Last Saturday I went to Haydock to watch Eight And Bob run in a valuable three-mile handicap hurdle, he being owned by the Act D Wagg syndicate of which my wife, Gillian, is a member.
Having found flights for Gillian and three (the oldest three) of our four daughters we set off to Manchester, were kindly collected by Haydock and, being the only syndicate members in attendance, received a really nice lunch on arrival.
Saturday, of course, was a day jampacked with top-drawer racing: Altior v Cyrname; Lostintranslation v Bristol De Mai; Laurina v Minella Indo; If The Cap Fits v Call Me Lord v Roksana.
I wanted, as a spectator, to see it all.
I could, and did, watch Lostintranslation beat Bristol De Mai live and, having saddled Bob, watched Cyrname beat Altior on the big screen,
However, it was the struggle to watch the rest or Gowran Park, and that left me gobsmacked.
As we sat in the owners’ and trainers’ restaurant, I could count nine TV screens available to watch.
One to eight were all showing the same shots: Haydock then Ascot, then the Haydock result until the next live race from Haydock started. What irritated me was TV nine was showing the golf from Dubai.
No Getabird, no Sixshooter v Franco De Port and, in a room full of English owners and trainers, no Huntingdon or Lingfield.
How hard can it be to divide all the screens around a racecourse and show people who are at a race meeting the action from all the away meetings?
I really wanted to watch Laurina, so set off around Haydock in search of a screen showing Gowran Park, which I eventually found in the on-course betting shop.
The place was jammed as punters watched Laurina beat Minella Indo but, to irritate me even more, I have since learned that those in Huntingdon could only hear Altior v Cyrname as they watched horses going to the start at Gowran, and those in Gowran had a rather mixed viewing experience too.
Ascot has always made the other meetings available to its race goers so why, you might ask, am I so angry about this?
The answer is simple: The majority of people who actually go racing are racing fans, and in order to entertain and keep those people coming racing, the racecourses need to entertain them with racing.
The away meetings should be available on all the TVs because last Saturday those in Haydock might have spotted Laurina and thought I’d like to see her, and every racing fan should have had Altior, Cyrname, Lostintranslation, and Bristol De Mai under their noses.
The racecourses call the shots on what they show, they call the shots on how our day at the races goes. But racegoers should not need to be asked to be entertained by racing where there is so much stuff there to entertain them.
It’s the same as each and every one of you who sit down on St Stephen’s Day should be able to watch the big five races — two from Leopardstown, one at Limerick and two from Kempton — live on your terrestrial channel.
Racing is not Ireland v England v France. It’s individuals competing for themselves, that we can all watch and enjoy. The narrative of what racing offers crosses a few borders, but it’s all one game.