Sunday saw the annual Epsom Open Day, which went really well, despite the efforts of the weather early on to keep people away, and saw plenty of interested members of the public coming through our gates. This was followed by Family Fun Day at the racecourse on Monday, where Pip and I were closely involved with the parade of ex-racers before racing. It was wonderful to see so many ex-Epsom horses, ridden by their new owners and thoroughly enjoying (and in many cases excelling in) their second careers. Then finally on Tuesday there was a free entry raceday at Epsom which culminated in the Stable Staff Charity race, where unfortunately Rodrigo de Freitas and Richard Farmer couldn’t follow up their victory in last years race, coming home third. However, once again a significant sum was raised for Epsom Racing Staff Welfare, and all involved had a great time. Rodrigo once again showed what a contrary so and so he is, by running at Lingfield 2 days later, where he nearly tailed himself off in the early stages before coming home with a rattle to be a fast finishing 2nd.
I spent 2 long, but ultimately productive days up at Doncaster sales earlier this week, where despite being unable to fill a nice order for the In Recovery Partnership (we kept getting blown out of the water by the likes of Shadwell), we did manage to pick up a nice Tagula colt right near the end of the sale for Kevin Booth, for a relatively cheap £15’000 – he is an athletic looking half brother to a decent 2yo of Richard Hannon’s called Fast, and if he has inherited that sort of speed we will be very happy.
Trade at the top end was unbelievably strong still, so I will now head to Goffs and Tattersalls in Newmarket to try to fill this other order. I will also be heading to Fairyhouse at the end of September with some owners looking to buy a syndicate horse. We have had quite a lot of luck at the Irish sales over the years (buying horses such as Ree’s Rascal and Seek The Fair Land), and you’re guaranteed to have a good time along the way as well, so they’re sales that I look forward to.
Finally, I think it’s quite a while since I have read such an ill thought out piece in the Racing Post as that penned by Richard Birch on why racing on Good Friday is inevitable. He makes the case that Racing must move with the times, and that racing on Good Friday is both necessary and only a matter of time. Yet in the same piece he talks about how betting shops on a Sunday used to be shut and are now open (but doesn’t mention the fact that they are universally almost empty apart from a few people playing the machines), and then goes on to bemoan the fact that racegoers and punters (never mind stable staff, trainers and owners who are the ones putting on the show) were “sold a dummy after being promised the crown jewels when Sunday racing was introduced”. Can he not see that this is exactly what is likely to happen with Good Friday Racing? When Sunday Racing was initiated, owners were lured with payments of £400 for running to help cover the extra expenses incurred. Now this has been whittled down to £100 over the course of a few years. And the quality of the fare is generally derisory.
What precisely makes Good Friday so important out of the long Easter weekend that it is essential to race on that day (notwithstanding the fact that it clashes with 2 high profile Open Days)? Programming a decent card on a day that is moveable from one year to the next is fraught with difficulties, and these don’t seem to have been thought through. Why not choose one of the Saturdays between Cheltenham and Aintree and do the job properly? The bully boy tactics of commercial bodies to try to force these proposals through, and make horsemen look like we are just trying to be awkward in opposing them, are pretty unseemly. I like to think we can see the bigger picture, and recognise the need to make racing commercially attractive, but this does not mean we must roll over and accept deeply unpopular proposals at the first sniff of extra money, when it can’t be beyond the wit of man to reach a mutually suitable compromise. It is time for the Horsemans Group and the BHA to show their mettle in dealing with commercial bodies, and ensure that we don’t yet again get sold down the river.