Channel 4 have announced they won’t be broadcasting this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from Paris next month. Media costs have been cited as the principal reason and non-satellite-subscribing viewers will be forced to head down to the bookies to get their Parisian fix.
It’s a blow for the race and indeed for the excellent Channel 4 team, who are working manfully to keep their spirits up ahead of their end of year exit to make way for the incoming ITV team.
I can’t help but feel racing fails to see the bigger picture — quite literally at times — on some of the big days when genuinely top-level sport demands a terrestrial audience.
Media costs, streaming and negotiations all combine to line the pockets of a few while depriving many more of access to great sporting events that deserve much better.
Last Saturday’s Sprint Cup at Haydock was blighted by the weather, which was so atrocious that hearts went out to the cameramen struggling to capture the horses for viewers like me at home.
It was a race that will not only be remembered for the brilliance of Karl Burke’s Quiet Reflection but also for the fiasco involving the betting.
Trainer Henry Candy’s stable star, Limato, was installed as the antepost favourite a good few weeks before the race. Candy then told the press and public that his horse was unlikely to run. A week before the race, he said it might well run and he was reinstated into the betting as antepost favourite.
On the morning of the race, he was favourite. Then it started to rain and, lo and behold, he was pulled out. Although I fully accept that horses are anything but machines and I do not doubt that connections — at all times — were doing what they believed to be best for the horse and the public, I can’t help but feel sorry for the punters, who barely had a chance to keep up.
When we have a bet on racing, we like to think we know a bit—we may even know a bit more than our friends, and we don’t mind being beaten if we have a decent crack and come up short. But would we really bother to have a bet on the colour of the Queen’s hat if we didn’t know which queen we were talking about, weren’t sure what event we were talking about and (yes I know it’s extreme) had never seen her wear a hat before?
Sometimes it pays to wait and get late when most things are known, but I doubt I will heed my own advice.
I’m in Doncaster for four wonderful days of racing at the St Leger Festival, culminating of course in the world’s oldest Classic, the St Leger itself, on Saturday afternoon.
Some of my “cliff horses” (I follow them over cliffs) are running here this week, including Nemoralia (I’ll go in again) and Hoof It (surely not, again?!) but I’m widening my net to take a chance with St Michel in Friday’s Doncaster Cup and Yalta in the Flying Childers on the same day.
For those readers yet to sample the uncomplicated joys of a day on Town Moor, I’d urge you to put that right. It’s the fairest track in the land (York comes close, I guess) and you can eat and drink well for a fraction of the cost of Ascot and Goodwood.
Onto the big one this Saturday and we have Idaho as the current odds-on favourite for the Classic. It’s difficult to pick holes in him after a stunning great Voltigeur win last month, but we might just have a dart at John Gosden’s Muntahaa.
His trainer is a real Leger legend and recently gave an impassioned defence of the staying breed. His recent Chester win didn’t immediately scream St Leger standard, but I’ll trust the wizardry of Gosden to match the wizard from Ballydoyle and have these two in a reverse forecast. Good luck!