Sunday, May 13, 2012

Down came the rain

A wet week at the races saw flag starts at Chester, Lingfield's classic trials moved to the all-weather and Saturday's Flat meeting at Warwick replaced with hurdle races (and a concert by The Undertones).

Staff at Warwick could be forgiven for thinking that it never rains but it pours.The course's application to build a 100-bed hotel was refused plannning permission by the local district council, much to the delight of local residents...  According to the Jockey Club, which owns and operates Warwick, the future of the course is now under threat yet earlier in the week the same Jockey Club reported record turnover, record crowds and record prize money contributions.

One who has been sweating up a little this 'shareholder spring' is William Hill CEO Ralph Topping. At the company's AGM on Tuesday 49.9% of shareholders voted against the executive pay deal; Mr Topping landed the spoils, a £1.2 million 'retention bonus', by a nose. Predicatably, opponents are demanding a stewards' inquiry.

One not complaining about the raining is Donald McCain; Ile De Re beat Overturn to give the trainer a 1-2 in Wednesday's Chester Cup. The Tote Exacta paid £139.00 but nobody on course will have collected as there are now no Tote pool betting facilities available at the track. 'Chesterbet' is the replacement offering but TV coverage gave more than a hint that the new service didn't offer the best of value. Channel Four's John Francome looked in a tight spot during Thursday's transmission: he was clearly disappointed with the return on a winning wager but intimated that the vast majority of punters at the track want to do two things - bet on a horse and watch it run. He went on to assert that they're not that bothered whether they get 4/1 or 6/1. Well, I think that one's open to some discussion...  Of course, none of this was a bother to Donald McCain who followed up his Chester Cup triumph by landing the Swinton at Haydock on Saturday with Red Merlin.

Finally, at a windswept Carlisle station last week, I absent-mindedly picked up a leaflet entitled 'Back A Winner - take the train and go racing for less!' The offer, from First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail, gives a discount of £2 off a £5 toteplacepot bet and up to £4 off entry to selected northern racecourses. A number of conditions need to be satisfied to claim your discount vouchers so, if you're interested, make sure your lawyer has a free five minutes before checking out the details... ;)

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