Henderson’s Bite chews up punters

$$$On September 21st Jockey Club Racecourses announced its 2017/18 Chase Triple Crown incentive promising a £1m bonus to any horse winning The Betfair Chase, the King George, and the Gold Cup, all run at Jockey Club tracks.

When announcements like this are being planned it’s common to contact trainers seeking supportive quotes and the Jockey Club published positive comments from three trainers – Jessica Harrington (Sizing John), Nicky Henderson (Might Bite) and Colin Tizzard (Cue Card).

Here’s what Henderson said: “The Chase Triple Crown is a fantastic initiative and it’s great that Jockey Club Racecourses is repeating the bonus. It focuses your mind as to where to start the season if you want a chance of winning the Triple Crown. Might Bite’s main objective is the King George so with this bonus it would certainly make sense to start at Haydock Park.”

Not an outright commitment but sufficiently positive to tempt me and others into taking 50/1 about Might Bite winning the big bonus. Some would have been tempted to back him outright for the Betfair. But Henderson very quickly began pedalling backwards.

The Jockey Club announcement was published by the Racing Post on September 24th.  On September 25th they carried an interview with Henderson:

“The £1 million bonus is very commendable and the point of it is to attract the King George horses – you can’t win it if you don’t win the first leg, so everyone is going to want to turn up at Haydock and we could, as the Betfair Chase has its attractions, but I’m not convinced it’s the best place for him to start.

“This horse might just be better suited to having, if possible, an easier preparation race for the King George, rather than what is likely to be a very tough race at Haydock.” Since then the trainer has continued easing his way out from his initial quote finally reaching the stage today where he says the horse won’t be going to Haydock.

I like Nicky Henderson. He’s great with the press and I’m sure that all he was trying to do here was support racing and back a headliner project. But it seems plain now that he never had any true intention to run Might Bite in the Betfair.

I’ve been betting antepost for decades, mostly on the festival and am well used to setbacks, most of which I accept as part of the normal risks (I say mostly: the business with Vautour and his Ryanair rerouting made it very tough to smile and carry on regardless). But punters put £4.5bn a year into UK racing and where people like Henderson can cut us some slack rather than rattling off a quick paragraph for Jockey Club friends to stick in their press release, it would help a little.

 

 

This Cheltenham Fence Move Just doesn’t Add Up

cheltenham logoCheltenham’s new season started today. Over the summer, the second-last fence has been moved ‘seven or eight yards’ (Sophia Dale, Cheltenham’s communications manager) closer to the last fence. The fence had only been in-site for 6 years having been moved 239 yards in 2010 from its former position near the foot of the hill before the turn into the straight.

The key reason for the move appears to be that 6 horses fell at the fence at this year’s festival. Cheltenham offered a comparative figure of an average of 3.4 fallers ‘there, between 2007 and 2016’: I assume this is up to and including the 2015 festival, but that is not clear. Nor is it clear why 2007, 08, 09, 10 have been included in the 3.4 figure as the fence was not in position for those festivals.  What might complicate matters further is that from the season the re-sited second-last first came into use (2010/11), runners in races over two miles and two and a half miles had an extra fence to jump.

The less cynical side of me assumes the figures are a communications malfunction and are linked to some of the figures associated with the 4th last fence on the New Course which has also had its position ‘adjusted’. No doubt the executive will clarify at some point. But could there be another reason?

Sophia Dale said, “The faller figures at both fences have been slightly creeping up, so we spoke to the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association], who had given us some feedback anyway, and moved the fence to give the horses a bit more time to get themselves together when they come off the bend.”  Despite possible conflation of casualty figures, it is clear from reference to the bend that, in this quote, SD is talking about the second-last. I wonder what was in that feedback from the PJA, and was it sought or offered?

2010 Move

After the move of the fence into the straight in 2010, jockeys who were asked to test it at what appears to have been a media day said this:

Brennan said: “The ground has never been better and the new fence could not be in a better place. You will still get fallers as it is the second last but they won’t be so severe.”

Sam Waley-Cohen said: “The fence is beautifully presented and I look forward to coming down to it on Long Run.”

