Racing: Ask Tom? No point in asking Tate - Sport - The Independent

Racing: Ask Tom? No point in asking Tate

COMMENTARY

IT IS rarely a cause for celebration when one of the best chasers in training is put away for the summer before the big Aintree Festival, but when Tom Tate announced yesterday that Ask Tom will probably not run again until the autumn, some punters will have greeted the news with an ironic cheer.

The reason, just in case you missed it in all the understandable excitement about One Man and Top Cees last Wednesday, was Tate's fascinating evidence to the stewards after Ask Tom's poor performance when fav-ourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. His horse, he said, had suffered a setback during his preparation for the race and was thus not at his best. Ask Tom himself, happily, was none the worse for the experience, but the same could not be said of those unfortunate enough to back him

The first thing you have to say about Tate's actions is that you cannot help but admire his honesty once the race had been run. Other trainers might have declared themselves mystified by his desperate run, or fallen back on that old favourite, "the jockey says he gurgled". Instead, Tate came clean and, even allowing for the detachment from reality afflicting many of his trade, he must have known he was inviting severe criticism, even though the stewards - quite correctly, as the rules stand - decided he had done nothing wrong.

Tate's attempt at justification was to claim that he was in a no-win situation, in which announcing the pre-race setback would have prompted just as many complaints if the horse still emerged victorious. This does not pass the faintest scrutiny. Success for Ask Tom in such circumstances would have reflected even greater credit on his handler, while the defeat which materialised would have been pre-excused by a mishap beyond his control.

Tate, of course, has suffered twice here, since the very fact of Ask Tom's poor showing was a bitter disappointment after so many months of justifiable optimism. He is also a very modest and likeable man, and hardly the first trainer to keep the punting public in the dark. Owners, they will claim, are the ones who pay the bills and thus the only people who need to be informed when their horse goes wrong, but the fact that this attitude is shared by many of his colleagues does not make it any easier to accept.

In fact, no group of participants in the densely interwoven world of racing can claim independence. The prize money which owners covet and which trainers make their living from is largely obtained from punters via the Levy. They need us every bit as much as we need them.

Indeed, if anything they need us rather more. Racing is glamorous, enthralling and unpredictable, and thus an ideal gambling medium, but it is hardly the only one we have. The erosion of racing's share of the punting market is the cause of much alarm among the sport's administrators, and a problem they have recently started to tackle in earnest, with such ideas as the imminent daily "showpiece" handicap to gather in the betting slips. Yet how much of their hard work was undone in a moment by Tom Tate's secrecy?

Until everyone from the top down is prepared to acknowledge their debt to punters, such incidents will recur, and persuade a few more backers that Manchester United or Liverpool are more deserving vehicles for their cash. At least you can be fairly sure that they are trying - in the Premiership and European competitions, at least - and injuries to key personnel will usually be known before kick-off.

This Wednesday the so-called "Three Wise Men" pondering the future of the betting ring will announce their binding decision on how on-course bookies should be regulated. It is a verdict with immense implications for every punter, even those who never visit a track, since starting prices are returned from the on-course market. Anything which might weaken the ring can only benefit the big off-course bookies in their attempts to influence SPs.

The Racecourse Association originally proposed a system which would have re-introduced betting tax to the track by the back door (until disclosure of their plan in these pages a few months ago prompted a hurried re-think).

Did anyone ever ask the punters for their views? Of course not. Whatever the outcome, it seems, the consumers are simply expected to carry on as before. At best, it is a foolish assumption. At worst, a potentially disastrous one.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week