' losses. Racing relies on the punt, thus it must make every effort possible to facilitate more wagering by instilling punters with confidence the sport is professional, clean and pro-active.

    Cole's error wasn't the sole thing that cost Chelsea the game, they had two hours to win it before that. Frost's error did everything to kill off his chances of winning.

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