Carl Llewellyn said: “I think the fence will be a great improvement – it rides nicely off the bend with plenty of room between the two fences. It will be safer all round.”

By the way, three horses had come down at the fence that morning in the ‘test’. Simon Claisse appeared to assign that to the jockeys having jumped it so well the first time, they were keen to have another go. Claisse:

“They jumped the plain fence and ditch on the back straight and came down the hill over the third last. They were going very fast and seven horses came around the corner – Paddy Brennan, Carl Llewellyn, David England, Sam Waley-Cohen and Sam Twiston-Davies were among those riding – and the bend rode beautifully and they jumped the fence.

“We were happy but Nigel’s gang wanted to do it again. So they went back up the hill to the third last and one of the senior jockeys who is now retired said they went off with their tails on fire.

“We could hear them coming and the first horse hit the fence pretty hard and fell and brought down two others. So we had three jockeys and horses on the deck – fortunately they all got up and were fine and they made some positive remarks about what we had done.”

 

After that Showcase meeting in 2010, Claisse seemed pleased:

From Cheltenhamfestival.co.uk website:

The fence was jumped 118 times over the two day meeting with only two fallers and a hampered and unseated rider . Claisse said that “the old second last was responsible for 75% of fallers last year so this is a big difference .”

Let’s go back to that ‘seven or eight yards’ difference mentioned by Sophia Dale. In 2010, journalist Jeremy Grayson wrote on the The Racing Forum that he’d read in Robert Thornton’s Racing Post column that Thornton was :

…delighted to discover horses get 15 strides between turn in and the second last fence, then another 16 to the last. Evidently a bit more space to play with than anyone, myself included, had necessarily reckoned with.

I can’t find that original Thornton quote on the RP site, but I have immense respect for Jeremy and am happy to take his word for it.

So, 15 strides from the turn-in now becomes 16 strides, leaving only 15 strides to the last; we must wait and see what effect that has. And does that single stride that’s been gained really make such a difference? Could it be that the faller figures “slightly creeping up” (SD), could be something to do with the way the fence is being ridden? If so, what will jockeys use their extra stride for?

Or might it be that the fence was sited wrongly in 2010? Was it perhaps an error that Cheltenham were reluctant to admit to relatively soon after the change was made? Cheltenham’s communications error (or obfuscation) today certainly hasn’t helped. One prominent journalist was fobbed off when requesting more information on the figures, apparently with the excuse it was a busy raceday today.

I suspect all is not as it seems here.

I’ll leave the Racing Post‘s Nic Doggett to sign off with a highly prescient piece from six years ago, written just after the Paddy Power meeting.

 

A lot has been written about the re-siting of the infamous second last but from the evidence of this meeting the historically troublesome obstacle is still just that.

Two fallers in the Novices’ Chase won by Wayward Prince brought the total number of fallers at the new fence to seven, a whopping 50% of all fallers at the track since it was moved.

Fences late in a race will always be responsible for tired fallers, however I cannot help but wonder whether the new position is at an awkward spot for horses because of its proximity to the stand.

The noise and sight of the grandstands really hit you when turning for home and this must be distracting for horses. Couple this with tiredness. Then add in what appears to be a landing area that looks slightly too low, and I think it will continue to cause problems.

The worry is that it’s hard to move the fence further up the run-in because then you’d have an inadequate gap between the final two fences, but put it back much and it’s too close to the bend.

This looks likely to run on and on, I suppose much like the argument over the old siting did, and I can’t think think of any easy solutions. Can you?

 

Who will become the Amazon of online betting?

binocularsAs Amazon, Facebook, and Google have proved, where there is a global desire for a product, online dominance of that sector is not only possible, but it is becoming the norm.

Netflix for streaming movies, Spotify for music, Uber for taxis…why shouldn’t this work for betting?

Bookies offer different odds – that might be one argument, but how many casual punters care about that? If you just want a bet on the football or on the National or The Masters, the difference between 9/2 and 11/2 won’t matter much. So long as it is easy to place the bet, you get paid right away and, if something does go wrong, customer service is splendid.

