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No more Timeform Racehorses and Chasers & Hurdlers

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  • #1511000
    Gingertipster
    Participant
    • Total Posts 26853

    End of life as I know it.
    Timeform have stopped producing their annuals.
    Had to come at some point I suppose, but still so sad.

    :cry: :-(

    value is everything
    #1511011
    betlarge
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2697

    A few months ago, I bought the latest edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of The World. If you’re not familiar with this work, it is basically a vast, oversized book full of superbly-rendered large-scale maps. Weighing in at almost six kilos, it’s not so much a coffee-table book as a coffee table in itself. It’s not cheap.

    In today’s world, nobody, but nobody, NEEDS an atlas. The Google Maps in your pocket will provide you with far greater detail and you will not require hospitalisation after carrying it around all day.

    But The Times’ book is beautiful. To open it is a joy. To pore over it, incredibly satisfying. It may not tell you how many McDonalds there are in Buenos Aires (20 apparently) but it is a wonderfully anachronistic work of art.

    Likewise, delving into a Timeform Annual is an experience to be cherished. Their famed essays on top horses are what frame the narrative of the season, but it is the smaller entries I love reading through. To do so jogs the memories of past winners you may have backed, losers you definitely did, and a host of other horses – often from years, decades ago – who’s names you vaguely remember…

    How wonderful to be reminded of the decent handicappers, the inconsistent sorts, the real rogues and the dodgy jumpers along with all those modest but consistent types who ran for multiple seasons for our entertainment. Furthermore, leafing through a Timeform meant that one was travelling alphabetically rather than by date or race. So back in 1987, you may well remember Forgive ‘N Forget but what about Formidable Lady immediately after? The randomness of the A to Z approach adds so much interest. This will now be gone. The only record of a season will be the dry-as-dust results on your computer with no summaries of the character, temperament and quirks of every horse. And when I say gone, I do mean gone forever as there seems to be no plans for an electronic version.

    Yet it’s hard to complain too much. Obviously, the market for such offerings has thinned out to an extent that producing the Annual (which must have been a huge endeavour) is no longer commercially viable. Let’s not cry that the independent trader on the High St closes down when we don’t use him enough.

    It’s probably the case that the only ones who will really miss these wonderful books are those of us of a certain age! Sometimes progress is really disconcerting. Leafing through a Timeform Annual, like leafing through any major reference work, is a pleasure for the senses as well as the mind – the tactility, even the smell (!) cannot be bettered. This will be denied to future racing fans but I guess it will just be something that they never had and will therefore never miss.

    I mean, how many children own an atlas nowadays?

    Mike

    #1511013
    Drone
    Participant
    • Total Posts 5195

    Have they explained why?

    Declining sales? Production costs?

    Whatever next, that other decorative ornament Wisden?

    Perhaps they’ll become Kindle-only: we ageing presbyopics can chuck out the magnifying glass :good:

    edit: Good to be reading your missives again Betlarge, hope all’s well

    I too have a slab-like Times Atlas of the World, bought in the late ’80s just before the Soviet Union disintegrated. So geopolitically it was immediately out of date, but geographically is of course timeless and still very beautiful

    #1511031
    Marginal Value
    Participant
    • Total Posts 670

    Here you are Drone:

    By Timeform — published 9th October 2020

    The recently published “Chasers & Hurdlers 2019/20” will be the last in the series of Timeform annuals.

    Timeform has announced that it will close the remaining elements of its mail order service from December. This means the “Racehorses” and “Chasers & Hurdlers” annual, and the weekly Timeform Black Book, will no longer be printed.

    Director Nigel Townsend said, “The whole publishing industry has been transformed in recent years. Timeform has successfully refocused itself as a digital-first business and the past six months has seen a further significant shift in the behaviour of our customers towards our online services. Finally closing our mail order operation will allow us to allocate more resources to those.”

