You buy a racehorse, pay a trainer to train it, then have to pay for extra’s like entry fees, jockey and transport fees when it races. There is also vet bills and farrier bills. Surely after coughing up all of that you’re entitled to feel that without owners there would be no horse racing, and as such racegoers and punters are an irrelevance. You would surely be right to think punters contribute nothing to horse racing, and a trainers only obligation is to the bill payer, the owner. Wouldn’t you? If you’d asked me yesterday I would have said nobody in their right mind could possibly think that, but social media, and the insights it gives, never ceases to amaze, and a simple tweet from me on Friday morning after Presenting Percy wasn’t declared for Gowran Park today, provoked much more reaction than I would have anticipated.

“I spoke to Pat this morning and he is very happy with Presenting Percy. He came out of the Galmoy Hurdle very well and has improved from that. Pat is happy with where he has him now and he has a measure to go on because we were in exactly the same place last year targeting the same race this weekend.

Philip Reynolds, Presenting Percy’s owner, speaking on Tuesday.

Given the quotes from the owner earlier in the week, and with the horse trading around 4/5 with the bookmakers to win the Gowran race, it was generally assumed he was an intended runner, and he would have been expected to add a few thousand extra racegoers to the Gowran crowd, but when declarations came through at 10:00 on Friday morning, Presenting Percy wasn’t among them, and it wasn’t until Johnny Ward finally manged to contact his owner at 11:45 that the general public found out the horse was alive and well, and still on target for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is favourite for. Now I’m not saying a horses owner should be at the beck and call of the media, far from it, they will likely have a job they need to do, in order to pay for said horse, but surely with such a high profile horse, it isn’t asking too much that Pat Kelly, the horses trainer, might have either took it upon himself to notify someone in the media, or answered the phone when they were ringing him. All he had to tell them was he just decided not to run, and that the horse was fine. Hardly top secret information. It would have took him all of thirty seconds. Do the racing public mean that little to him that he couldn’t be bothered to do that?

So I tweeted this

I was expecting a few hard of thinking owners to possibly get on their high horse, but assumed any reasonable person would agree with me, and didn’t really expect much reaction either way. I just felt it needed saying. As the amount of likes and retweets show, most people did agree with me, and a few of the replies did too, but there was quite a few who got very upset with my comments.

I wonder why Luke thinks punters and racegoers are take out merchants, you know the ones who are responsible for the betting tax, that the government then return to racing in the form of a grant. The same grant which pretty much equals the total prize-money for the whole season. Where exactly would Presenting Percy be racing next month if it wasn’t for punters and racegoers, because it certainly wouldn’t be Cheltenham, because the course would only exist in a Dick Francis novel.


James seems particularly upset, it’s also fairly clear my point, despite it being pretty obvious, went way over his head.


I certainly never claimed in my tweet that racing didn’t need owners, although actually thinking about it, racing could exist without owners, it would be on a smaller scale, but might actually be better, as it would then be all about punters, and better information would need to be provided. The training fees for a 1,200 horse population would only make a small dent in the  €225 million profit the Hong Kong Jockey Club make annually, so they could easily fund the cost of owning the horses,  they then wouldn’t need to provide any prize-money, as it would be purely a betting product. So if they can do it, I don’t see why, once we got rid of the notion that racing is bent, that we couldn’t. Racing on the other hand would only exist in a farmers field without punters, but more on that later.


I really don’t see how long he’s training, or how many people have heard of him, matters. As for the job well the owner wouldn’t be paying the bills for long if there where no racecourses to race on, and no races to run in, and there wouldn’t be without punters and racegoers.


Who asked him to do an interview, a 20 second phone call, or text would have done it. You know kinda like if someone asked you the time, it’s not really that big an inconvenience to tell them.


This peoples’s horse idea is a real beaut. Funnily it was the press that Tadhg doesn’t care much for, that came up with that idea. What makes him the peoples horse, his millionaire owner, or perhaps his trainer who doesn’t do interviews, or maybe the horse who runs a couple of times a year? Baffling what exactly makes him the people’s horse, but sure there’s always a few who will fall for it.


Tony didn’t like my comments at all and had quite a bit to say, but as you can see he didn’t say anything of much value. He also seems to think a quick text to say the Gold Cup favourite is okay, comes under the privileged info umbrella.


Andy seems to think if you’ve been ignorant in the past then it’s okay to be ignorant all the time.

There was plenty more tweets, but mostly saying the same things. So does the claims that owners have no obligation to the racing public hold water? There is no law saying they have to do interviews, but to suggest owner’s are the only reason racing exists, and that racing could survive without racegoers and punters is laughable. Trainers would do well to realize that, and treat the betting public with more respect, as they are just as vital as owners, if not more so, in financing the job of a racehorse trainer.

The fact they don’t do this directly seems to have fooled a few, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Irish Racing will receive a government grant of €67.2 million in 2019, and with the increase of betting tax from 1 to 2%, they expect that to be entirely funded by the money punters bet. Prize-money in 2019 is expected to be €66.1 million, so betting tax will contribute more than 100% of the prize-money that owners receive.  If you took that away how many would still pay the training fees? Media rights, another vital contributor to horse racing funding, also wouldn’t exist without punters. Would race courses open up their courses without any race goers, or any TV money for putting on the racing, which wouldn’t have any prize-money? Or course they wouldn’t, so we wouldn’t have any racecourses. Would sponsors, who are mostly bookmakers still hand over millions a year to racing without punters? Of course they wouldn’t.  With none of that income going to racing, would the owners still pay the trainer the monthly fees, the same owners who pay less than 1% of total prize-money in entry fees? Of course they wouldn’t. It seems blatantly obvious, at least to anyone with a functioning brain, that while racing needs owners, it also needs the public to take a interest in either attending it, or betting on it.

Graham sums up what would happen without punters better than I could.

It should be noted some trainers are very open with the media, and should be applauded for it, and this shouldn’t all be about Pat Kelly either, as there is plenty more trainers, with Willie Mullins being an obvious example, that give very little away to the media. I don’t expect trainers to tell us how every horse is working, or if they ate up last night, but is it really too much to ask that they pass on information that costs them nothing, that they couldn’t possibly gain anything from by keeping it a secret, but would be of great interest to the racing public. I really don’t think it is, which was the whole point of my tweet, but as so often happens with social media these days, if people who disagree can’t find a logical argument to counter what you actually said, they’ll pretend you said something totally different, and then come up with an illogical argument to counter that.

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