Flat racing in Britain and Ireland has a real problem and is simply a poor relation when compared to the National Hunt scene.
It's not a poor relation in terms of prizemoney, of course, but, taking into account punter perception, it has acres of ground to make up on the jumping game.
I used to be a fanatic on flat racing and, at one time, probably preferred it to jumping. Love of the flat was very much fuelled by the Vincent O’Brien-Lester Piggott combination.
Piggott is the biggest name flat racing has ever produced and, in our younger years, it was almost sacrilege to miss a Curragh meeting when he was riding there.
But those days are long gone and, somehow, the flat just doesn’t have the same magic any more.
In contrast, National Hunt racing seems to get more and more exciting. A sort of cynicism has kicked in with many regarding the flat and the gap between it and National Hunt gets bigger year on year.
Punters aren't fools and know the flat is big business and their needs are of little or no consquence as far as many of the major players are concerned.
Trying to make a profit on the flat as well is far more difficult for punters than National Hunt racing.
The flat can often be no more than a guessing game, with so much hidden and so little on which to base one’s judgement.
Don’t kid yourself, if you are not “in the know” when it comes to some of the bigger operators then you are, essentially, going to spend the entire campaign running up hill.
Many flat horses aren’t around long enough to get a real handle on them anyway and then there’s the problem of multiple runners from the same yard.
There is nothing more sickening for punters than to see a favourite getting chinned by one of his outsider stable companions. And it happens all the time on the level.
One of the best illustrations of the actual interest in flat racing comes from the excellent Ten To Follow competition run by the Racing Post.
The current competition for the National Hunt finishes with the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday week.
The overall winner will take home £444,500, with plenty more prize money right down to 10th place.
The flat competition will start then a couple of weeks later and history tells us the prizemoney generated by the public will only come to a fraction of the National Hunt figure.
We have enjoyed a rich National Hunt season, culiminating in those nine Cheltenham Festival winners and the promise of so much more to come.
I don’t know about you, but right now I really couldn’t give a toss about the English 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, the Arc or a Donkey Derby which might be run in some obscure hamlet in deepest Donegal!
No, all we want is for Aintree, Fairyhouse and then Punchestown to kick in. Of course, we are going to have to eventually embrace the flat, but it’s going to be an effort!
THERE are two horses of Willie Mullins’ which are exercising the grey matter from this quarter at the moment.
The deeply frustrating Uimhiraceathair, who managed to get beaten again at Gowran Park on Saturday, is one.
To see him finish 17 lengths clear of the third, Ocean Cowboy, and fail to cope with Lenabane was hard enough to swallow.
Lenabane failed to deliver at Clonmel previously, when in receipt of an 8lbs allowance, because he had never won a bumper.
He had no allowance at Gowran and yet was too strong for Uimhiraceathair. I haven’t given up on Uimhiraceathar just yet and will be more than interested in Mullins’ next move.
Perhaps, he will make the running, or could he be moved up to three miles, having appeared woefully one-paced at Gowran?
The other Mullins horse is the mare, J’y Vole, who made a belated seasonal debut at Gowran on Friday last.
She was, admittedly, well beaten into fourth behind Battle Axe, but I was a trifle surprised that one or two peple expressed disappointment at her display.
She jumped and travelled great for much of the two miles, an inadequate trip, before fading badly in the closing stages.
Mullins doesn’t normally run horses back quickly, but we do note her presence in a Grade 3, over two and a half miles, at Navan this coming Saturday.