So, how do you beat your rivals in this fight for dominance? Well, brand recognition is a crucial aspect. If I were the CEO of one of the majors, I’d be grabbing every sponsorship opportunity I could get while my rivals dithered about agreeing ABP status.

The usually astute Paddy Power seldom let an opportunity for name recognition pass, and I’m astounded that they’re hanging around on the question of ABP.

I’d take every sponsorship of every race I could get my hands on for the next five years, so that all that the betting public sees, a dozen times a day, seven days a week and at all the major events would be my company’s name. Not only is that name drip, drip, dripping into their consciousness, it’s displacing the names of all my rivals, for there is nothing left for them to sponsor.

Of course, they can go into other sports, but at what price? And I’m going to be there too, with a much more recognisable brand.

I’ve worked in the betting and racing game since 1971 and I’ve seen some short-sighted decisions, but this is one to beat the band.

Is there nobody out there with the vision to grasp this opportunity for long-term dominance?

A Rust masterclass to achieve a win-win Levy settlement

Nick Rust
Nick Rust

In the past half century racing could not have survived without the levy payment from High Street bookies. The original intention of establishing the Levy was to provide a means of compensating racing for the loss of attendance that was anticipated when off-course betting shops were legalised in 1961.

In the 54 years since, Levy battles between bookies and Racing have gone like this:

Racing: “Give us more.”
Bookies: “No.”

Refereeing these bouts was the Secretary of State, who became punch-drunk long before the fighters but not as quickly as the audience. In 2010, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “It’s a big disappointment that the racing and gambling industries have failed to sort this out – but frankly the government should never be the last resort in an essentially commercial negotiation. We have therefore announced our intention to remove the role of the Secretary of State from determining the Levy scheme in future – and I hope this time will be the very last one that I have to be involved.“

The Levy is to be replaced by a Racing Right; trouble is, nobody knows when. The target date for the Bill has not yet been set.

Bookmakers and Racing have 1 week left to reach agreement on the next Levy deal. When they sit down round the table, who’ll be holding the strongest hand?

Yesterday Ladbrokes announced a drop in earnings before taxes of 56.7%. Today William Hill announced profits were down 39%. Hill’s share price has dropped by 20% since May. Neither company pays Levy in full on its internet business; their offshore base allows them to avoid this ‘tax’ of 10.75% of gross profits on horseracing business. They make a voluntary payment, along with other ‘avoiders’ Betfred and Coral. In the last year that collective payment was £4.5m. The BHA estimates that Levy avoidance costs the sport £30m annually.

Some offshore betting companies voluntarily pay the Levy in full: Bet365 and 32Red, for example. Neither of those operates a High St betting shop estate. Hills and Ladbrokes own more than half of the UK’s 8,500 betting shops and are legally bound to pay Levy on all horseracing business conducted in those shops.

The trouble is that the horseracing product on the High Street earns the bookies very little once expenses are paid. I’d put the nett profit from racing business at under 2% on average. Some of the smaller shops make a loss on horseracing after expenses.

Even the big boys run loss-makers. A prominent, highly respected bookmaking figure told me recently that he estimates that 15% of the UK’s betting shops operate at a loss. Some of those will close if the proposed Coral-Ladbroke Merger goes ahead. Hills CEO has said they will not be panicked into merger talks. Betfair and Paddy Power recently announced they’d joined forces. Paddy Power have almost 600 shops (Ireland and the UK combined). Betfair is online only.

High Street bookies need horse racing because enough of their customers still want to bet on it, although its market share of the betting cake is about half what it was 30 years ago.

But from a business viewpoint, they’d do much better without racing. If they didn’t have to sell it, they’d save on Levy payments and, crucially, on media rights costs – the price of bringing in pictures and data from the racecourses.

Do Bookmakers need racing?
So the bookies will settle down at the Levy table to haggle for something they must have rather than something they want. If Racing plays a concrete version of hardball, the bookies could simply walk away. They do not need racing for their business to flourish, all they need is a level playing field. If no betting shop offers racing as a product, punters won’t grieve for too long, and they won’t be organising coach parties to the track. They’ll moan for a month, then find something else to bet on.

