Racing TV decision has turned out to be a disastrous mistake

Eddie O’Leary expressed grave reservations about Racing TV taking over from At The Races and has been proved correct.

It really is difficult to understand just why Racing TV bothers with Irish racing.

We are only into the second month of the channel’s coverage, having replaced the old At The Races - the long-time home for our game, and already the decision is becoming increasingly disastrous.

As has been well publicised, the latest Racing TV insult came at Gowran Park last Saturday, which housed some interesting fare, including the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase and the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

But the manner in which Racing TV treated the meeting was a joke and left us in no doubt that transferring away from At The Races, now Sky Sports Racing, was a mistake.

I’ve said it here before and will say it again, as far as I can work out Racing TV doesn’t even want the Irish product.

They have buckets of British stuff in their locker and Ireland is an irritation, an annoyance, something that has to be merely tolerated.

As I understand it Horse Racing Ireland’s Media Rights Committee had the task of negotiating the current deal on behalf of the Association of Irish Racecourses.

In any case whoever decided that Racing TV was the place for Irish racing should, at best, be embarrassed. This was a bad deal.

You just knew there was every chance on Saturday that Gowran would suffer. Racing TV had Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton as well, with Kempton kicking in at 4.40.

There was little possibility of a decent lead-in to the Gowran races, proper shows of betting were sure to be thin on the ground and the use of the split-screen inevitable. But if we got a basic service, no frills needed, then that would have been enough.

But what that sorry lot gave us was way short of the basics. At least they split the screen from the start for Monalee’s success in the Red Mills Chase.

But, one suspects, that only happened because of all the publicity the contest generated earlier in the week and the shock non-appearance of Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Presenting Percy, among the declared runners on Friday morning.

After the Red Mills Chase, it was essentially downhill. It began with the third last contest on the card, a two and a half mile beginners chase.

British racing immediately became so important and no split screen was utilised. When the British racing was done and dusted the guy anchoring the show glibly told us they were off at Gowran.

They were off alright and heading to the fourth last, as we were allowed our first glimpse of how the race was unfolding.

Next up at Gowran was a two-mile handicap chase and again there was no question of a split-screen. But this time the relevant British racing ended in time to send us across to Gowran as they jumped the third fence. They were only gone as far as the third, however, because the race was off three minutes late.

But wait - the final humiliation for Irish racing was yet to come, in the shape of the last contest, a mares’ bumper.

On this occasion Racing TV just ignored the contest completely, pretended it actually wasn’t on at all. They couldn’t be bothered showing it.

There was no word of apology, no explanation whatsoever, just your man to glibly - there’s that word again - to give us the result. Their behaviour was totally unacceptable and must have had the HRI hierarchy, if any of them were watching, wondering how they had got Irish racing into such a mess.

When it was initially announced Racing UK, now Racing TV, was taking over coverage of Irish racing it was something of a bombshell. There were those who expressed serious misgivings and they could not have been more-right.

Racing TV is a subscription channel and plenty, including me, have been with them for a good while now. You bundle the dosh in their direction and are then entitled to what you paid for. Irish subscribers are being seriously short-changed and it isn’t good enough.

The lunacy of hopping into bed with Racing TV, instead of Sky Sports Racing, was never better illustrated than with what went on Saturday.

While Racing TV was full to the brim, poor old Sky Sports Racing was, meanwhile, struggling to stay in the game with a lowly all-weather meeting at Lingfield as their only British and Irish offering. They filled in with Cagnes-sur-mer from France, but you’d surely be hard pressed to find anyone with the slightest interest in that.

Now how good a job would Sky Sports Racing have done with Gowran? No matter who they sent to the meeting, or had in the studio, it would have been bright and breezy and, almost certainly, bloody entertaining. But instead of that the HRI and AIR big-wigs decided Racing TV was a better option. I mean that is clearly now just nuts!

And another thing is the fact there is no possibility of Racing TV promoting Irish racing in the way that At The Races did.

Racing TV has reportedly about 50,00 subscribers and goes into some 6,000 pubs in Britain and Ireland. Whatever the true figures it cannot compete with Sky Sports Racing, which has the potential to be massive, with Sky Sports a global brand.

In a couple of weeks Ascot moves across to Sky Sports, Royal meeting and all, as will Chester. But, of course, our geniuses concluded that travelling in the opposite, wrong, direction was the way to proceed. This week I had a glance back at some of the comments offered by prominent Irish racing figures on learning that At The Races was to lose Irish racing.

Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary said: “I am absolutely shocked, I hope we are not sleepwalking into oblivion. How the authorities have allowed this to happen is unbelievable.’’

Willie Mullins said: “I hope Racing UK (Racing TV) will serve Irish racing well, but from our point of view we’re very disappointed to lose At The Races. They have been a great help to Irish racing and have provided a great service to the Irish racing fraternity.’’

J P McManus was quoted as saying quite simply: “I am saddened to learn of the development’’, while Ger Lyons tweeted: “RUK (Racing TV) have big shoes to fill.’’ Right now, they wouldn’t fill their slippers!

Aren’t those comments filled with extraordinary foresight, but then what else would you expect from men that have gone right to the top of their chosen professions? Sadly, such prophetic words are ringing more-true by the minute.

And don’t forget Racing TV has Irish racing for five years, right to the end of 2023. If Trump gets another four years in 2020, it will almost be the end of civilisation as we know it!

And finally, here’s a comment from a guy on social media, in the wake of Racing TV’s dreadful Gowran performance. He said: “When did the Brits ever give a shit about us?’’ Send that man right to the top of the class.

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