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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain