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Racing – A Letter from the Future

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  • #20053
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    (I was going to send this to the Racing Post but I fear it would be a little too realistic for them…)

    2031 and a racing correspondent looks back
    ***Royal Ascot in China***Paul Nicholls Minister of Sport***Whip Abolition***Ireland Resurgent***and much more

    THE opening ceremony of the first Royal Ascot to be held in China prompted this correspondent to review the defining events in the English Turf’s sad decline over the past 20 years.
    There are some who trace the death of English racing back to the introduction of the all-weather and all-year round National Hunt. There were those that predicted it would die when Her Majesty the Queen died, though I am happy to report that though Her Majesty is still with us at the ripe old age of 105, horseracing in England is just a memory.
    When the British Horseracing Authority brought in its whip rules in 2011 it was almost a textbook case of hasty, ill-thought-out legislation. Like much lawmaking of the period it did not place practicality as a matter of first importance but rather fashionable opinion – the law of the babbling flock. The Turf was always esoteric, that was part of its enduring appeal to many of us. But that mystery was also its undoing, because the modern world, which thanks to Hollywood had turned animals into human personalities, could not bear to see a horse hit and the sport itself was quite unable to explain the necessity of doing so and how little it harm it caused.
    Animal rights lobbyists, with the ever-ready assistance of the mass media, cooked up a furore after the 2010 Grand National and the BHA decided the problem was one of image. Change the image, they reasoned, and all would be well. This was classic Political Class thinking: the long shadow of Tony Blair-era gesture politics which had entered irrevocably into British civil life. This sort of lawmaking was an odd mixture of high-handedness and cowardice: we’ll dress a fudge up, impose it ruthlessly and it will make things *look* all right.
    The BHA had a few options. One, they could have embarked on a long period of public education. It would have been arduous but given time the arguments surrounding whip use would have filtered through and an informed public debate could have occurred: journalists would have been able to put an opposing argument to the anti-whip lobby.
    The BHA could have been bold and abolished the Grand National. With what was to happen to jump racing in the following decades it now seems a punt that was worth taking. Yes, such an abolition would have been high-handed but it would also have been brave.
    The ‘National was both racing’s biggest advert and its biggest public relations disaster. The young and not-so-young were increasingly taking a reductive view of the race: ‘horses killed for our amusement. Nice.’
    The abolition of the race would have given the anti-whip lobby a big scalp and closed racing’s shop window to the public. It would have bought National Hunt perhaps another 20 years without the general public taking any notice of it and therefore being inevitably offended by it.
    But as things stood, every April at Aintree brought new safety demands. Within ten years and after the Lab-Lib Coalition of 2015 abolished the BHA and created RaceSafe, a new quango which held absolute authority over the sport, fences were abolished along with the whip and hurdles had to be made of foam and be no higher than 18 inches.
    After a long and sad period of jockey strikes and racecourse blockades, much of the jump racing fraternity relocated to Ireland, with the Cheltenham Festival held at a purpose-built replica of the track constructed in County Wexford with money illegally diverted, some claimed, from EU bailout cash. It contimues to be threatened by proposed safety diktats from Brussels.
    A small pocket of National Hunt racing survived when the Counties of Cornwall and Devon declared their independence from England in 2018 and Paul Nicholls was made the Minister of Sport for the new State. West Country tracks thrived behind the barbed wire at the Devon border crossing. In the years following the counties’ independence some defunct Flat tracks relocated there in new grounds.
    Flat racing revenues had nosedived by 2020. Bookmakers, long-used to draining funds from the sport and not channelling them back continued the trend, arguing that punters actually preferred poor racing with highly unpredictable outcomes.
    In 2021 Goodwood racecourse announced it was relocating to the Far East, where rampant emerging markets and gambling mania provided the funds for an exact replica of the classic track, which was created with microclimate engineering.
    Riding at the inaugural 2021 Hong Kong-Goodwood meeting legendary jockey Richard Hughes said: ‘It’s just like the old Goodwood – but you can get beef chow mein as well!’ Though Flat racing was never officially banned in the UK, the abolition of the whip and rapidly declining revenue sealed its fate. To this correspondent, the sight of a housing estate on Prestbury Park, a mile and a half of allotments where once horses raced at Brighton and the Ascot grandstand complex converted into social housing remains a sad sight and an enduring warning to other countries about the folly of bending to the prejudices of the ignorant.

    • Total Posts 486

    Excellent cynical reading for a right-wing pessimist like me.

    Would be a good laugh if parts of it weren’t so feasible, especially the line "the Lab-Lib Coalition of 2015 abolished the BHA and created RaceSafe". Wouldn’t expect any less from such a rabble.

    The Devon and Cornwall bit was brilliant. I can see this – although Paul Nicholls would need to relocate from Somerset across the barbed wire!

    • Total Posts 916

    And to discuss in detail the possible implications of this hard-hitting report, we can now cross to Tanya Stevenson and her guest, Matt Dawson, for their analysis. Tarns, it’s over to you….

    • Total Posts 1559

    Brilliant stuff just a pity you never included today’s results from Wetherby :lol:

    • Total Posts 2391

    Dear Sir/Madam

    The decision of the the Royal Ascot stewards to ban Diamond Walsh for 5 days after striking her horse 8 times, one of which was down the shoulder surely proves that these whip rules are unworkable.

    I still, 20 years on, continue to jump up and down on my hat, predict an immient Jockeys’ Strike, MP’s calling Racing to account and Sir Judith Stuthers resigning from CEO of the BHA.

    Your Humble Servant Pinza

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    … though I should like to see


    retain his long-held place as Official Court Jester.


    (der echte)

    • Total Posts 2036

    Excellent cynical reading for a right-wing pessimist like me.

    I am exactly the same!

    • Total Posts 7835

    The bit about Richard Hughes/Hong Kong had me in tears.

    Irish Stamp
    • Total Posts 3185

    Long time no see Meshaheer – good to have you back and hope you’ve been celebrating your boys getting into office ;)


    • Total Posts 486

    Thanks Martin. I intend to now be around on a more regular basis!

    On the other hand, I’m longing to see the return of an actual Conservative Party rather than the wishy washy lot we have at the moment. Now I’ll return to reading my copy of the Daily Mail :wink:

    ricky lakericky lake
    • Total Posts 2358

    Dream On Mesh , your chap Cambelt, is a bit like Roy the part timer , no chance of getting them out imo

    meanwhile back at the ranch ….


    • Total Posts 17718

    Forget about the Tory Party – so wet you could shoot snipe off it. All they care about is is all the labour party cared about: raising tax revenues and sod the consequences.

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