Many of you will know my thoughts and approach to racing. I do not tend to hide my contempt for the way many of those within the sport make their living and, to be fair, I would undoubtedly do the same in their position.
I acknowledge the way the handicapping system is set up to encourage “cheating” and this is unlikely to ever change but it still doesn’t make it right or correct.
The problem lies in “the game” and the way it is policed by the powers that be. It would seem that very little is actually being done to keep the persistent culprits in check. Trainers have plotted horses up for major handicaps since major handicaps were first implemented and you have to accept the fact that cheating to win a prize is an aspect of many people’s make up. It is the same challenge to an owner or trainer as it is to us to spot what they are trying to do and to what degree they are likely to succeed.
In the past fifteen or twenty years we have seen a massive increase in the amount of low grade racing we enjoy/are subjected to and this has led to many horses being trained, or kept in training, that there otherwise wouldn’t have been a need for. We have many more horses being owned by syndicates which enable lovers of the sport to be involved for tiny amounts of money in comparison to the amounts they would have to pay to own individually or in partnerships. These horses all need races to run in, trainers to train them, jockeys to ride them and stable lads/lasses to care for them. All of which surely has to be good for the sport, yes?
We all know that the races these horses run in provide entertainment and are a vehicle for the bookies to profit from but we also know they do not come attached to the sort of prize money that comes anywhere near paying the bills that go along with keeping a horse in training for a year (or probably even two or three months!).
Like it or not many owners want to land a gamble, or at least be involved in one, and to produce a winner trainers know what they are up against, a lot of horses that are many pounds below where they should be in terms of handicap ratings. We constantly see horses attempting to win the same race they won the year before and much of the time they are racing off lower marks than they won off the previous year.
When horses are run down the track many times to lower their mark they are, whether you like it or not, cheating the system and by their actions, cheating the punters as well. Whether you deem the horse to be running over the wrong trip, wrong draw, wrong ground, in the wrong class, at the wrong track or any other factor that doesn’t fit your, or its, criteria you will realise something is just not right or you may simply feel that the jockey hasn’t exactly done his best on the animal in any given race. He may have had it badly placed, made poor in race decisions or simply not ridden it out to the line. All or any of these circumstances add up to the horse not being given its optimum chance of winning.
Many of the elements mentioned above cannot really be questioned by the stewards or the BHA and I wouldn’t expect them to be. The draw may affect any decision made by connections about what to do with their horse in any given race but it is decided by chance and is out of the control of anyone connected to the horse.
The reason I am writing this piece is because of the rides I have been seeing with increased, or what seems like increased, regularity of late. Horses which have been identified as having not been “off” for many runs have continued in this vein and since I am one who places a lot of emphasis on the exchange movements pre race I am not surprised when what I believe I will see actually comes to pass.
We have all seen prices drift alarmingly, sometimes after a horse has apparently been very well backed in the morning or evening before and we must all, surely, think very similar things when we see this happening. Whether you believe a horse is being actively laid by connections or whether traders/bookies are simply latching on to the lack of money appearing for a horse it equates to the same thing. There are certain connections whose horses will not attract more than £20 on the exchanges in the morning and will not move an inch until the last twenty minutes before the race. There are others for which every available pound seems to be snapped up until the last five minutes when the opposite situation occurs and we see everything being sucked out of the right hand side of the market in drastic fashion.
Since I am making this piece available publicly I will not be naming the biggest culprits or explaining what I know about them and why they do it but let me just say that we, as punters, are having the wool pulled over our eyes every day, many times a day. Anyone who doesn’t believe what I am saying is more than welcome to sit down in a (darkened) room with me and watch an endless stream of race replays where I can show you what is happening and how it is being done.
The stewards present at meetings, virtually every meeting, cannot be expected to spot every non trying ride but there have been glaringly obvious instances of jockeys riding to lose, in many cases riding to finish unplaced, that could have been seen from the moon without binoculars or a telescope. The rides have been so amateurish and blatant that the average punter who is not even looking for indiscretions has been able to spot it from the worn, faux leather chairs they have been filling in the betting shops (whilst trying to concentrate and block out the noise coming from the FOBT’s).
Why haven’t these rides been recognised and action taken?
What are the stewards doing to warrant being paid for their day’s “work”?
Who can we trust if we can’t trust the regulators of the sport?
Are we all expected to continue betting and ignore all the rides that are, in effect, conning us out of any chance to win money?
Does the attitude that “it has always gone on and always will, there’s nothing you can do about it” just about cover the situation or should we be taking some sort of action?
Is there any action that we can take?
The answer to the last question is probably that the only action we can take is to take away our business from the bookmakers and, if we need to bet, give it to the exchanges where at least we have the buffer of being able to trade or lay back our bets, giving us some sort of safety net. Having said that, the majority of knowledgeable punters probably have to bet on the exchanges to some degree already, having been forced to do so by an industry that offers people the chance to bet but then takes away that ability if they can prove themselves even remotely competent at beating the odds consistently.
So we are left with the choice of continuing to try and make educated guesses about a horse’s chance long before the genuine money can be seen and judged shortly before the off time or giving up the game and admitting that the way those within it are allowed to operate means that the odds, although in our favour if we know what we are doing, are stacked against us because of the way trainers and jockeys are allowed to ride, or have ridden, their animals to effect profits from the sport in ways that should be being clamped down upon.
My anger at this situation may be exaggerated by the current all weather season during which certain individuals make far more money than they will ever be prepared to admit, or allow the taxman to have knowledge of, by manipulating races to their advantage. That said, if it is known what is going on (and it most definitely is) and still nothing is done about it then the sport is a long way to being lost. The vast majority of bookies really do not want to pay for the right to bet on racing, preferring to take vast profits out of what used to be termed one armed bandits, and we are expected to carry on regardless of the corruption and underhand practices many of us either know exist or think may exist and choose to ignore.
Maybe I should just keep quiet and accept that I may have to back a horse three times after it has presented itself as a well handicapped and fit beast before it is asked to go and win a race again?
Whichever way you look at it, something is wrong with the racing we are presented with on a daily basis and it is a cash cow, a golden goose if you prefer, to many of those who are lucky enough, or intelligent enough, to train horses good enough to make financial gains in this way.