Obviously, with spiralling numbers of positive Covid tests across the country, the news that spectators will not be allowed to return to sports venues in the short term, and possibly for six months, came as no surprise. It is however a hammer blow for so many sports venues and clubs who rely on gate receipts for a huge part of their income.
We all hear about media rights and TV money and, yes, that is a major source of income for sport, but no one should underestimate the income that a venue or team generates from the paying public. In the case of racecourses, it is not just people paying to attend a day at the races and buying food and drink in the restaurants and bars, it is all the meetings, events and conferences that take place at the courses throughout the year. As we enter Christmas party season, most courses will be counting the cost of 20-30 bookings where they would have taken a venue fee and generated significant bar takings.
Sadly, I feel it is inevitable that some venues will not make it through, if indeed it is six months or more before spectators return. Jockey Club Racecourse, who run 15 tracks, were estimating that they would lose £75 million of income this year, even prior to the latest announcement, and has now indicated that this number will be far higher. It will take a long time for racing to recover such amounts and the impact on owners, trainers, breeders, stable staff and those that rely on racing for their livelihood will all be huge.
Whilst that all sounds thoroughly depressing, in my experience those involved in racing are a hardy bunch. There is nothing to be gained by wallowing in self-pity. It is time to pull together to get through and to make the best of the situation we are presented with. We have seen some great racing this summer and the TV coverage has been excellent. Syndicates (mine and others) have come up with new ways of communicating with members and shareholders, and as we switch from flat racing to national hunt, I would expect that will be more of the same. The jumps fans are used to following their sport in the freezing cold and pouring rain, they are not going to be deterred by whatever the current situation can throw at us. Even if this winter is going to be a different experience, hopefully it will still be a good one!
Benefit of Ownership
The one area that does not appear to have been impacted by the change in arrangements in respect of spectators, is the opportunity for owners to go racing. I was racing twice last week, accompanied both times by shareholders of the horse that was racing. Anyone that feels they might need a fix of live sport, getting involved in racehorse ownership might be the best way! Yes, you could apply for a job as manager of a football club or as a caddy to a pro golfer, but there are not that many vacancies! Whereas there are loads of options when it comes to owning a share of a racehorse. I am always happy to provide advice and guidance to anyone thinking of getting involved, so if you want to find out more, drop me a note via the contact page on my website, (website address below), or put a comment below this article.
The harsher side of ownership hit BG Racing this month, when after going through 18 months of recovery and training, our horse, My Brother, suffered a career ending injury.
He was ready to race back in March, when racing was shut down and then ready again in late August; we were just waiting for some softer ground when we received the terrible news that he had suffered an injury to his foreleg, and not the leg he injured previously. As I am sure that anyone that follows or bets on racing can attest, the sport can sometimes kick you in the teeth, and this was one of those occasions. Thankfully “Bruv” as he is affectionately known will be able to enjoy a career away from racing and we are in the process of finding him a nice home.
On Track This Month
We got our filly Silver Imperial back on the racetrack in September at Kempton. This was her third run and we were looking for a good one to get a workable handicap mark for her. She ran a decent race and finished 4th. On a line though the winner, who was rated 88, we were expecting a handicap mark of around 40, and we were somewhat surprised therefore when we were allocated a mark of 31. Normally getting 9lb less than expected would be a cause for celebration as this would make the horse very well handicapped, but the lowest level of handicaps are for horses rated up to 55 or 60, and when the races are oversubscribed, horses are eliminated from the bottom up. We entered Silver Imperial in a handicap next week; she is 39th on the list for a race that will have a maximum of 14 runners. She will simply not get in, and chances are that we will suffer the same fate elsewhere, so we will probably have to run her in another maiden, that she will have little chance of winning, simply to try to get her up to a higher handicap so that she can get into races!
Fr Humphrey had another run in September in a handicap at Kelso. Having driven there and back on the day from my home on the Surrey/Sussex border, I can confirm that Kelso is a very long way away, from me at least! Humphrey finished 3rd, running a nice race, and he looks ready to win again, so hopefully we can get him back into the winners’ enclosure soon, and the journey back was happier after a good run than it would have been if he had run poorly!
Our third horse Dynamic Kate is due to run in October, making her debut in a national hunt flat race. She will then either stay in such races or go novice hurdling this winter.
There is more information on all the horses on my website www.bgracingsyndicates.co.uk , where I also post a weekly update under latest news.