Racing's rulers need to start again, says Chandler
Thursday 04 March 2010
Victor Chandler doesn't have much time for racing's administrators. "You know, four horseracing enthusiasts drunk in a pub could come up with better ideas than they have." He still loves the sport, and will be at Cheltenham to see his Champion Hurdle chance Zaynar run.
But he worries that younger punters remain unmoved, preferring football as a betting medium. And he has little time for the recent efforts of those who run racing to change this, at least when it comes to flat racing.
"What's wrong with flat racing is that you've got a sport whose calendar is dictated by the social calendar of the 19th century. Which is a nonsense. You've got the highlight of the season (the Derby) in the first third and we depend on the finale being in Paris for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and on the Breeders' Cup in the States. It's insane."
The beginning of the (turf) flat season – which traditionally kicks off with the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster – is no better, in Chandler's view, coming as it does, just before the Grand National which inevitably shifts everyone's focus back to the jumps: "There's got to be a narrative, there's got to be a start to the season; there have got to be heroes created during that season, then there's got to be a finale."
His idea is that the latter should be a festival of racing at Ascot. Possibly including the Derby: "That's got to be moved to the end of the season and it should be for four-year-olds not three-year-olds."
Traditionalists should now be having palpitations, but Chandler hasn't finished. When I suggest that such a fixture might face difficulties because it would clash with the Arc (where the much of the crowd and atmosphere are provided by an invasion of British and Irish fans), he says simply: "It's simple. I say, 'Compete, put more money in'." He continues: "What frightens me is that across our business the overall turnover is going up rapidly, except on horseracing. It's a generational thing. The young people just don't go horseracing. They don't understand it – they don't understand the terms. My nephews can talk all night about soccer. But they'r e just not interested in racing."
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