Ask the boss?

Thu, May 27, 2010

Ask Boycie

Right then, time to get our thinking caps on. I’m hoping to interview a senior BHA member about Racing for Change soon on ATR. Any questions you’d like me to think about please post away on here.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to put every question suggested but I’d love to hear what everyone is keen to know from the BHA about the whole Racing for Change initiative.

So, if you’ve got something you’d like to see asked let me know and I’ll see what I can do.



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27 Responses to “Ask the boss?”

  1. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    Is Nic Coward’s assertion that ‘racing must be built around Saturdays’ a view broadly held throughout the BHA? Is it at all realistic to expect the sport to compete successfully with football, Super League, the Guinness Premiership and an abundance of international competition?

    With levy contributions set to fall, does the BHA maintain that racing has a right to demand a percentage of bookmakers’ profits when no other sport makes such claims? Indeed, would the BHA support an attempt by the FA (for example) to generate additional income from betting on football in the knowledge that such action would give racing a far bigger mountain to climb? How much has been spent, warts (Harrison Fraser) and all, on the Racing For Change initiative and are reported salaries of £300,000 (plus bonuses) for select BHA executives in keeping with the supposed desire to move racing forward?


  2. Graeme Says:

    The general consensus would appear to be that there was a draw bias for the 1000 guineas. Do you agree with this, and if so what preventative measures can be taken to avoid a similar scenario in future ?

  3. R Hills is God Says:

    With the soccer world cup coming up, maybe you should ask him why I should bet on horse racing in prefernce to soccer.

    Soccer has
    1) better liquidity
    2) very few integrity problems at the top level
    3) much more recreational money to pit my wits against

    It doesn’t have
    1) insiders making up circa 35% of betting turnover on it
    2) known corrput jockeys and trainers welcomed back with open arms
    3) a culture of secrecy and contempt for the general public
    4) one of its leaders calling for extra levies to be placed on its punters
    5) a set of leaders with a vested interest in me losing who will stop at nothing to see that it is so

  4. DenLon Says:

    Two years ago I went to the opening day of The Cheltenham Festival, paying £50 for Tattersalls Enclousre tickets. I left feeling I didn’t get value for money, despite making profit. This year I went Gold Cup Day, paying £75 for Club Enclosure tickets, presuming, wrongly, that I’d be able to enter the seated area of the grandstand. After placing my bets, I walked up the stairs to enter the seated area, only to be told by a guy on the door that I needed a season’s membership badge to enter. I questioned him on this and was told, rightly or wrongly, such a badge cost £160 and doesn’t include raceday tickets.
    Obviously with 60,000 people attending, not everyone can be seated, but there were people sat on floors, stairs (which would delight health & safety no end) and low-lying walls. I found 2 park benches, neither of which had a view of the racing.
    To my question. Does the BHA consider paying £75 and having nowhere to park your backside value for money? If not, is there any plans to make more seated areas available at the event?

    I dare say that a lot of the seats in the grandstand where taken up by journalists, owners and the racing fraternity who, I’d guess, weren’t liable for the £160 charge, while the general punting public were left with numb bums!

  5. seanboyce Says:

    Good stuff, keep em coming.
    R Hills is God, do you have a source for you 35% insiders figure? Not disputing it just curious where you got it.
    A couple of mentions already of comparisons with non-leviable sports like football. If anyone has suggestions for system to replace the levy those would be welcome too as the ‘levy crisis’ will certainly be a topic. Football exists without any funding from betting and of course there is no example anywhere in the world of horse racing existing without betting, so how do we see the future relationship between betting and racing working here in the UK and Ireland? Very big question in Ireland right now of course but an equally pressing one in the UK I think.

  6. R Hills is God Says:

    The 35% figure was something I picked up second hand. Someone was relating it from an article in a magazine (Pacemaker? Horse and Hound?) a few months back on, I think, TRF, but I can’t find it from their search facility.

    In all other countries racing’s fortunes are related to turnover, here they are related to bookmaker’ profits (as well as tote/exchange turnover).

    Bookmakers’ profits are also turnover related, but the relationship is turnover*average margin. Instead of concentrating on the first part, which would be healthy for the sport, The Rabble have concentrated on the second part. This has had a disastrous effect on the levy, as turnover falls faster than average margin rises (if there was a Laffer curve for gambling, the optimal margin would almost certainly be in the low single digits as FOBTs, exchanges, poker, casinos etc show), especially so when they are competing against lower margin products. This is before you even consider the damage to racing’s reputation by rigging the framing of races and rigging racing surfaces to try to boost bookies’ profits. Put the two together and you have a death spiral.

    The Rabble’s answer? More Steam! Messing around with draw biases and abolishing 16 runner handicaps, which used to be persued seperatley, are now combined, with Mackenzie-Ross’ announcement to do both at Lingield.

