BHA's U-turn over plans to cut 300 races the latest calamity in a car crash week for horse racing | The Sun
IF you thought Boris fared badly in his big vote the other day, wait until you see how the BHA chief Julie Harrington got on.
Racing’s leader managed to blow a three-person ballot after voting AGAINST herself on an idea that SHE put forward.
Let me try and explain as best I can.
We all know about the worrying situation with small fields, whether it be over jumps or on the Flat.
In general, field sizes have been declining for a while. There are basically too few horses in this country and too much racing.
Small fields lead to short-priced favourites, which leads to less interesting racing, which leads to a poor betting product, which leads to less money in racing’s coffers.
So last month, the BHA floated the idea of cutting 300 races out of the calendar. Hooray, we all thought. Progress!
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To set the wheels of change in motion, the plan had to be voted through by the BHA, the Racecourse Association and the Thoroughbred Group, who represent owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and stable staff.
The racecourses (well, mainly Arena Racing, who run a lot of the lower-grade tracks) were against the idea.
But Harrington had the vote of the Thoroughbred Group in the bag. All she had to do was turn up and vote FOR the BHA’s own proposal.
On paper this was an absolute home banker. You’d get better odds about Man City at home to Norwich.
I don’t know what happened – did Arena Racing chief Martin Cruddace cast a spell? Or maybe he was sticking pins in a Harrington-shaped voodoo doll?
But she performed an embarrassing U-turn, and now it appears that change is further away than ever.
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What makes this all the more hilarious is, just last week, the BHA flexed their muscles via a press release and said they were going to start taking charge on big decisions with the aim of speeding up potential changes.
Days later, Harrington changed her mind to avoid causing "discord" among racing’s different factions. How’s that working out?
Ralph Beckett, president of the National Trainers Federation, didn’t pull any punches, saying: “It’s a total cop out. Not voting for your own proposal is abdicating responsibility.
“We have asked the BHA for leadership and this isn’t that. Said she wanted to avoid discord, but if this isn’t discord I don’t know what is.”
This latest calamity comes at the end of a car crash few days for the ‘Sport of Kings’. Or should that be Sport of Cretins.
Whether it was the Derby Club dinner, where a group of toffs met up in London for their annual pre-Epsom bash, but banned women, or the Racing TV split screen of the Derby alongside a maiden race at Listowel.
But the standout moment of this week’s clown show came just moments before the Derby itself, when Epsom decided to put on a fireworks show.
I was behind the Queen’s Stand making my way down to find a viewing spot near the finishing line when the display started.
For a few seconds I genuinely thought the huges bangs were gunfire and that terrorists had infiltrated Epsom Downs.
I thought that was more plausible than the track purposely letting off fireworks seconds before the biggest race of the Flat season.
Racehorses are among the most flighty animals on the planet, so to risk spooking the Derby field, let alone blanketing half of your customers in choking smoke, is barmy.
You can’t help but wonder about the people who run this sport sometimes.
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