Horse Racing with Jason Hall – Factions that split the sport

IN the wake of the fabulous four-day Ebor meeting and three days of quality racing atop the Sussex Downs at Goodwood, there has been a sense of the morning after during the course of this week’s racing and that prevails as we go into one of the quieter weekends of the annual racing calendar.

This flat season has been illuminated by the achievements of the world’s leading racehorse, Frankel, whose imperious performances have showcased all that is attractive about the sport in an equine sense and reached out beyond racing’s existing devotees to stimulate the interest of the wider population.

Undoubtedly, the flat season of 2012 will be remembered quite properly for his exploits, but memories of his power and grace will have to sit alongside less welcome recollections from this landmark year for racing as a whole.

The sport itself has a number of factions within that for time immemorial have been pushing and pulling against each other to achieve what in each divisions belief is a fair return for the contribution that they each make to the industry.

The advantage to one is to the detriment of another in the majority of instances and can usually be expressed in financial terms.

News that two racecourses, Folkestone and Hereford, will be closing at the end of the year draws attention to the direction that the sport is heading in.

These will be the first closures for 31 years and the reasons given have been purely financial.

There are no remedies to this immediate situation and, with the entrenched positions of each of racing’s factions unlikely to change, further course closures seem a realistic possibility. It will be unfortunate for British racing as the variety and diversity of its courses is one of its best assets, but it could be interpreted as a signal for the path ahead that the racing industry as a whole should adopt with its long term health in mind.

Natural selection could help force racing’s factions down the right path, however hard they continue to squabble and although it may result in the size of the industry being reduced, the ultimate benefit could be a trimmer, higher quality product remaining.

Falmer trainer Sheena West has been very successful for a number of years with cast-offs from her colleague Mick Channon.

She purchased the filly Hi Note from Channon last July and has campaigned her on the flat and over hurdles since then, winning once under both codes with the latest of those coming on Bank Holiday Monday at Warwick.

A low grade affair, Hi Note did the job well and has the opportunity to make a quick follow-up under a penalty this weekend.

The comments of her trainer post race at Warwick also suggest we are only just starting to see the best of the filly: “Her last run over hurdles was a career best and she is improving all the time. She is tough and game and needed to be.”

It would be no great surprise to see Sheena turn her out in one of two engagements she has at Bath and considering her trainer’s confident predictions of progression another win seems highly realistic.