    Maybe you can ask your BHA man whether he thinks what Mackenzie-Ross did at Folkestone last year was good for business, when he completely reversed the draw bias at Folkestone, while the going stick readings on the official BHA site were apparently falsified suggesting an even surface (with the true figures only available to those at the course). Sure they’d have made a few quid from the complete rags that went in that afternoon, but surely the long term damage to the sport’s reputation isn’t worth it.

  7. seanboyce Says:

    In fairness Glen, Mackenzie Ross has held his hands up on more than one occasion as regards what he did at Folkestone and has fully accepted he was in the wrong. A complete folks up.
    The decision regarding the rail at Lingfield and the consequent reduction of maximum field size certainly warrants discussion though. I’m in ATR over the next few days and if no one else has followed it up I will.
    Agree re high turnover low margin offering best solution but bookmaking to low margins is of course totally different to operating roulette machines, or tote pools, or exchanges to low margins. The best bookmaker/odds compiler/trader in the world can’t bet to 1 or 2% on racing and win, not if he’s playing against insiders.

  8. PaulMc Says:


    Enjoying your blog.

    I would like to echo ‘Richard Hills is God’s’ comments.

    I would be interested to hear ‘Racing for Change’s’ take on the betting ‘coup’. Is this part of racing’s attraction or does it mean insiders are taking money from the less well-connected race goer? I enjoy a bet and trip to the races, but sometimes feel that as an ‘outsider’, the information that is available to the punter does not provide a level playing field. How could someone attracted via Racing for Change have predicted the improvement in the form of the horses that were successful in the ‘Barney Curley coup’? If the new race-goer found out about the circumstances of the coup would they feel they had been ripped-off?

    Over time, I’ve moved more to betting on football than racing as I’m happier that I have all the information available to make an informed bet. I sometimes don’t feel this is the case in racing. This is my small contribution to the fall in the levy.

    Should racing be more vigorous in investigating improvement in form when this is associated with a ‘gamble’?

  9. seanboyce Says:

    Thanks for that PaulMc. Good points all and welcome aboard.

  10. Patrick Says:

    While my over all impression of RFC is they’re not interested in existing racing fans concerns like the valid questions and points expressed above, but more interested in how to attract a new generation of race fans, the BHA would do well to get their own house in order first before trying to attract a newer audience.
    Right here is my two bobs worth!.
    I have noticed there seems any amount of positive tests on horses over the last 5 year or so, but virtually everytime the excuses put forward by connections as to why their animal tested positive could not be verified or proven as bona fide yet they were given the benefit of the doubt in virtually all cases of this nature, and the punishments dished out laughable and even then connections will chance their arm and appeal because they know the vast majority of the time the fine will be reduced, actual bans for this offence seem to be non existent for some reason.
    One recent case sticks out like a sore thumb as the BHA’s conclusions stink!.

    A comatosed sheep wouldn’t believe the fanciful excuse put forward by connections as to why their horse tested positive, yet for some reason Lord Rathcreadon and his cohorts excepted such waffle without even a blink of an eye, but delve a little closer and the defendent in this case is none other than one Michael Jarvis of noble birth, this is a blatant case of the elite protecting the elite, and if the BHA want to scoff at my conclusions, then tell me why Jarvis was not informed of the wording below as all other trainers who fell foul for a similar breach of the rule were?

    “The Panel also informed ****** that all the horses in his care will be the subject of examination and the taking of samples for analysis provided for in Rule (A)49 within the next 12 months.”

    Things never change its was always about who you are in British Racing, now if the above trainer went by the initials MW and you get an entirely different conclusion.

    To cut to the chase how are the BHA ever going to get even close to cleaning up this sport when the punishments dished out are almost a dangling carrot for the unscrupulous.
    Have the BHA any plans in the future to get tougher as regards the MARKED increase in positive tests?, horses running under banned substances effect the result of races which then has a knock on effect for the punter at large!.

    As for decimal odds I’m in favour of its introduction but if they are going to bring it in they need to just bring it in in one fell swoop, the recent trial only played into the hands of its detractors, decimal odds is the future, fractions are obsolete and have no place in modern information highway driven society.
    When the Euro currency was introduced across Europe within weeks everybody had the grasp of it and it would be the same with decimal odds.

  11. R Hills is God Says:

    Looks like the day is almost upon us and the evil Mr Levies will infiltarte the bat cave itself on the morn.

    I’m sure he’ll be given the traditional welcome…


    Ask him why horses aren’t weighed in this country Boycie and when he comes up with a reply about costs HAVE NONE OF IT.

    Tell him we all know the reason and it’s to allow insiders to defraud the great unwashed.

