AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT blog: What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them…

When I’m on a long drive I quite often have a break from my music and listen to Radio 4, not for the racing tips, but to keep myself awake with a bit of culture, writes SIMON NOTT.

One news article was quite a shock to me. Did you know that most fruit smoothies are at least 50% apple juice, as high as 70% if you fancy a Lychee and Dragon Fruit variety? The smoothie firms don’t advertise the fact, but of course, they do have to print the ingredients on the packaging so it’s there if you look hard enough.

Racing isn’t quite as transparent, when something isn’t transparent it often means that there’s something to hide. If you have customers do you keep things from them because if you didn’t they’d get the needle? With that a given you have to draw your own conclusions as to why racecourses don’t advertise what percentage of their media rights income they put back into prize money?

Were I a gambling man, I’d hazard a guess that it’s so poor that should it get out racing people would scream the place down and quite rightly so. If that money isn’t going back into racing it’s going out and by the sound of it from a hole large enough to ultimately sink the ship.

Over the fence in the bookmaking camp, the opaque window in their HQ is the one that surrounds the starting price they settle bets at. When I worked for Turf TV with the SP team everything was open and above board. The only thing that was kept secret was the identity of the bookmakers included in the sample. That sample was taken from the bookmakers betting on course that day. Their prices were displayed on our computer, the current show, at the off, the SP displayed on a column to the left of the screen.

Watching their own screen was an independent validator who to be happy before the SP was returned. When the race started, the off button was pressed which also created a screenshot in case there was a later query, the validator had to give it the OK, then the starting prices were relayed to the Press Association before the race had finished. That is why you got the SP on your screens in double quick time.

Then Covid happened, racing continued but as there weren’t enough bookmakers on course to return an SP from it was done off course. Returning prices from racecourses was then history, the final nail in the relevance of racecourse bookmakers apart from their being a massive draw to racegoers and the best value in the game. So, the way the SP was returned changed, but as far as I know, nobody that’s not in the know, knows how it’s returned. Does anyone know, you can’t help think that if we did know, people might get the hump, otherwise why won’t they tell us?

Back to smoothies, they are a bit like racing. Despite the glamourous meetings like this year’s triumphant Royal Ascot the majority of the sport is made up of the equine equivalent of apple juice supported by people who are happy to pour money into it even though it’s certainly not an investment. The recent stand-off between a racecourse group and bookmakers should be a worry for all of us that love and even invest in the apple juice of racing. The squeeze is on that lower tier majority who are the ones to suffer from the assumption that media rights money is pouring out of the industry rather than being ploughed back in. You can only squeeze an apple so hard until all you get are the pips.

There’s a lot of assumption to back up this blog, but I get the impression that the people who control some racecourses aren’t really that bothered if they host racing or a new housing estate where racing used to take place. If they offer paltry prize money that don’t attract fields for competitive betting to take place on and the bookmakers dig their heels in and won’t pay, those courses will close. The racecourse owners can blame the bookies then count their money. Fred Done on Luck on Sunday said that there needs to be a cull of racecourses, so at least some bookies wouldn’t mind that too much either.

When the racecourses start to go, the interest in those areas wanes, people who would have a leg in a horse with their local trainer won’t bother any more, the local trainer goes out of business and so it goes on, the whole house of cards could easily come tumbling down, the foundation of the sport is based on 70% of apple juice that enables the Lychee and Dragon Fruit to be the headline act. On the other hand, increased price money and support for the roots could change everything so positively.

Where is racing leadership when they are needed? Racing should hold the nap hand, after all they are the product. The caveat and danger in that is they aren’t the indispensable product that they used to be in the gambling industry, but has it sunk in yet? The sport is in danger of being taken apart from exterior forces who no longer have much need for it.

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle 



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