    The Racehorses series dates back to the founding of the company by Phil Bull in 1948 and the seventy-three volumes combine to provide an encyclopaedic history of Flat racing in the modern era. It has also earned a reputation for forthright views on horse racing politics.

    “Timeform annuals are the first place people turn to learn about both the greats and the lesser-known horses,” added Townsend. “We will find new ways to offer a definitive record of their achievements and to campaign for the things we believe will benefit the sport, particularly at this time when the whole industry is facing stark challenges. But it’s widely acknowledged that 1,000-page books have struggled to find their place in the modern publishing world.

    “Working on the Timeform annuals has been the epitome of a labour of love for the team involved – writers, photographers and production. Geoff Greetham, who worked on ninety-seven annuals, ensured they maintained the highest standards throughout and his outstanding contribution was rightly recognized with the presentation of the George Ennor Trophy by the Horserace Writers & Photographers Association in 2016. Some of the finest writers on the sport honed their skills working alongside him.”

    Publishing editor Geoff Greetham, who leaves Timeform after fifty-two years, said: “When the history of the pandemic comes to be written, the demise of the Timeform annuals will merit no more than a footnote, but to the band of loyal readers and to the generations of writers and photographers who have worked on ‘racing’s bible’ this will undoubtedly be a low point. Nothing lasts forever but the Timeform annuals have stood the test of time for longer than most and will still remain as a permanent written history of the sport. Innovation will find a way of continuing this Timeform tradition.”

    #1511037
    Nathan Hughes
    Participant
    • Total Posts 23877

    I mean, how many children own an atlas nowadays?

    My Son has more than one, plus a poster map of the world on his bedroom wall
    When he was no older than six he took out an atlas book from the library and I had to renewal it every 3 weeks for about a year until one day I returned it and left it there.
    Tears of plenty when he got home from school and saw it missing and at the weekend I had to take him back to get it back out and it had gone.. :-(

    Member since March 2008
    #1511125
    Blackcountry Kid
    Participant
    • Total Posts 220

    I posted of my shock & horror that there will be no more ‘Racehorses of ……’on my thread yesterday but not as eloquently as betlarge in so much that I too belong to a bygone era.To me there’s something about the feel of a hardback book that can never be replaced by seeing it in digital form,it just seems alive as you turn each page.
    Iv’e a large bookcase that heaves under the strain of Racehorses Annuals going back forty years and the thought that there will be no new editions to add fills me with sorrow.
    Does anyone recall the ‘Racehorses of …… Irish Supplement’ which was printed and sold alongside the main annual as a pair between 2007 & 2010?
    This small handbook was a real bonus for me as many of the Irish horses that came to my local track,Dunstall Park, back then weren’t covered by the main book and this little gem put you right about them.
    Such sweet memories!
    A real sad day for all that have brought the books from this magnificent organisation over the years,I wonder what Phil Bull would make of this decision?
    good luck to all

    #1511151
    betlarge
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2697

    My Son has more than one, plus a poster map of the world on his bedroom wall

    Excellent Nathan, he’ll always know his Slovakia from his Slovenia, his Dakar from his Dhaka! (Don’t forget that former World Champ Neil Robertson was eliminated from the World Snooker Open last year when he travelled to Barnsley, Glos (pop 200) whilst his opponent was chalking his cue waiting at Barnsley Metrodome, S Yorks).

    Drone – thank-you for your good wishes, I’m fine. I reciprocate and hope everyone reading this is looking after themselves and their loved ones in these testing times.

    One would think it would be a fairly straightforward move to transfer the Annual to a mobile/pc app which would certainly be more financially viable than old-style publishing, and could work quite well (less so on a Kindle I would have thought). However, judging by MV’s forwarded post, there seems to be no plans for this, which hints at the possibility that they just don’t have the writers or resources to compile the annual in the first place.

    Mike

    #1511152
    Gladiateur
    Participant
    • Total Posts 1392

    I propose that we keep the spirit of the Timeform annuals alive on this forum by awarding posters P, p, +, ? and some equivalent of the squiggle mark.