As to who’d be bold enough to opt out first, well, that’s another question. Ladbrokes could not stop selling racing without a hundred percent confidence that their rivals would do exactly the same, and do it very quickly.

If the bookmakers did boycott racing, the sport would be dead in months. A handful of tracks might survive, but the vast majority would close. Levy payments and media rights money are the blood and oxygen keeping alive our 59 tracks.

So, you’d think Racing might be treading carefully as it approaches the negotiating table. But this week Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena Racecourse Company, who between them own more than 50% of the UK’s racecourses (15 tracks each), and operate almost 60% of the fixtures, decided to boycott bookies.

Aside from Levy and media rights payments, another channel drawing money from bookmakers into racing is race sponsorship. William Hill first sponsored in 1957 (The Ebor). Annual race sponsorship by bookmakers has been estimated at £9m. But Racing has said they don’t want any of it in the future unless the bookmaker concerned is an Authorised Betting Partner(ABP).

ABPs would need to agree to a “fair and mutually sustainable funding relationship” with Racing (effectively, “pay the Levy in full on your offshore business”). The value to bookmakers of race sponsorship is questionable. Their brands were built long ago, and much of the sponsorship is driven by CEOs who have a personal love of and commitment to racing.

So bookies don’t need to sponsor either. That £9m could be put to better use. But what else is on offer to ABPs? “A full package of benefits” to boost their business on British racing, which could include preferential rates for live streaming of races and the use of racecourse data, and even an ability to reposition fixtures to maximise turnover.

Now, think about that final offering…how would non-ABPs be prevented from benefitting from repositioned fixtures? Well, within that conundrum a small but highly significant giveaway resides, if my suspicions are correct.

And those suspicions were aroused because I could not see the common sense in all this. Bookmakers can survive, and thrive without Racing. Racing will die without bookmakers. Why is Racing behaving as though it holds all the aces?

The answer, I believe, is that the cards have already been dealt, and the hands are known to both parties. Due process means they cannot yet be shown. Saving face is an important consideration too, especially for Racing. Many in the sport have long believed bookies to be parasites. They must not be seen to get their way this time.

But they will get their way, and here is the real magic in this deal – so will Racing. bookies

The Clue
The key clue, in my opinion, lies with another shock recent announcement, that SiS will rise from the Intensive Care Unit to once again become the sole provider of pictures and data to UK betting shops.

In 2008, SiS lost its monopoly on supplying pictures and data to bookies from all UK courses. Turf TV took the rights to half the racecourses, and High Street bookies ended up paying around twice the costs for pictures and data (media rights).

Since the birth of TurfTV, SiS has steadily lost its way and looked doomed until the ‘shock’ announcement three weeks ago that a five-year deal (2018-2023) had been agreed, restoring its former monopoly.

SiS was set up in 1987. Its key shareholders were the major bookmakers. It provided the racing product at an affordable price. I strongly suspect that doing so again will be part of its brief in this new deal.

So, if bookmakers are paying less for the product, the wholesaler – Racing – will be taking a hit. But if that hit is offset by the SiS beneficiaries paying the Levy in full, then out from the business buzzword bag comes an old favourite: ‘win-win’.

Doing such a deal in the open would mean Racing backtracking on its long-held ‘let’s milk the bookies’ recipe for survival. And it would have brought scorn from many bookie-bashers in Racing’s ranks. Instead, it’s been delivered with the silky skill of a consummate politician, whose name I believe to be Nick Rust.

Nick became CEO of the BHA early this year, moving from his post as managing director, Ladbrokes Retail (their bricks and mortar betting shop division).

Nick Rust

I know Nick quite well. Other than to wish him luck in his new position, I haven’t spoken to him since January, so the scenario I paint in this article is based purely on my instinct.

I first met Nick in the late 1990s when I worked for Tote Direct. Back then he was on a rapid upslope having been seconded from his position as a Ladbrokes district supervisor (one step above a betting shop manager) in a small Borders town, to be a runner for John O’Reilly, Ladbrokes marketing boss, in a short-term project.

Nick left a lasting impression on me. He’s a big man physically, but his presence does not come from his size. I believe he has flourished because of his personality. A hugely genuine and likeable man, a fine listener who listens because he cares about what you say, not about the impression he’s making on you, Nick is that rare bloke about whom no one has a bad word to say (at least not in my hearing).

