Racing TV off to a less than satisfactory start, but things can only get better

Racing TV covered its first Irish race meetings on Tuesday, Fairyhouse, and Tramore, and one has to say, it was a less than satisfactory start, writes Pat Keane.

Racing TV off to a less than satisfactory start, but things can only get better

Racing TV covered its first Irish race meetings on Tuesday, Fairyhouse, and Tramore, and one has to say, it was a less than satisfactory start, writes Pat Keane.

It was always going to be a tough opening day for the channel. They had four British meetings to cover as well, including iconic Cheltenham.

So drawing any hard and fast conclusions, based on limited evidence, is not fair. Nevertheless there were worrying initial signs that the fears of many in this country may well be realised.

Plenty have expressed the opinion that Irish racing will be treated as a second-class citizen by Racing TV. I wasn’t one of them, but we can certainly say that on Tuesday it was clearly at the bottom of the heap.

The overriding impression was that both Fairyhouse and Tramore were regarded as an irritant, something of an inconvenience.

You were left wondering why Racing TV wants Irish racing at all. One got with the impression, deep down, they actually don’t. Hopefully that is completely wrong.

But look at what they did, on an afternoon when you might have thought they would have wanted to make a good impression on Irish viewers.

When an Irish race was on, if a British race started during it then they split the screen. If a British race was on, and an Irish race began during it, they didn’t split the screen and only went over to the Irish contest when the British race was over.

A good example was the 12.55 at Fairyhouse, a two and a quarter mile mares’ novice hurdle won by Willie Mullins smart My Sister Sarah. We were finally allowed to view the race heading to the fifth last flight.

Then you had the 3.30 at Tramore, which was totally ignored by Racing TV. Now this came at a particularly busy time for the channel and you can argue they were faced with attempting to solve the impossible.

But what was so disappointing was the fact no reference at all to the Tramore race was made in the Racing TV studio.

They didn’t tell us we wouldn’t see it, or that it was even off. Then to add insult to injury the programme anchor reminded everyone, eleven minutes after the starting time: “We owe you a race from Tramore.’’ And then they proceeded to show it from just before the second last fence.

Of course, we only see things through green-tinted lenses. You’d imagine at least some British viewers were tearing their hair out with what was unfolding in front of them.

So many of them surely would have loved to enjoy Cheltenham in all its glory. But instead of a relaxing afternoon, with analysis before the races and interviews afterwards, they got precious little of that as the cameras whirled from pillar to post.

Take the last at Cheltenham, as the guys on track settled down to discuss what might happen. But they didn’t get very far, as the action switched to the bumper at Fairyhouse. You could almost sense the exasperation in their voices and it would only have taken for one of them to mutter “why do we have to go over to this bloody Irish stuff’’, to really throw the cat among the pigeons.

Remember Matt Chapman on the old ATR and the number of times he said: “We love our Irish racing.” Well there was precious little love in the air for our game on Racing TV. The offering was soulless and colourless. It can only get better, but, one suspects, that on days like Tuesday, Irish Racing will get no more than a basic coverage. Hopefully, we won’t be asking the same question in a couple of months: Why does Racing TV want Irish racing?

And as regards the utter madness of the entire industry currently having no access to Irish racing video archives, HRI should, at best, be seriously embarrassed.

THE Tramore stewards zoned in on an easy target on Tuesday when suspending the Ted Walsh-trained Batcio for 42 days and his rider, Aubrey McMahon, for five days, following a two-mile maiden hurdle.

Now it has to be said that this didn’t look great and McMahon should have been a lot more animated on a horse that was never put in the race. You can’t really argue with the suspension handed down to him.

But giving the horse six weeks on the sidelines seemed way over the top. You have to take into account that McMahon is relatively inexperienced, only rides intermittently and essentially aboard horses provided for him by his father, Luke. He is a true Corinthian.

When stewards are handing down such a large sentence they should surely take into account the type of animal with which they are dealing.

Despite the fact he is the winner of two modest bumpers, Batcio is a horse I would never back. To my eyes he is best described as empty when the pressure is applied.

Prior to Tramore he had run twice over hurdles, at Punchestown and Galway, and was ridden forward on both occasions.

He was beaten just under 26 lengths when sixth at Punchestown and 22 lengths plus when fourth at Galway. He fell in a hole both days.

You can also make the case that he is basically a summer horse, his bumper successes coming on good ground. The surface at Tramore was soft.

WHILE Samcro continues his slide into oblivion, it was, in contrast, encouraging to see a real return to form by Footpad at Leopardstown over the Christmas.

He was the best and most exiting two-mile novice chaser in training last season, emphasising that with stunning victories at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals.

But his seasonal debut at Naas on November 10 was a disaster. He ran a shocker and was struggling badly to close down eventual winner, Saint Calvados, when falling at the last.

Leopardstown, however, was much better. He jumped quite beautifully and looked all over a winner when cruising ahead approaching the last.

But in the final 50 yards Footpad wilted and was grabbed and beaten half a length by the veteran, Simply Ned.

Now the bare form gives him zero chance of turning over the mighty Altior in the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

But I have a feeling Footpad was badly in need of it at Leopardstown and his next outing will be all important. This week he was a 9-1 shot for Cheltenham, behind 1-2 Altior, and that represents fair each-way value.

Two other Leopardstown horses we would like to see again are Joseph O’Brien’s Sir Erec and Willie Mullins’ Tiger Tap Tap.

They were first and second respectively in a juvenile hurdle, separated by a neck, and the manner in which the pair powered clear on the run in, it was eight lengths to the third, was impressive. I’m convinced one of them will win Cheltenham’s Triumph Hurdle.

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