Those that inhabit the rather strange world of Horse Racing social media may have found themselves getting involved in various debates over the past week, relating to how the sport – the ‘great game’ as we all like to call it – could better itself. (Blame the Racing Post by the way. They started this…)
You’ll probably be relieved to know that this blog will avoid the ‘W’ word, other than to say this -> No, the whip should not be banned – and racing should categorically not pander to public opinion (or perceived public opinion) on this one. Remember, the general public voted for Brexit 52% to 48%. That means at least 48% were wrong, in your opinion. So, they simply can’t be trusted. What is needed here is what was needed there – and that is facts, education and adult debate and absolutely not succumbing to fears based on hyperbole. Read Jim Boyle’s thoughts here – I think he’s pretty close to the mark.
Right, that’s enough of banning the whip…
Of all the other ideas suggested, the one that caught my eye was that of Racing Post scribe, Lee Mottershead, who mooted the idea of Time Trials in his Racing Post column – it’s towards the bottom of this piece.
Is this a good idea? Well, actually No – according to 64% of the 618 people who took part in the Racing Post Twitter poll on the subject today. But hang on – 64%? Does that mean not doing it is a better idea than Brexit? Or worse? And was that a good idea? Wait… I’ve confused myself now.
The bottom line with this, as with so many other things, is that none of us really have a clue.
Just imagine if someone had pitched the idea of Gogglebox to the same 618 people prior to that programme screening.
“Look – we’re going to film people watching stuff on TV. Different people sitting in their front rooms watching the same programmes. Every week. Yeah. It’ll be great… “. (Silence)
My guess – probably less than 10% would have thought Gogglebox was a good idea – but viewing figures of 4 million suggest it was actually inspired from whichever bright spark at Channel 4 dreamt it up.
And so, what about Time Trials? Or put another way – which horse can run, on their own, from A to B, the fastest?
The main objection that people seem to have would be that they – The Trials – would be boring & that watching a horse gallop on its own against the clock would be as much fun as watching paint dry.
I disagree. The key would be smart presentation both in terms of on screen information and engaging commentary. Watching, say, a 4 furlong breeze, with sectional updates after every furlong giving context as to how far in front or behind the current leader the horse is, would be the Horse Racing equivalent of Ski Sunday or a Formula 1 qualifying session. Give it a good theme tune and we’d have those two cooked…
What it would also have is the betting element & there is no reason why there couldn’t be a market on the fastest Time Trial (and maybe even derivative markets like fastest individual furlongs) which could be kept open in-play as the horses roll down the straight.
For the idea to get off the ground, it feels like the concept would need a backer for a trial series. All Weather tracks would provide a consistent surface for runners, so they’d provide the obvious venue and given that Time Trial runners may potentially be missing a real race in order to compete, the sensible place to start in terms of horses would be at the bargain basement quality level. If you own a 0-60 quality sprinter, running in a Time Trial for a reasonable pot may hold considerable appeal – and maybe a smart backer would close the series with a relatively valuable ‘Win and You’re In’ Horse Race for all the animals who had been successful in a Trial.
Of course, the Time Trials would be as much about riding ability as equine talent – probably more so – and they would surely prove to be great training ground in terms of jockeys learning about efficient pace. And for the ambitious future champions, the Trials could prove to be a great shop window where they could demonstrate to influential trainers that they can nail the fractions better than anyone else.
And all of the time the racing public would be becoming more cognisant of the clock, sectionals and the dynamics of horses running fast. Hey, it would almost feel like Horse Racing had entered the 21st century.
Sure, it wouldn’t be for everyone, but the Trials need not interfere with a day’s racing for those who aren’t interested. A 10 runner 4 furlong ‘Breeze-Off’ would probably take around 15-20 minutes and could easily be tucked away either at the beginning or the end of a card.
And maybe the whole thing would fall flat on its face – a failure never to be repeated and an opportunity for a thousand ‘Told you so’s on Twitter. But if so – simply drop it and try out the next bright idea that someone comes up with. Maybe one day, one of them will prove to be as popular as Gogglebox. Then we’ll all be laughing.