Over the years he has added to his natural arsenal a finely tuned political antenna, a deep astuteness, and a rare aptitude for solving complex problems. Nick won’t care who gets the credit, so long as the task is achieved.

My guess is that, in this Levy showdown, Nick has been quietly directing everything in the background. First, a leak last month about this sponsorship boycott set the bookies sniffing the air cautiously. Asked then for a statement, here’s what the BHA said formally:

“The current Levy leakage, with the vast majority of remote betting activity not being captured, causes real economic damage to British Racing. However, we don’t comment on speculation and are happy to reinforce our long-standing position that betting firms are highly valued partners of our sport.”

Informally, read “It wasn’t me, Guv, but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”

On Tuesday, Nick was much more forthcoming: “This concept has been discussed and agreed in principle by the leaders of our sport.

“We cannot deliver a three-line whip and make sure that every part of racing is involved, but we can encourage and show the benefits to parties within racing of taking this approach, in terms of a true partnership with those betting operators who, if you like, do the right thing and partner with us.

“It’s great to see that Jockey Club Racecourses and Arc are deciding to support this initiative immediately. We hope to deliver as many parties as possible to deliver the concept of Authorised Betting Partner where there are preferred access and preferred goodies for those inside the tent, and restricted access for those who are not inside the tent.” How’s that for a blunt but family-friendly homage to LBJ’s comment about J Edgar Hoover?

Then, yesterday came the announcement that the EBF (European Breeders’ Fund), which spent £6m in racing sponsorship last year and are one of racing’s longest established sponsors, would no longer agree to joint sponsorships with bookmakers unless the bodies were Authorised Betting Partners.

Can’t you hear the cheers of the anti-bookmaking lobby?

But that EBF aggression was, I believe, the final front in the Levy war, a last echo to add to the din of sabre-rattling cover for a battle that was never going to be fought.

In September, when the news of the sponsorship ban leaked, I’d normally have thought Racing had abandoned whatever sense it had left. But knowing Mister Rust was at the helm, I suspected there was much more to it. And so it has proved – to me, at least. And I now expect that after a few grumbles, all major bookmakers will sign up as Authorised Betting Partners.

So, Racing gets the glory. SiS lives on. The bookies, at last, get an affordable product, and, in what will probably be the final Levy fight before the Racing Right comes in, Mister Rust gets the quiet satisfaction of having masterminded the bloodless war.

Is the Cheltenham Festival tempting us to allow rule-bending by trainers?

binocularsThe love of money is the root of all evil, so say some. Is our collective love of the Festival causing blind eyes to be turned to the rules by many of us, the BHA included?

How many horses are truly being run on their merits throughout the jumps season? In this week’s Weekender, Alan King says . . .

A King, Weekender, 26th Feb

“We train our horses to progress as the season develops”  Is that within the rules?

BHA Rule:

45.3 A Trainer must not send any horse to race with a view to schooling or conditioning the horse.

There’s the matter of fitness, readying horses to peak at a particular time, and, crucially, timing medication to be out of their systems so that the doping rules are not infringed come race time.  If this is what we have come to, perhaps we should be honest about it and the rules modified to fit. Some might gladly agree to such a compromise for that glorious week in March; I might even be one of them. But we need a degree of  openness about it.

Should trainers be required to declare a quantifiable fitness assessment for each runner before a race?  Rather than: ‘He’ll be doing his best, but I’d expect him to come on for this,’ something like, ‘I’d say he is 80% fit.’  It would then be up to punters to decide whether that 80% fit horse has enough natural talent to beat another in the race who’s been declared 95% fit. Doubtless trainers will win with horses declared as 70% fit and plenty will lose with horses deemed 100% fit. But at least the information is in the open. It is then up to punters to decide what to do with that information. Of course there is also the question of the judgement of the trainer and the honesty of the trainer. But as things stand, there’s a level of compulsory dishonesty anyway, if many horses are running in races with the intention of preparing them to win another race.