    Who will earn the first dreaded double squiggle?

    #1511160
    Drone
    Participant
    • Total Posts 5195

    Thanks for the link MV

    I would take it as a compliment to be consisdered “an arrant rogue or a thorough jade” so will happily nominate myself as TRF’s inaugural double squiggler

    The command of language, grammar and graceful syntax in Timeform’s lengthier essays was always a joy to read

    #1511281
    homersimpson
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2299

    I always thought of the Timeform building as similar to Mr Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Never seen anyone going in or out of the place but the lights are on so someone must be in there working away. Although not regularly passing during office hours nowadays, I very rarely see lights on at all so believe all staff are working from home. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a For Sale sign (Potential Development opportunity) on the building very shortly especially as they are demolishing the former Dews garage next door which is also earmarked for Retail Development.

    #1511346
    homersimpson
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2299

    Saying that. There were lights on at approx. 6.45am today. It’s as if someone read this and thought we’d better go in to show we are working ;-)

    #1511393
    admin
    Keymaster
    • Total Posts 766

    Great post Betlarge. Very sad news last month of the cessation of publication. Let’s hope innovation does, as Greetham suggests may be the case, find a way of carrying on this tradition.

    #1511414
    Gladiateur
    Participant
    • Total Posts 1392

    Weren’t Timeform bought out by Paddy Power/Betfair?

    Surely they’ve got enough money to keep the annuals running; I bet it costs more money to make just one their stupid ads than it would to keep these wonderful tomes going.

    #1511470
    Marginal Value
    Participant
    • Total Posts 670

    It is good to know that succesive generations of mostly Yorkshire folk have shown themselves to be smarter, more understanding of their customer base, more business-savvy, harder working, more knowledgeable about horse racing, and have better understanding of how individual flair and collective teamwork can profitably deliver a product that has been the best of its type for three-quarters of a century; while the world’s largest betting company by revenue, is too inept or frightened, or mis-understanding of the resources at its disposal, to even attempt to deliver the same product. With the lack of fortitude and insight shown by Flutter Entertainment, as well as their desire to be the least admired company in the business, how few years will it be before their share certificates will be fluttering up the racecourse like the losing betting tickets when Jeddah, Signorinetta or Aboyeur won the Derby?

    This may be an apocryphal story, but it illustrates a good point. Back in the nineteen-fifties the famous marketing man David Ogilvy was asked by the Board of The Parker Pen Company to identify its biggest competitor. He came back a few days later and said “It’s Ronson”. The Board laughed and said that Ronson did not make pens, they made cigarette lighters. Ogilvy replied that the majority of fountain pens and cigarette lighters were bought as presents, hence the unacknowledged rivalry. In the old days that would be called a “category” error, nowadays it is called a “framing” error. You think you are looking at a bottle of 12-year-old single malt scotch; no, it’s a christmas present. A Nikon D7200 digital camera; no, it’s a doorstop. A highly-polished oak sideboard; no, it’s a repository for fishing tackle! I also have a good story about the value of farmers and priests in scientific research teams!

    Timeform annuals are classy works of art and their main function is to be admired*. The fact that they are advertisements for the money-making arm of the business is great; a brilliant advert that makes money rather than costs it. The raw data of their contents is a by-product of Timeform’s other business, the collection and analysis of horse racing information. The information moves from the computer to the page through the brains and artistry of the horse afficianados in the Timeform organisation. Stop publishing the Annuals, and Timeform moves from a category of its own, to the category containing Racing Post Ratings, BHA Ratings, IFHA Ratings and a myriad of similar simple number-cruncher outfits. The difference between its old category and its new one is that the former is all about the horse, and the latter is all about the gambling. It is a loss of status in the horse racing world. It’s all downhill from here.

    * (You can read about the value to the Peacock of its extravagent display of tail feathers in most good nature books, or try the internet).

    #1511477
    Gladiateur
    Participant
    • Total Posts 1392

    Excellent post, MV. :good:

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