IT is that time again in the flat season. While many race fans this side of the water are in a post-Galway slumber, across the water, it’s time to fill that lull with the Shergar Cup today and the second series of the Racing League began at Doncaster on Thursday.
Three cheers for the Shergar Cup? Hurrah, it’s the Racing League?
With stark warnings on Britain’s economy this week, it’s no joking matter. You have to be concerned racing will be in line for more ‘hits’ all around the track over the next year.
Trainers are struggling, attendance are down and as the Premier League returns, interest and demands on the leisure £ spend will increase.
The big negative with the Racing League was the hype. It’s promoted by too many ‘presenters’ way beyond its actual appeal - one even compared the daft ‘manager’ concept to preparing a team for the Ryder Cup. Ah lads!? And reading earlier that Team Ireland had come out best of the jockey draft but those riders were “so good that they won’t be available” from one pundit, renowned for generally telling things as they are, it didn’t really fit well.
Even the idea of ‘managing’ when every horse has a trainer, presumably out to find the best opportunity for his horse and owners. How do you ‘manage’ the riders for your team when in an acutal race, when the object is to get points, i.e., try to win races.
Last year it was fair to say give it a chance. The enthusiasm came packaged in the old reliable – “we need to attract new people”, “it’s good prize money, full fields, decent betting opportunities”, but how? It’s forgetting the blatantly obvious that this is not really new, this is old – this is exactly how it should be. Racing should have decent prize money and each-way betting fields. We are in the back to basics land – we are not really offering anything new to attract anyone, teams in racing don’t catch on, albeit that terrestrial TV on a Thursday evening in the UK is definitely good.
But there too, it has to look attractive to the viewer and there did not seem to be a big crowd or atmosphere on Thursday, despite all the jocular presenters. Sligo sounded as much fun on the other channel. The team element just doesn’t add much, who really cares?
The Shergar Cup will never get praise but it was never a meeting that I felt was worthy of criticism – the idea was good in a quiet weekend, bring international riders to compete. It was good to have the likes of Emma Jayne Wilson here when female riders were still coming through.
It did what it said on the tin, without any hype and even if punters were wary of international riders, there were advantage perhaps in playing against them with some of the home-based riders. The female team gave its riders a chance to get more attention, Irish riders too had success. And it attracted a good crowd at the track.
Neil Callan on Sky Racing mid-week said: “It’s a great day, it’s going to be competitive. All the family are going.” And it always looked a good day’s entertainment, for perhaps some of the jockeys below the top level. With £36,000 to the winners and almost £3,000 for sixth place. The riders are divided into proper recognisable teams.
It will be interesting to see the attendance figures for Doncaster, it did not seem overly full on the TV, at a time where, like it or not, the after racing summer concerts do seem to be pulling decent crowds in Britain. Give it a chance they said. Not sure it’ll last ‘til 2023.
THE old notion that winning the Derby was the key to a horse’s future life as a stallion and that such a success was what would maintain the thoroughbred breed through the generations took another knock in the last weeks with the announcements that the 2015 and 2016 Derby winners would cover National Hunt mares next season.
The outstanding horse of 2015 Golden Horn with five crops – four of racing age – and Harzand with three crops to race were well above-average Derby winners. And more notable, were bred by two of those owners who still breed to race and have the patience and desire to breed middle-distances horses.
The two newcomers are now pitched in to what could be as a crowded National Hunt market at the top. Affinisea was the busiest sire in Britain and Ireland in 2021, covering 324 mares. Order Of St George (312 mares), Maxios (309) and Crystal Ocean (302), covered plenty from Coolmore’s National Hunt roster. In his first year in 2021 Kew Gardens had 198 mares at Castle Hyde Stud in Ireland. There is a wide choice out there.
Of the last 10 Derby winners who have retired, we have lost Anthony Van Dyck and Serpentine is gelded. It leaves Camelot, who had many NH runners too, and Australia as the only two to be considered a success at stud. With the economy contracting in so many areas, the National Hunt youngstock markets are going to be a major focus in the months ahead.