Or, if NH racing needs prep races for horses, then perhaps the Jumpers’ Bumpers should be properly structured, and horses who are being openly prepped, confined to those races until declared 100% fit and ready to win over jumps.

It’s a tough problem with many facets,  but as the Festival’s influence grows, it’s going to have to be faced at some point.

Joe

Wi-Fi or Die-Fi? A warning from bookie Geoff Banks to the racecourse bosses

Racing folk have moaned for years about how uncommercial racetracks are – ‘Run by old buffers’. Not anymore. The sharper ones are cashing in on every possible income stream. But bookmaker Geoff Banks has a warning for them, and for you.  Geoff’s a regular guest blogger here. I admire his determination to try to stem the tide that threatens to wash away the track bookies, but I fear it will be a Canute job.

cashAscot is my favourite track, by a nose from York, with Cheltenham a neck third because it’s champagne is more than York’s..

Don’t bother giving me your favourite – they’re weighed in

I thoroughly enjoy Ascot. Most of the time it’s bullet cheap to race, they do concerts, firework displays, fairground rides for the Bookies, countryside fayres and service standards, the best in the industry. Nothing’s on the cheap. Bath take a peek.

Now it includes Wifi. Wow, that’s great. Except when you login and my old Mucker King Ralph pops up waving at me from Gibraltar, just like the Racing Post Betting App. I spilled my champagne all over the oysters.

Forgetting the customers for just a second, what’s in it for the tracks? First off, it’s not a cheap investment. Putting in wifi will cost some six figures at a track like Ascot or York. You can’t just bang lots of repeaters in when there’s 40,000 souls involved. It has to be paid for. Now with apologies to some seriously bright track bosses who I routinely engage I’ll tell you what it’s for.

Money.

You see to a track, Betting is appealing. They may not be considering getting into laying horses or such, but if William Hill are going to pay them a portion of what’s turned over via their wifi  to Gibraltar, then we have a new revenue stream. And Topping is no fool, he won’t overpay for the new custom. Forget what Rod Street has to say – ‘it’s a customer focussed initiative.’ That’s hyperbole, and I note with disappointment, another decision he made without consulting stakeholders. It’s about cash. No racetrack is reasonably going to invest in expensive Wifi if it wasn’t expecting something out of the deal.

Let’s deal with Rod’s take first. And I know he’s a racetrack man through and through. Is it about customers really? Will it drive footfall to the tracks – increase their customer experience? The short answer, maybe to the former – but the answer to the second is at the bottom of this read, for reasons I’ll outline. Rod knows it’s about money though. He knows everyone’s got 3g already and heading for 4g, and if they really wanted to book a table for dinner or post a picture to facebook from the track, then that works fine for that. When a customer thinks of Racing – will Wifi seal the deal on attendance when he’s got it already via his Apple? It won’t make any appreciable difference.

Now if you don’t care whether the humble Bookie turns up on course, and you feel the tracks can do well enough with their own Tote or in house betting, then read no further. Let’s not waste each other’s time.

Most of the people calling me a dinosaur with regards to this subject seem to base their arguments on value and betting. Their views revolve around going racing and achieving the best possible value for their punting dollar.

Except that they won’t (go racing) that is. Fellahs bent on achieving the top of the market in punting don’t get in their Austin Princess and drive 30 miles to Ascot. They sit at home in baseball caps on Orange screens and ‘green up’ or ‘cash out’

Woop-dee-doo

You’ve come this far. So I want you to picture a track without bookies. Here’s what it looks like.

empty track

Still going Racing? Hmm, I wonder if you really would? You see Bookmakers have been the very fabric of racecourses since they were built. Is it possible or desirable to go the whole hog with a ChesterBet type deal? (Don’t think that represents any value by the way at SP -10%! Turpin wouldn’t have faced the hangman if he’d invented RacecourseBet)

Ok, you’re a track boss, you really think you’re going to sell as many tickets if there’s no ring, or make as much from it as Bet365 might pay you for turnover? Anyone been to Kempton or Southwell, or for that matter Longchamp, excepting Arc day? They lack any appreciable atmosphere or flavour. People queue for a bet- then they queue longer to get paid. It’s not sexy. And I like rumpie-pumpie in my racing

