COULD a form of betting tax save British racing from destruction?
Before you spit out your cornflakes, or indeed cinnamon crunch, in disgust at the thought just read on.
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Survival. That is what the world is about right now both in terms of health and job retention. And, incidentally, they often go hand in hand.
Horse racing in the UK can survive. It must survive, for the good of a beautiful animal and because of its position as the second biggest sport behind football.
Its expenditure generates in the region of £3billion, and the financial contribution to the British economy is getting on for £500m while supporting 20,000-odd jobs.
Racing is a big industry, be in no doubt.
In the light of the current Covid-19 crisis, the important message the sport must get across to Government is just how big.
If crowds being allowed on a racecourse are being stopped, then we need to know why. Not simply accept it’s not happening. As of yet I have heard no explanation why trials of crowds have been prevented. It can’t be Covid related, because a racecourse is about as safe a venue as you could be in the world. Someone needs to explain.
If things stay as they are, then punters and bookmakers may well have to come together to support horse racing. Quite simply, if they love the sport and want to bet on it in the future then there may be no choice.
Betting duty was abolished in 2001, meaning that punters no longer had to pay tax. The suggestion that they might ever have to again would be abhorrent to some. But these are unprecedented times.
Most punters are racing fans. The majority will not want racecourses to close or horse racing to collapse.
Indeed, I have been contacted by some who are only too keen to contribute in some way to support the cause.
If Government taxed punters for the next year, and to double up bookmakers agreed to match that tax, however much that might be in the pound, then it might be a way of keeping finances and jobs going.
Once the crisis is done and dusted the tax would be lifted. It’s just an idea, but every idea needs considering.
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It’s sport just like that at Newmarket today that we want to preserve for the future.
The Group 1 Cheveley and Middle Park Stakes could easily throw up a star, while the Cambridgeshire is always one of the classiest handicaps of the season.
Many eyes will be on Dandalla in the Cheveley, as she chases a four-timer for Karl Burke having taken the Albany at Royal Ascot and Duchess of Cambridge Stakes on the July course from Fev Rover and Santosha.
I have a feeling Sacred could prove a very good each-way bet in this, as she’s better than we have seen in recent defeats, including when second to the re-opposing Miss Amulet in the Lowther at York. Tom Marquand rides Sacred, and his last two weekends have pretty pretty good with success in the St Leger on Galileo Chrome and in the Ayr Gold Cup aboard monster gamble Nahaarr.
I’m really strong on Lucky Vega in the Middle Park, and was amazed he was not favourite at the forty-eight hour declaration stage.
Bookmakers then favoured Method, Minzaal and Supremacy over Lucky Vega, but Jessica Harrington’s tough Group 1 hero will be hard to deny. You can forget his fifth in the National Stakes at the Curragh as he never got a run and I have a feeling he is better at six furlongs in any case.
The Cambridgeshire is wide open as you would expect, although Tempus and Sinjaari look quality recent winners who have every chance for the powerful stables of Roger Chartlon and William Haggas.
The latter has three in the top five in the betting, as he also sends out Ilaraab and Montatham who have both been in tremendous form. No surprise there, as Haggas is an awesome handler.
That said, I’m expecting a huge effort from Bell Rock for the Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy combination.
Bell Rock started the season winning at Newmarket over a mile, and since then he was far from disgraced when sixth in the Royal Hunt Cup and then an unlucky third to Maydanny at Goodwood. This trip could well be ideal and while he’s quite high in the ratings he’s lightly raced and could still improve.
So much to look forward to. But unless we step in, for how long?