The first clue that something odd was happening was when I read that Frankie Dettori (the Italian born flat-racing jockey, who lives in England) had been penalised for his riding on Max Dynamite (trained by the Irish Jumps Champion Willie Mullins) in the Melbourne Cup, Australia. Weird, I know. They finished second.
But in even more ground-breaking events, the Racecourse Association voted in favour of signing a document called the Members’ Agreement alongside the British Horseracing Authority and the Horsemen’s Group (who represent owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys and stable staff). The agreement sets out for the first time, in black and white, how decisions affecting the industry should be made between the three parties.
It may all sound terrifically dull to the casual racegoer, but the agreement creates a framework for the key stakeholders to make the industry better… A bit like taking a bunch of random musicians and giving them all a copy of the same musical score. At Cartmel we might be compared to the guy holding the triangle at the far back corner of the stage, but even so, we look forward to receiving our sheet music.
It’s just as well that the sport is pulling together because, in less earth-shattering news, the Levy Board failed to agree a structure for the betting industry’s financial contribution to horse racing as part of the next levy scheme. While the proportion of profits paid by bookmakers with high-street betting shops is reasonably well established, the amount paid by online operators based overseas is not: some are willing to contribute, others only want a free ride.
Part of the BHA’s plan to create Authorised Betting Partners is to encourage punters to play only with bookmakers that play fair with racing - and avoid those that avoid paying the levy. The plans are already being questioned by Paddy Power, which suggests that they are one of those bookmakers that resent paying a fair price for the product. If you’re not sure what to back this Saturday, I’m going to suggest that you keep an eye on Creepy at Kelso.
Closer to home, events have conspired to change the Cartmel landscape forever - following the death of two members of our race-day team. Both Bruce Lodge and Robin Webster were aware that they had terminal illnesses, but both insisted on reporting for duties at Cartmel throughout the racing season. A large contingent of Bruce’s friends and colleagues will be gathering at the Grandstand this afternoon (Friday) to drink to his memory and tell stories – of which there will be many.
Apparently Bruce’s only regret was that he’d have preferred to have died beneath the hooves of one of the loose horses he caught occasionally at Cartmel. While there are many wonderful things that I would have wished for Bruce, I’m altogether quite relieved that he didn’t get his way.