  12. PaulMc Says:


    Please ask for a reason as to why should I bet on horse racing rather than premier league football or other sports betting. Non triers, jockeys dropping their hands, working out which horses will line up for the main race of the season just a couple of days before the event because connections are not forthcoming with the necessary information (you have to look at betfair to work out running plans). You don’t get these problems in the Premier League, PGA tour golf etc.

    I bet less on horse racing these days than other sports. It used to be the other way round. I need convincing by Racing for Change to switch back to betting more on horse racing and thus contribute a larger amount to the levy. I know a number of people with the same experience. My first bet being Crisp in the Grand National so I’ve been betting a while, sometimes you’re better keeping existing customers than trying to get new customers.

    Good luck with your interview.

  13. seanboyce Says:

    24 hour delay for this interview I’m afraid. Diary mix up apparently but Paul Roy will be coming in to ATR tomorrow (thurs) so still time for any more points you want me to look at.

  14. Santiburi Says:

    Hi Boycie and good luck with tomorrow’s interview. My question is linked to the Levy and the continuing issue of the commercial viability of racing. Why doesn’t the BHA grab the bull by the horns: unite the racecourses and put a deal to the bookies for all picture rights in a commercial deal that gets rid of the Levy? With Alan Morcombe now on the Racing team and Alphameric clearly only existing to support its 50% holding in AMRAC, why not put something together that makes the Government happy and stops the annual warring between Racing and the bookies.
    I have heard all the old arguments about the value that the racing industry gives in terms of jobs and the like but I can’t help thinking that a Levy is wrong. Having been on the inside for a while, Racing’s organisation is still too bureaucratic. It still has too many jobs for ‘boys from the old school’. For the major part, it still looks like a rich man’s hobby to lots of people. We don’t need a Racing for Change initiative. Make the industry a commercial enterprise. Put business people in charge who are incentivised to produce profits and I think things might improve rapidly.
    While I’m writing though, I would like to say that I disagree with a lot of the points that keep getting raised about the supposed crookedness of racing. I bet more on racing now than has ever been the case. The handicap system could probably do with an overhaul but, in 25+ years, of close involvement with the industry (as an owner, a shareholder in a training establishment, a licensed bookmaker, a punter, etc. etc.), I’ve seen very little evidence of cheating. Sure, people like Barney Curley ‘play the game’ but that’s a puzzle for punters to work out for themselves. The going on our variety of courses is far more significant to the outcome of most races than any other factor; closely followed by the competency of the jockey on the day.

  15. Patrick Says:

    , “I’ve seen very little evidence of cheating. Sure, people like Barney Curley ‘play the game’ but that’s a puzzle for punters to work out for themselves. The going on our variety of courses is far more significant to the outcome of most races than any other factor; closely followed by the competency of the jockey on the day.”


    You might like to check out the above link which has ample of evidence of cheating in racing in all its sordid forms right down as far as 2002, and as its reasonable to say that what is on the above link is only the tip of the iceberg, and as I can’t accuse you of been naive as you most certainly are not, and I’ll take it you don’t live in a cave which beggars the question as to where or how you have come to your conclusion that there is very little evidence of cheating in racing, a real head scratcher?.

  16. Santiburi Says:

    Patrick, I started scanning your link but saw very little evidence of ‘cheating’. Jockeys make mistakes and so get disqualified. Soccer players are booked all the time. It happens. Trainers make mistakes from time to time in double entering their horses. It will continue to happen more often than it should due to 48 hour decs. Michael Jarvis, as an example, is a top, top trainer and is not a cheat but appears in the list due to an invalid urine sample from one of his horses. There’s an answer but he still has to be disciplined. Cheating is a very different matter.
    I’d like to know what makes you so confident that there is cheating of significance. I wouldn’t say there’s no cheating as human nature is such that there will be some bad examples but my reasoning comes from years of following form; for a while placing lots of horses in races according to my own handicap; from watching nearly every flat race, every day (live, on TV or on video) and particularly, these days, from watching the betting markets. Cheating on even a small scale would cause a lot more anomalies or why do it?
    Is racing totally clean? No. Is it markedly dodgy? Definitely not.

  17. Santiburi Says:

    Boycie, didn’t manage to see the interview with Paul Roy this morning. How did it go? Will it be shown again? Any significant disclosures?

  18. Graeme Says:

    The interview was well executed and made it worth watching. The answers from Paul Roy were okay when it came to topics which suited him, such as marketing and levvy incentives, but he threw in one or two cliches about our racing integrity being second to none which i wouldn’t know whether it was true or not because i’m not familiar with all horse racing throughout the world(i have my doubts though). He wasn’t too comfortable when being asked questions that focused on the punters benefit with Boycie’s example of Ben and Brian or whatever the mythical example names were, which was interesting. I get a feeling that people like Paul Roy think that the quintessence of British racing is fine, thus requiring only a few tweaks here and there. Maybe these guys need to tackle bigger issues – however after reading an article on the BHA site and watching todays interview – i’ve come to the conclusion that it near impossible for them to defend the intergrity of the sport against the Barney Curley’s of this world. Let’s face it, you can’t hike up the weights of every single trainers horse if how shall we say it, the trainer is partial to being economical with the handicapping system resulting in some financial gains.