So, to the humble Bookie, shivering in the ring. He’s invested in a pitch many thousands of pounds. He drives often scores of miles to work. Carries in heavy equipment, electronics. Pays support companies to keep him working, taxes and fees to the Gambling Commission. He’ll employ staff to service the customer, pay them out of the profit and their expenses. And finally he’ll hand over to the racetrack not only his entrance costs, but an expensive daily fee to bet and even a marketing fee someone dreamed up. All in all he’s looking at a ballpark minimum, including the startup cost of pitch and equipment of circa £600 a day. He can’t trade at the 103% book offered by someone sitting in his underpants at home with none of those costs to bear. Don’t weep. Seriously though, we all have to be prepared to pay a little extra for service and betting fun.

Yet oddly enough, the tracks now feel the Bookie should compete directly with underpants man. Not to mention King Ralph, and his lower cost-base technological kingdom. It’s thoroughly unrealistic. The little Bookmaker simply cannot withstand an assault from all directions whilst he shoulders the lions share of expenses.

empty rails

Consider this. A track’s daily fees from Bookies far outweigh what Ladbrokes would pay for the rights to turnover from users on betting apps. And a home layer, fiddling around on Betfair, can now lay bets directly to the track’s customers via these super fast Wifi systems.

You’ve come this far- step the last mile with me. Modern day telephonics already afford a user all the social networking a customer requires. If he wants to post a picture of him and his girlfriend (or boyfriend) on Twitter holding his plastic cup – he can do it, no bother on his existing network. Experience proves however – its simply not fast enough to cope with Betting Apps or exchange business when there’s even 5000 users at a track. Data becomes treacle slow and I seriously doubt 4g will revolutionise the issue of ‘bandwidth’. It deals with speed of data. If there’s lots of folk on the internet, clogging up the mast, the system breaks down because the issue is the number of users sharing the line.

Hardly surprising, those screaming loudly in favour of Wifi, and calling me a T Rex, are frustrated they cannot go racing and fiddle about on Betfair. They foresee Wifi as speeding up that issue. And they’re right – it will.

But the Bookie standing in the ring – who’s paid for the ‘Right’ to bet through every pore in his body? Whilst the track finds one revenue source it didn’t have before, it will lose not only the fees it generates from the Ring – but the ring itself. It’s not the final nail of course, I’m not saying that, but were you running a little business on track, how much pressure from the internet, paying pennies to bet directly to customers floating about the track, do you think you could stand? What percentage of a track’s custom frequent the ring, view, or feel it adds a sense of British to their day?

My solution? Is one which satisfies customers, excepting those who expect betting permanently on the cheap. Block all access from racetracks from Wifi to betting sites. They’re not paying to bet to bettors at Ascot as other track stake holders do. That’s a key point. You simply cannot expect to reap harvest from Bookmakers or Betting shops and allow BetVictor those same privileges for nothing. Customers rights are unaffected, they can use their 3g anyway to post photos of pictures standing next to Rod Street and his nice new suit.

busy rail

The answer to the improved customer experience question for a racetrack with little or no Betting Ring, is it a better experience than Longchamp?

You make the call.

We owe the sport a fairer portrayal than it’s getting in this steroids case

question_timeThe BHA’s formal statement yesterday on the 8 year ban given to Mahmood Al Zarooni was sadly lacking in a robust defence of  UK racing in general. We should not simply assume that the public will take it for granted that quick and decisive action here means full confidence in the sport’s integrity. That needs driven home in plain language.

Yes we have a ‘rogue trader’ in MAZ, but it’s not as though it was 11 horses from different yards.

In rushing to Hang em High and display a sense of purpose, we should not neglect responsibility for the sport’s importance and image.

When the public see DOPING headlines, steroids will be out of sight of their minds’ eye. What they will see is fizzing syringes full of equine rocket fuel or a concoction that puts a horse to sleep.

The most junior of PR execs would have advised the BHA to ensure the big picture is driven home forcefully. That picture shows UK racing to be, in general, the cleanest in the world. The BHA, the media, and all of us owe the sport more than it’s getting in this case.