Thursday, June 5, 2014

Recent news







*********************************************
As part of the much vaunted redesign of Leopardstown racecourse, their marketing team have launched a new brand identity which aims to capitalise on the recent success of attracting younger race goers. Incorporating the tagline ‘Dublin's heart is racing’, the design features a regal, purple background and heavily advertises the hospitality side of the operation.  On the back of the launch, Pat Keogh CEO of Leopardstown said: “The new brand identity portrays a modern, vibrant and contemporary design".  Opened in 1888 Leopardstown's design was based on Sandown Park but it now very much carries its own individuality.
*********************************************
The search for the new CEO of Paddy Power is still in an early phase and although the company has until April 2015 to find a successor, their shot selection will be extremely astute. Although the new CEO is bound to meet challenges, particularly in a maturing online market, the CEO role is an extremely lucrative one. Patrick Kennedy is among the highest earners of any Irish company for some time now. Over the past decade, Kennedy has received shares worth €24.6m. He also has options of €4.7m and has received salaries totalling €15m. Far from Paddy Power to admit it is a cash cow but these figures tell a different story. Current front runners for the new CEO include Cormac Barry who joined Paddy Power in 2000 and currently runs Sportsbet, Paddy Powers Australian arm. Sportsbet is Australia's biggest corporate bookmaker and was acquired by Powers in 2009. Interesting times ahead.
*********************************************
Three recent racecourse meetings in the UK raised eyebrows for all the wrong reasons. The official crowd figures for three turf meetings were paltry at best. 755 were in attendance at Brighton,  803 at Carlisle 803 and at Nottingham 830 souls braved the elements. There may not be much financial future for tracks based on those numbers and it serves as a warning for all Irish racecourses to stay on their guard.
*********************************************
Denis Egan, head of the Turf Club has issued a shot across the bow when declaring that there are two separate cases pending about the banned practise of jockeys involvement in laying horses on betting exchanges. This comes in the wake of a four year ban and €10,000 fine handed down to 25-year old Eddie O’ Connell who pulled up the James Lambe-trained Yachvili at Downpatrick in 2011. Betfair subsequently notified the Turf Club about irregular betting patterns including a £10,000 bet which had been laid on Yachvili to not finish in the first three. O’ Connell is currently weighing up his options and his solicitor Andrew Coonan has stated that an appeal against the suspension is under consideration  HRI funding to the Turf Club has had its integrity budget reduced by almost a quarter since 2008 and now stands at €5.9m.
*********************************************
Hard to imagine that 30 years have passed since the Ballydoyle second string Sadler's Wells beat Procida & Secreto to win the Irish 2000 Guineas. Before his death in 2011, Sadler’s Well was a fourteen-time champion Irish sire and had produced over 100 Group 1 winners worldwide and 23 classics in Great Britain, Ireland and France. His progeny have earned over €120,000,000. His bloodlines are still very dominant through Galileo and New Approach. Not bad going.


Recent News




*********************************************
It has not been an easy time for Enniscorthy jockey Daryl Jacob of late. The 30 year old is currently recovering from a broken knee, leg and elbow after his mount Port Melon crashed into a rail on the way down to the start for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Jacob has now received further bad news as he has lost the position of stable jockey to Paul Nicholls despite riding 57 winners for the trainer last season.
The newly crowned UK Champion Trainer announced on his Betfair column that Sam Twiston-Davies will assume the leading role at Ditcheat for the upcoming season. Jacob was offered the Number 2 position at Nicholl’s yard but turned it down, instead preferring to work as a freelance agent. Nick Scholfield will be second-in-command instead.
Speaking to the Press Association, Jacob said: “Paul offered me the job as number two, but at this point in my career I feel I want to go freelance, I will be available for more rides and hopefully some good rides. I’m very positive about what I am doing.”
Paul Nicholls was quick to add that there had been “no falling out” with Jacob, and that he would continue to ride for the stable. “Daryl will continue to ride out and school a couple of times a week here next season, and will ride for us when the opportunities arise, which I am sure they will.” Nicholls also confirmed that Sam Twiston-Davies will continue to ride The New One and Noel Fehily will continue to ride Silviniaco Conti.
Paddy Power reacted to the news positively and are are expecting Sam Twiston-Davies to ride plenty of winners for Nicholls, he is currently second in the market for leading jockey for their handicap market with + 45 winners.
*********************************************
Horse Racing Ireland held a ‘Go Racing Kids’ Club’ Day at The Curragh Racecourse at which 250 fifth and sixth class local primary school pupils attended. The initiative aims to foster ties between the local community and the racecourse and to instil an interest in horse racing which will hopefully blossom down the line.
There were demonstrations from R.A.C.E. (Racing Academy & Centre of Education) and local farrier, Donal Bennett as well as a talk from Bryan Cooper and Mark Bolger. The pupils also met Racecourse Manager, Paul Hensey who explained to them how the team at The Curragh Racecourse prepares for a race day.
Evan Arkwright, Commercial Manager at The Curragh Racecourse, commented: “The Go Racing Kids Club Day is a great opportunity for the Curragh to promote horse racing to the younger generation in particular to the many kids who have never been to the races”.
*********************************************


