Mark reaches for the off switch after a load of Dee Ex BS at York
Mark laments the passing of quality broadcasting
Switch on ITV Racing in good time for the Acomb Stakes at York (2.25).
First it is necessary to endure an extended booze and fashion feature, then Brough Scott is alongside presenter Ed Chamberlin to discuss his Top Three International Stakes memories.
Brough takes us back to a running somewhere in the mid-1990s when it seems a horse was disqualified for interference to the second horse, or was it the third? Brough doesn’t seem sure, but rules are rules, even if they have changed now (though not in France).
It seems the main reason he’s recalled this running of the great race is because it was such a great wheeze on the old Channel 4 output, when nobody on the programme had a clue what was going on either!
By now the director is surely in Ed’s ear, hoping for a wrap, because he wants to get to Matt in one ring and Francesca in another (and maybe back to the booze and the fashion if there’s time).
Brough hurries through his other two memories, which feature Brigadier Gerard and Frankel.
Then it is Matt from the ring, his tie fit to choke, telling us the favourite, Dee Ex Bee, has been ‘smashed up’ for the Acomb, before proceeding to a lengthy and completely irrelevant aside on the horse’s sire, who once ran against Frankel!
Then it’s Francesca in the paddock. Being a horsewoman she is sensibly walk- ing ahead of the runner she wishes to feature and not behind, because that’s the surest way to get a good kicking.
The cameraman faces a similar dilemma to the viewer. Does he focus on Francesca, or the leggy, attractive individual striding along just behind her?
We leave this entirely contrived set-up for some expert analysis.
Dee Ex Bee’s trainer Mark Johnston, we are told, has a distinctly moderate record at York overall, though he has done well in the Acomb.
We would perhaps wish to be informed if he has won it with similar types to the supposedly smashed-up favourite, that is a once-raced Goodwood maiden winner making a relatively quick reappearance, but either their research doesn’t reach this deep, or the director can’t be arsed about this sort of thing, so it’s back to Matt, then to Luke at the start.
They’re loading, but there is ample time for a run of redundancies, beginning with Luke telling us what a great time he’s having down at the start, and ending with Ed informing us how much he is looking forward to the coming race.
Trouble is, he looks forward to every race as if it might amount to a re-run of Grundy v Bustino. The smashed-up favourite gets beat. Reach for the red button. Never this contrivance again.
Recently fancied one at Newbury. An outsider, not without hope if you stared deeply enough into the dark and forgotten recesses of its form, and allowed an injection of faith.
Surely over-priced at around 25-1 and bigger likely to be available on the exchanges. Some reminders checked in. First, it is unacceptable to dabble at the big prices.You have a proper bet or you don’t bet at all. (And no saver silliness in the place only market.)
You back it to make a difference, assuming it is worth a bet. A proper bet. Not so confident now? As invariably happens these days, a point was reached where I could leave the horse alone with a measure of equanimity.
It could win, as others have done in similar situations, returning you to the back
alley of what might have been, but it would probably lose, run well up to a point then fade, and anyway you’ve visited that back alley often enough to know you won’t be left stranded there, that there is a way out, if you keep walking.
As a number of feted and prominent tipsters have discovered this season, you can back a shed-load of these horses and none will win.
Decades back, I once wrote about enduring a losing run of 48 bets in the summer of 1990. The general response was one of incredulity.
Surely the story had been made up for dramatic effect, or else I’d plumbed such depths of incompetence as to question my entire role and status in the game.
Of course I questioned that role and status (such as it was), given that I was betting for real, having left the comfortably upholstered security of the newspaper tipster’s chair.
It wasn’t quite a tombstone plunge into professional punting since there were other income options, thankfully enough once the financial implications of that losing run had bitten in.
A newspaper tipster can recover quickly from a losing run like that.
The front page blurbs will drop away for a time, until it bottoms out, as it will in the end, if you’re only playing at it, in that upholstered world, but it isn’t so easy on the outside, as I’d discovered at a cost far more considerable than the extent of the red figures entered in a long and seemingly unending list in the betting book.
An excoriating inquiry into ‘Britain’s Gambling Addiction’ by the BBC’s Newsnight offered a reminder that former Prime Minster Tony Blair had once rejoiced in the belief that Britain’s inner cities could be regenerated by opening a phalanx of ‘super casinos’.
