Thursday, 12 May 2011
The above video won't mean much to anyone unless you're Australian and of my era, but it's a brilliant song and the title, No Secrets, links well to this story.
American trainers wouldn't dream of running a horse without Lasix or other permitted medications. Certain trainers named Dutrow will keep moving states until they find one which will allow them to stick whatever they like into a horse. Bad image for the industry, bad for punters that all the problems of horses are being masked, bad for the next guy who comes along and wants to buy the horse only to find out it is held together with sticky tape.
In the UK, every punter-friendly suggestion - sectional times, open reporting of treatment of horses etc seems to be rebuffed with the 'too expensive to implement' answer. And as a consequence, punter confidence in the product suffers. Here's what going on in Australia as an example:
Racehorse trainers must report surgery
TRAINERS will have to report any surgery or injuries suffered by their horses before they can start from next season.
That was one of several resolutions reached by Australian stewards at their National Policy Conference held in Melbourne this week.
RVL chief steward Terry Bailey said they did not want a repeat of what happened with So You Think before his return to racing in the Memsie Stakes last Spring.
"There was a rumour So You Think had had a throat operation and in the finish we made it our business to find out. But we don't want a repeat of that occurrence,'' Bailey said.
"Trainers need to be more conscious of the punter. Now they will be required to report any sort of surgery, whether it be upper respiratory or even any sign of lameness or gait dysfunction
"Any horse, any time, if something's happened we believe the customer has the right to know.''
Note that last line - the customer has a right to know. Everything in racing is ultimately funded by the punter. Invest in better facilities, better access to data, better freedom of information and in return you get happier punters betting in the confidence that everything is above board. The reporting of surgery should be particularly relevant to UK racing - horses tend to have shorter campaigns, race less often, start over their prime distance rather than have a few prep races as we often do in Australia. Thus punters are coming in blind as to whether a colt has had the snip over the winter, or a wind operation, or anything else whilst spelling.
If the BHA can't find a cost-effective way to handle the information, then give it to the racing press. Let the Racing Post take it up - they'll soon find out whether punters like it or not. As an online business, they will be able to measure how much traffic that part of the site gets etc. Don't just write off the potential benefits of more information for punters just because it might cost money. Punters have a right to know, and there are always alternative ways to do things.