Racing: Bookies' hard line speeds demise of Channel 4 coverage

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It is, in all honesty, a fairly ropey Saturday afternoon's televised racing, but ropey televised racing may soon be looked on as the good old days as the sport of the turf sets about hanging itself.

It is, in all honesty, a fairly ropey Saturday afternoon's televised racing, but ropey televised racing may soon be looked on as the good old days as the sport of the turf sets about hanging itself.

Just three days remain for racing to react to Channel 4's claim that they need an injection of £8m to continue their current involvement in the sport. It appeared that a blindfold was being applied to racing on the box and a final cigarette offered yesterday when a joint statement was issued following Thursday's meeting of high-level members of the racing and betting communities at the British Horseracing Board headquarters.

"A meeting of members of the racing and betting industries was held at BHB yesterday afternoon to consider the substantial financial subsidy requested by Channel 4 for continued coverage of racing," the statement said. "In view of the extent of the subsidy requested and the precedent such action would set, it was unanimously agreed not to meet Channel 4's request."

At midnight on Tuesday the guns will be cocked. Channel 4, who have laid out a programme for Saturday and mid-week racing in 2006, insist they need money to justify continued coverage. It is claimed they lose £5m a year by screening racing and could reap a further £5m with different content in its place.

The body racing, in whose dictionary the word harmony does not exist, has not even started to react. The big bookmakers' line is that they believe Channel 4 is looking for a way out. They consider a return of 10 per cent on profits to racing as a whole to be sufficient, and that if they pay once then the begging bowl will soon be around again. The current impasse leaves no winners, apart from Columbo fans and viewers who have yet to see "The Cruel Sea". Saturday afternoons may soon be like that.

Goodwood is one of the courses which can expect to take a big hit in the freezing world which beckons, so we should appreciate what would otherwise be greeted as rather mundane fare today.

The Sussex Downs provide us with two Listed races, including a Heron Stakes transferred from Kempton. Here David Flood tries to continue the good fortunes provided by his first Group winner, Im Spartacus, in Ireland on Sunday. The baton now passes to Coeur Courageux, who endured a nightmare in the French 2,000 Guineas two weeks ago. The colt was almost wrestled to the ground before returning in 13th place and with a deep cut.

"He had a terrible experience in France, and got murdered in the race," Flood said yesterday. "But it is down to the horse's constitution that we were able to kick on with him and I think we should see the real Coeur Courageux tomorrow." Yet even the real Coeur Courageux would struggle to mix it with the real Rebuttal (next best 3.25).

Brian Meehan's colt was runner-up in the Middle Park Stakes and third in the Mill Reef Stakes last season. The ambitious entries suggest that connections do not consider those results to be a fluke.

Flood saddles Jonny Ebeneezer in the other Listed contest, the Achilles Stakes, but the six-year-old arrives out of form. Boogie Street is interesting here as he won the contest last year, though that was when he had runs under his belt. This then could be the opening for Corridor Creeper (2.20), the old man river, who, at the age of eight, actually appears to be reaching his best.

Corridor Creeper's trainer Milton Bradley is, as usual, represented in the day's leading sprint, the Scottish Sprint Cup on Musselburgh's biggest day of the season. River Falcon will get due support in the five-furlong race, particularly as his jockey, Kieren Fallon, flies by chartered aircraft to Edinburgh to take the mount after riding work at Ballydoyle.

That will be factored into the price, however, and those seeking better value should play DRAGON FLYER (nap 3.15), down 3lb since a promising run at Haydock last time and also ideally drawn.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Dragon Flyer (Musselburgh 3.15)

NB: Rebuttal (Goodwood 3.25)

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