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No to Good Friday Racing, parity for jockeys with Bale and Raul’s on an e.w. chance!

BittarWhen does Good Friday not live up to it’s name? Well from 2014, if the BHA have their way. Controversial plans to allow racing on Good Friday have moved a step closer as the BHA board has agreed to take applications from the racecourses to stage meetings on the bank holiday in 2014.

Both Lingfield and Musselburgh have expressed a desire to host meeting’s on one of only two traditional day’s off, both day’s of significance in terms of religion, as they are day’s marking the birth and death of Christ. Arena Leisure is looking to stage a £1 million championship meeting on Good Friday in a bid to boost the all-weather winter programme, while Musselburgh is another course that has made it be known that they also hope to race that day.

A final decision will not be taken until the next BHA board meeting at the end of September with applications being assessed against criteria including prize-money commitments and support from stakeholders. When the racecourses made it known that they were hoping to race, I saw quite a bit of negativity from the sport’s professionals on the social network sites.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar has said: “If there are to be fixtures on Good Friday, the executive were clear to the board that the fixtures must remain fully in the control of BHA, and meet a number of minimum criteria to benefit both participants and the sport’s customers.

“We are mindful of the historical sensitivities around this subject, but will seek to establish the net benefit to the sport of racing taking place on Good Friday, and move the debate to one based on the facts that are available. Good Friday is a significant leisure day, so we are keen to fully assess the opportunity for racing.”

Good Friday traditionally sees the training centres of Lambourn and Middleham open it’s door’s to the public for it’s open day, if racing goes ahead I am sure it will be the end of those two successful day’s as they are currently known. It would see some of racing’s charitable causes miss out and I doubt that the courses will look to compensate them.

Also, another long running event would probably have to be re-arranged is the Jockey’s award’s night, “The Lester’s” takes place the night before as it has always been a case of having Good Friday off to, shall we say “recover” from the previous night’s partying!

Let’s hope that they see sense and leave things as they are.

In the week that has seen Gareth Bale seal his £300,000 a week contract the spotlight turned on to the situation been faced by many of the countries jockey’s.

I have long been saying what a struggle it has been this season, (here he goes again I hear you say!) at times it doesn’t quite sink in how difficult it has been with some of the younger generation of rider’s. Last month I had two jockey’s jump ship, one of which was having their best year since 2008 and the other was an apprentice who had exactly the same amount of outside rides that they had off their boss and at the same time had other issues, for example rising weight and a job pending overseas. So I felt that I had done a decent enough job, certainly bearing in mind how more established rider’s had themselves been struggling this season.

Unfortunately though, the agent is the one who can get the grief. One of the well established agent’s told me recently that we have a thankless job at times and how right he is.

Today the Racing Post ran a feature on how the top five jock’s are finding their rides increasing whilst those down below the top tier are finding pickings getting slimmer.

Unlike football where Real Madrid’s new left winger commands a weekly pay cheque of £300,000 where as someone playing in the fourth tier of the game will be lucky if they are on £1200 a week, a jockey’s riding fee is the same whether your Kieren Fallon or Kieren Fox but, where as Fallon has had over 400 rides here so far this season, Fox has had just 81. Without being disrespectful to Kieren Fox ( I used them as examples as they share the name Kieren and they are at different ends of the scale), booking a jockey is like getting a chance to buy either a Ferrari or a Mini for the same price. Which car would you go for? Yeah, the Ferrari everytime.

I feel for the jockey’s at the lower end of the scale, they are riding out at the crack of dawn, more often than not at their own expense (trying to get trainer’s on side in the hope they will throw a few rides their way) before heading off to the races, again more often than not for just one ride and in probability it doesn’t have a chance. So the reality is that they have maybe got up at 3am-4am to drive two hours to go ride out 2-3 lot’s, then head to the racecourse for their solitary booked ride (so they could have driven up to five hours already before riding) and then set off home. If it’s a race late in the day it could well be that the jockey has been out of the house for over fifteen hours and made only £70 of their riding fee, but having taken the fuel into consideration they may well have been out of the house all that time, risking their neck for nothing after they have covered their fuel cost’s.

There is some excellent racing over the weekend with plenty to look forward to.

Bryan Smart didn’t have the best of day’s when his stable star Moviesta disappointed in the Nunthorpe for his owners which include QPR manager Harry Redknapp. The Hambleton trainer sends out RED PIKE in the first at Newcastle today and the football theme continues as this son of Kheleyf is owned by Arry’s old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson. He’s been off the track for a while but the form of that Nottingham race couldn’t of worked out any better with the winner triumphing at Royal Ascot.

At Kempton, OCEAN TEMPEST could get the night off to a good start in the opener. In this apprentice handicap John Ryan has booked an experienced lad in Ryan Clark and he has been given the plum draw in stall one. All looks good for a big run.

Also at Kempton, PUNK looks to follow up last week’s win at the track in the 7.50 race. Fawzi Nass’s gelded son of Bahamian Bounty made a good impression last week and looked one to follow.

Saturday is an action packed day with the Group One Sprint Cup taking place at Haydock. Raul has a nice book of rides there with JACK LUEY having each way claims if the rain comes in the opening sprint handicap, however he has a great chance on WEYBRIDGE LIGHT in the 7.35 race at Wolverhampton. David Thompson’s charge won well over course and distance recently and has held his form well since, I hope that the return to the all-weather will see a return to winning ways.

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