  19. Santiburi Says:

    Boycie, you don’t need to answer my earlier question: found the replay on the ATR site so watching the interview now.

  20. seanboyce Says:

    Santiburi, thanks for your posts and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get into your levy alternative suggestion with Roy today. It was quite a long programme but very hard to squeeze in everything I would have liked to. Some very interesting ground for discussion there though. I’m going to reflect on the interview at greater length when I get a chance. Interview was scheduled for Wednesday, so I had to go in again to do it today when I wasn’t supposed to be working and it’s half term so I’m spending time with the kids today and tomorrow having worked through the weekend. A lot to reflect on. Some questions I thought he dealt with well, others much less well.Thanks to everyone who posted some thoughts here or e mailed ATR with suggestions. As I say a lot to reflect on but I want to do that with a bit of thought rather than in between swimming, bathtime and barbeque!

  21. Santiburi Says:

    Boycie, enjoy your break with the family.
    FWIW, I thought Paul Roy handled most of the questions very well but, for me, too politically. Racing needs a maverick to shake a few things up behind the scenes. I really don’t see the major issues being front of house, i.e. little needs to be done with the product and the race day experience right now IMHO.
    The main issue is behind the scenes: how is Racing going to pay for itself in an evolving, very commercial, very competitive world?
    I know many people like the diverse assortment of racecourses that we have in these Islands but can the industry afford 60 of them? The nonstandard nature of them is a turn-off for a lot of overseas punters. Therefore, I don’t see a lot of opportunity for selling anything other than Premier races overseas for commercial gain.
    Even our AW tracks don’t fit with the overseas norms so Racing has to find a way to be commercial that’s going to be primarily about getting the bookies to pay for it, which actually means the punters to pay for it, so it has to be attractive for betting here in the UK or it dies.
    I love the sport from a betting perspective but it’s now a TV/Internet spectacle for me. I rarely attend the live event and rarely, if ever, watch NH racing. I certainly never bet on NH racing so how does Racing extract something from people like me for the sport they provide?
    I don’t have an answer BTW, sadly.

  22. R Hills is God Says:

    So punters are now officially persona non grata it would seem. I know some held out some hope of representation, there was even talk of us being ’stakeholders’ by a BHA rep at one point, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

    I can live with that. I’m not some sad fan of a football team protesting that it’s my team and I’m being ignored by the new owners who don’t love the club like I do.

    I don’t expect the particpants in any other sport that I bet in to pay me any mind at all and I quite like it that way. So why should racing be any different?

    Sadly though, the denial of my existance only goes so far. When it comes to holding out the begging bowl or emptying my pockets in some grubby insider coup, guess what? THEY suddenly remember who I am. They even sabotage their own tracks and racing programme solely because of people like me.

    I think the best we can hope for is that they do just forget about us completely and race between themselves (after all the sport will survive just fine without betting LOL).

    A couple of final questions Boycie:

    1) Do you know what Roy was doing yesterday when he couldn’t make it? Was he lobbying Parliament for an easing up on legislation of FOBTs like his forbears? Maybe he was pushing for eight machines a shop

    2) Over at TRF we’re planning a wake for racing in a suitable hostlery: British Racing 1174 to 2010. Do you fancy joining us?

  23. seanboyce Says:

    The diary mix up was exactly that, a cock up at the BHA’s end. No consipracy on that one!
    I’m not ready to quite admit defeat yet but I’m always all for a bloody good wake. Rather like Tim Finnegan in the song though I’d still be hopeful that the corpse would leap up at some point. ‘Wasn’t it the truth I told you, lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake’!

  24. R Hills is God Says:

    Just to let you know Boycie, the wake takes place this Wednesday eve a stone’s throw from The Guilty Men. It’s a bit hush hish, as THE LIST might be discussed. If you want to, I’m sure you’ll be able to find us.

  25. seanboyce Says:

    I’d love to attend but prior engagements will not allow. Perhaps a future memorial service/celebration of Razzle’s life some day?

  26. R Hills is God Says:

    No problems Boycie. I’m sure a wake mark 2 (production title ‘Wakey Wakey – return to Shhhhhaftesury’) will be organised at some point.

  27. R Hills is God Says:

    Never mind the wake.

    Let’s have a celebratory leaving drink for Mr Potter instead.

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