Gordon Brown and others diverted Blair from this evangelical idiocy, but Labour’s overall policy of deregulation in the sector proceeded apace in the early part of the previous decade, with television advertising and high stakes provision on fixed odds betting terminals among the opportunities enthusiastically presented to a gambling industry which could scarcely prevent itself from foaming at the mouth at the prospect of exploiting them.
Labour’s Tom Watson was Newsnight’s studio guest, initially attempting to convey the body language of a man holding a full house, only for it to be quickly revealed that, as a member of the government which introduced these disastrous measures, he was in fact holding a pair of twos.
Watson was broadly correct in stating that nobody could then have foreseen the pace of growth in the online gambling sector, a tsunami to be added to the flash flood of addiction and irresponsibility unleashed by the earlier deregulation, but had to offer a reluctant mea culpa for his involvement in a reckless and wholly unnecessary legislative fiasco.
(In the interests of balance, it was John Major’s Conservative government which first loosened the regulatory grip on the gambling sector in order to facilitate the introduction of the National Lottery). So what is to be done? Labour has since floated the possibility that football clubs ought to be prevented from displaying shirt sponsorship endorsements of the gambling sector, a
constructive enough suggestion in itself but, unless a wider resolve can be gathered to tackle the appalling and unchecked excesses of the industry, is likely to be as effective as distributing umbrellas ahead of a hurricane.
Online gambling firm 888 has been fined a record £7.8m for outrageous failings in its customer care provisions.
Broadly,instead of protecting more than 7,000 customers who had asked to be excluded from dealings with the firm,888 actively pursued them to keep on gambling.
The fine, overwhelmingly the largest imposed by the Gambling Commission, which had hitherto restricted itself to slap-on-the-wrist impositions, including on a number of high street names,begs the question: what infringements might be required for a firm to have its licence withdrawn?
In his article in today’s Racing Post Tom Kerr is highly critical of a ‘moral panic’ about gambling he believes to be active in the minds of a deluded British public.
Naturally enough,no mention is made of the commercial panic running riot in the offices of the firm he represents at the prospect of the damage which might be visited on its partners in the bookmaking sector should the stake limit on fixed odds betting terminals be drastically reduced in the government’s forthcoming review.
To judge by the bookmakers’ propaganda, should the limits on these machines reduced from the current maximum £100 per spin to a possible £2, betting shops will be forced to close at such a dramatic rate they will be soon sighted as rarely as a red kite above the streets of Market Harborough.
They wouldn’t close at this rate, of course.
There might be some residual losses, but the main reason the gambling industry is making these claims is because its members do not wish to alter a business plan which is specifically designed to exploit the addictive possibilities of as many forms of gambling as possible, including on the FOBTs.
Needless to say, it does not reflect well on the horse racing industry that it stands firmly behind the gambling sector in endorsing this strategy in the interests of protecting its own finances.
The bookies,early yesterday evening.Just one player glued to the machines.
Chat to the manager about the future of horse race betting (if indeed it has one). Of the future of the sport in general. Hear the name ‘Connaught Ranger’ on the tannoy in the background.
Turn to the screens, assuming it’s a ‘runner’ in a cartoon race but, no, it is due to compete in an actual race at Kempton Park (7.20).
Where is horse racing without a respect for the traditions which redeem and sustain it? Connaught Ranger won the Triumph Hurdle in 1978 and a number of other important races for Fred and Mercy Rimell.
He was a highly-talented, if unpredictable, individual, who tested to the full the skills of the great Midlands training partnership and those of his regular jockey, the gifted but sadly ill-fated Irishman John Burke.
Memories return, including of a midweek Newbury meeting, when Connaught Ranger was one of a number of high-class horses declared by the stable. It was Tom Masson Trophy Day. Gaye Chance won the feature race,one of 18 wins under National Hunt rules.
Cannot remember if Connaught Ranger won the novices’ chase on the card.
Probably he was favourite, but didn’t take to fences on this occasion.
It was a bright,cold November day,with your breath already out in front of you,and a scarf and gloves ideally required.
I’d bunked off lectures to be there, among the aficionados. Nobody bored nor boozing.
All absorbed in the action on a day which can stand as an emblem of the happiness which racing can deliver,or which it could do at least, before the slippage started.
Dee Ex Bee