Friday, August 13, 2010


Graham Green Reports for the Racing Post Friday August 13th 2010

Racing For Change in plea for patience.

RACING FOR CHANGE has told racing to be patient and to remember the initiative is a long term project, as it responded to criticism that it is only tinkering at the edges and not tackling the fundamental problems of the sport head- on.

J. Margaret Clarke responds for Turfcall;
The name ‘Racing For Change’ in itself suggests a few plasters will be good enough to cover over the cracks. Or a quick fix whitewash to cover the dirt. Just another expensive dose of more fob off 'Lip Service'. British horseracing moves too fast as it is now. causing-leaving an amassment of shattered lives, horses and all, in its foolish wake. JMC

Racing Post Graham Green continues:
Project director Rod Street and his colleagues have been likened to sailors rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic by critics demanding much more decisive and radical action to save what many regard as a badly holed, if not sinking, ship.

Although there was a ground-swell of goodwill when the initiative was launched last year with the aim of broadening racing’s appeal and bringing down the age demographic of its audience, the apparent lack of eye-catching progress has dampened the mood to one of widespread frustration that major issues like the Levy Board funding and the structure of the sport are not being addressed.

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston claims RFC is “tinkering with the minutiae” and William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping believes the project “could implode” unless greater creativity is shown.

While new innovations are being unveiled almost every week- a quality assessment of racecourses by the Visit England tourist board, and the launch of a new consumer website for racing next month being two of the latest- the demand odds trial at Ascot in May was regarded by many as a fiasco, and the gold flag scheme has been slammed by bookmaker Barry Dennis, who claims his business has doubled since reverting to his own each-way betting terms.

The Free Racing week was seen as a success in attracting a new audience to the sport, but Channel 4 betting guru John McCririck is unimpressed with overall efforts to date, saying: ”I don’t know how much Racing For Change, and all the bureaucracy that goes with it, is costing – plenty I’m sure – but from what little I’ve seen it isn’t worth it.”

However, John Warren, the Queen’s racing manager, is determined to stay upbeat in the face of the tide of negativity, saying: “I think it’s pretty sorry day if the industry is not prepared to support looking for change.”

Street is proud of the PR job RFC has done in getting racing stories into the news pages of the national press this year, which at the latest count includes 35 single or double-page features on the sport’s leading celebrities, but while admitting this will not yield instant results, he has always insisted his team are engaged in a five-year programme.

Street said: “At the very outset, when RFC was launched, we said this was a long term strategy, and in wanting to do things differently and better in an industry full of tradition and structured as it is, it would take time. Some things might not have gone according to plan, but others have and it is interesting some people immediately focus on the things that haven’t necessarily gone as well as expected.

“The structure of racing is such that progress in places can be frustratingly slow, with so many stakeholders involved – even on seemingly small items. If racing really wants to change it may, on occasions, have to adopt a policy of seeking forgiveness rather than permission.” END

J. Margaret Clarke responds for Turfcall; Seeking Forgiveness.

Monty Roberts to the rescue of traumatised Blushing ET.

This is the true story of a beautiful young colt’s journey back from his fear of the starting stalls. In Monty Roberts own words:

“And that day I got home, and went out there, and started working with this young male mustang and saw him respond to my gestures, it was the most incredible feeling the most unbelieving feeling ...... But the strongest impulse within me was to say to myself who the hell is going to apologise to the species, for all these centuries of misunderstanding, of abuse, of neglect, of doing things the wrong way, its terrible who would have thought we could have got this so wrong, because he was telling me you have got this so right ........

Play Monty’s Blushing ET’ Documentary go to:


What are the present authorities aiming to do? To lead all the little children astray by encouraging them to get interested in the sport of horseracing? A sport that’s regulation and disciplinary authority are mainly all ‘Bloodhorse Illiterate’. An authority that does not bother to care about racings workforce to include the horses, their needs and wellbeing of no importance ? Get a life. JMC

Leadership structure stands in way of change.

When Harrison Frazer presented the findings of its comprehensive review of British racing more than a year ago, the first recommendation was simple: define the leadership structure.

Those who paid for the report and those charged with implementing it decided to ignore this advice. They did so for a variety of reasons. Some may have been scarred by the experiences of the last review that followed the internecine disputes which marred the last days of the post-Savill era British Horseracing Board. Others may favour the status quo and enjoy exercising such power as they possess under the present arrangements.

But the decision to ignore the recommendation-or, at minimum, to file it in the ‘too difficult tray’ – was a serious mistake and did racing a grave disservice. Time has been wasted because, to use the idiom politicians employ, the way British racing is run is not fit for purpose.

Who runs racing? Well, a variety of people really and in a variety of ways. Under the compromise structure-or hopeless fudge, if you prefer – that emerges from the wreckage of the BHB, the BHA is the regulatory body and is not supposed to concern itself with commercial matters. Yet it leads the discussion on racing’s single most important commercial matter the levy, and largely controls another vital commercial driver, the fixture list.

Racing Enterprises Ltd is supposed to be the sport’s commercial body. Yet it doesn’t have any direct involvement in the most vital commercial issues, the levy and fixtures. And it is controlled by two shareholders, the horseman and the racecourses, who increasingly find themselves at loggerheads.

It is a mess. The net effect is that racing is run by the power of veto. Different groups-racecourses, owners, regulators and others- have been granted or have seized control over elements of the show. They have the power to prevent change and they exercise that ability frequently.

As a result the sport is not run in a way which will ever allow it to prosper. Who speaks for the ‘greater good’ in racing? Who has control over the levers that might allow decisions to be made that enable the sport to respond effectively to the greatest challenges it has ever faced?

The sad reality is that at present unless all of the key players are willing to give permission, nothing, or not enough, happens. The thirst for decisive action goes unquenched; frustration grows and racing’s problems are compounded.

No business, never mind a sport, whose very essence is under threat, can be run successfully by committees largely compromising people guarding their own positions or having to answer to a narrow constituency.

Some may bemoan the lack of progress made by RFC, whose creation was in part a product of the refusal to tackle wider issues. The truth is that the structure of the sport makes it impossible for RFC, which has done some good work, to meet people’s expectations. There is no shortage of good ideas. Rather there is a singular inability to deliver on many of those ideas because others exercise the power veto.

The system is not set up to work properly – sectional interests prevail while anyone speaking for the greater good lacks the power to implement.

Time and again, RFC has hit immovable forces, whether it be on what should be simple things such as adding drama to the results of photo-finishes or bigger issues like signposting the big Saturday races and introducing a finale meeting for the flat season.

The leadership structure doesn’t work. It wasn’t designed to facilitate change. The financial crisis has exacerbated that shortcoming.

That is why change in the way racing is run is a perquisite to any real progress. Without a change in structure and in personnel, the sport can never thrive.

The greatest service those with their hands on some of the power can do for racing is to sort this out. Those whose livelihoods depend on the sport, as well as those who love racing, must insist on it. END

J Margaret Clarke responds for Turfcall:
What a shocking indictment left from the past, that still reaches out to persecute, intimidate, harm, inhibit and blight the lives of so so many people and animals who have followed along after, and remain now. Yes indeed we must all insist on it. JMC




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