Thoroughbreds are nervous creatures. Many are calm around the familiarity of the yard but start fretting as soon as the horsebox ramp is lowered. At the centre of attention in the parade ring, PA announcements ringing out, music sometimes blaring from ‘on-course entertainers’, highly strung horses can get into a lather, physically and mentally.
You need only stand by the paddock rail to see ears flicking, eyes rolling and jittery movements (and, as the old one goes, the horses are just as bad).
At the 2011 Cheltenham festival, some trainers fitted earplugs to their horses in the hope that ‘hearing no evil’ might help them remain calm and conserve energy. Prior to the use of earplugs, there is no telling how many anxious horses left their chances (and punter’s money) behind the stands.
The use of earplugs need not formally be declared by trainers so I don’t know how many festival losers wore them. But two winners did: Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly and Gold Cup winner Long Run. Both horses were well supported in the market.
Racing Enterprises Ltd CEO, Rod Street’s recent blog entry contained these words:
“On the subject of betting, whilst we’ll wait for the detailed review of our recent survey, I do sense that racing does not maximise what should be a symbiotic relationship with existing punters who have telling and knowledgeable contributions to make. Again, social media provides the platform for feedback from punters who often feel at the wrong end of the queue when it comes to representation in the industry and regularly cite a lack of transparency over the industry’s workings. This is a challenge racing must meet. We need to find a means through which those punters know that their constructive viewpoints can make a difference”
Rod has the toughest job in racing, in my opinion, but he is steering the industry in the right direction; public airing of his views on testy subjects like the importance of off-course punter are refreshing. I doubt he would have put those words down without thorough consideration.
So it’s time the words were backed up with action. £20,000 is needed to fund database changes so that punters can be informed when a horse is fitted with earplugs. The fact that the information should be out there seems not to be in dispute. The problem is the admin costs in making appropriate changes to the database – put at £20,000.
Austerity is in vogue but trying to make a virtue of it for such a paltry sum in a £billion industry is plain daft.
Racing wants more from ‘the betting industry’: the betting industry is funded by the punter. He is paying the piper and is entitled to call the tune, even if an animal he bets on might be unable to hear it.