All racing's stakeholders need a fair chance to survive, not just the elite
Ideas about how the Flat racing season will be salvaged are coming thick and fast from respected industry sources. Everyone seems to agree that preserving the Classics as well as a raft of important Group races is essential.
Of course, we all want to see the top horses in action, but to suggest that it is somehow imperative for the breed strikes me as a strange claim.
What is imperative is that the wellbeing of the whole sport is maintained. A narrow focus on big owners and big Newmarket yards will result in small trainers and owners being forced out of racing, perhaps for good.
I’ll state my vested interest now. I part-own a cheaply-bought sprinter with four friends. We fulfilled our lifelong ambition of owning a racehorse when we bought Free Love as a yearling in 2017. I’ve even written a book about the experience.
Unless we strike a balance when racing returns, small owners face the prospect of being squeezed out of the game through limited opportunities and reduced prize-money.
The democratisation of racehorse ownership, built up by racing clubs and syndicates during the last two decades, is under real threat if we become obsessed with the preservation of the Pattern-race calendar which, after all, primarily benefits the likes of Godolphin and other wealthy owners.
If we really are ‘all in this together’ we need to make sure that all of racing’s stakeholders are given a fair chance to survive.
Part-owner and author
Two more courses you must visit
I've enjoyed your writers' contributions to the 'racecourses you must visit' series, so here are mine:
Hanging Rock, a 60-minute drive out from Melbourne for the two annual meetings: New Year's Day and Australia Day. You need to arrive mid-morning as the crowds can be anything from 10,000 up to 20,000. Have a picnic and then walk up around the rock, spotting the wild koalas as you go, and from the summit glimpse a magnificent overview of the track. The downhill finish is a great spectacle and the scenery is magnificent. For years, there was an iconic commentary from Jack Styring, using a vocabulary and turn of phrase all his own – even by 'Strine standards. If you are a fan of level-weight maidens like I am, you'll be in your element – just spot the metropolitan form. Be aware that a Hanging Rock meeting is sometimes cancelled due to kangaroos on the track.
San Siro in the heart of Milan. A gigantic statue of Ribot greets you as you walk through the majestic wrought-iron gates, welcomed by hospitable staff – even though entrance is free of charge. There are meetings most of the year on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Catch the spring days when there are often eight or nine races on mixed cards. A mindblowing network of intersecting figure-of-eight tracks has, alongside it, a long straight which uses a second winning post way off to the left of the main one, and where Italy's best two-year-olds race against international rivals. But look inside that second winning post and you can see the splendid cross-country course with its up-and-down switchbacks. Make sure you get there early, before the usual 3pm start, as the cross-country races may start even before 2pm. This is a prestigious track on a par with the best Paris has to offer, with most Sunday meetings featuring several Group races. Italians on their first visit are surprised to see legal bookmakers but the culture is quite different from a British betting ring. Prices are marked up only a few minutes before the off and you need to be sure to negotiate up your odds appreciably – don't be dismayed by the skinny chalk prices. I've had some great winning days at San Siro, the racing seems to pan out very closely to form.
Simon Le Fort
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