*********************************************
Once again The Punchestown Festival delivered. It is now without question Ireland’s largest annual corporate hospitality event and the five day racing spectacle contributed over €70 million to the local economy. The numbers look impressive too, 100,000 people attended and 726 national, international and local companies were involved in the Festival.
There was a significant rise in interest from the UK market with the Punchestown ticket office reporting a 20% rise in UK-based Ticket and Hospitality bookings. 20,000 were drawn from across the water, a very substantial figure. This was very much in line with overall pre-sales of tickets up a third on last year.
With the prize money increased by 14% to €2.5million, The Punchestown Festival is living up to its billing as “The Irish Cheltenham”. For those in the hinterlands of Newbridge and Naas, expectations appear to be surpassed on a yearly basis.
*********************************************
Ladbrokes revenues for its 300 Irish betting offices fell by 13% in the first quarter of 2014, a result which was attributed to football results. Monetary values of bets also declined by 3%  and management conceded that this had been a “difficult year” for the Irish arm of the betting giant. This is now a continued trend for the company and pressure must be mounting on Chief Executive Richard Glynn.
Ladbrokes have been extremely slow to gain a market share of the online space, an area in which Paddy Power have invested heavily and reaped suitable rewards. Although Ladbrokes have teamed up with software developer Playtech to help serve the growing number of gamblers who bet on sports events through their computer, tablet or smartphone, they still have a mountain to climb.
Despite the results, Ladbrokes said it was committed to a dividend pay-out this year of at least 8.9p per share, in line with 2013. profit downgrades over the past two years have piled pressure on Bookmaker William Hill has also announced that it would close 109 loss-making shops this year
*********************************************




Recent news



*********************************************
Meath jockey Colin Keane weighed in at 1.7 lbs overweight after a Navan maiden aboard Princess Tamay last weekend and received a one day ban in unusual circumstances. Evidence was heard from the rider who stated that he had a drink of water which caused the fluctuation. Keane also facilitated the trainer of his mount, T.G. McCourt, by changing the girths after weighing out as they were too loose in the filly. The trainer admitted to the stewards that the original girth was too loose without informing the Clerk of the Scales. T.G. McCourt was found to be in breach of the rules and was subsequently cautioned.
*********************************************
Back when Arkle was running, the Irish Turf Club implemented two handicap systems for the Irish Grand National. One was used when Arkle was in the race and the other when he was not. It is now fifty years since Himself won the 1964 Irish Grand National when he carried two and a half stone more than his rivals. Arkle won the race that day by a length at Fairyhouse for trainer Tom Dreaper and now, half a century late the Dreaper yard saddle two horses with a strong chance in this year’s renewal of the Irish Grand National. Both Goonyella and Los Amigos have been supported in the betting and punters can avail of 7/1 with Boylesports for Jim Dreaper to train the winner of the race. It would be more than fitting if this was to happen given the family connections.
*********************************************
Having only started training with six horses in 2005, David Marnane is holding an open day at his stables in Bansha Co. Tipperary on Sunday April 27th. The day will include meeting David and his team, viewing the horses on the gallops and seeing the training facilities on show. Complimentary refreshments will be served and the morning will provide a great opportunity to meet David and learn more about how his operation works. If you wish to attend on the morning, email Aidan McGarry at amcgarry@itm.ie or telephone 045 443000, confirming your name, email address and mobile number.
After an accomplished career as an amateur jockey, Marnane moved to Dubai in 1997 where he joined Champion Trainer in Dubai, Kieran McLaughlin, and in later years, Doug Watson. Over the past few seasons he has trained many progressive domestic winners and enjoyed success at Meydan
*********************************************
No less than twelve riders received suspensions of between two and four days at Tramore on April 13th following an incident in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Steeplechase. The incident came to light following a report by Turf Club Starter P.L. Malone to the Stewards that all twelve jockeys had disobeyed his instructions by coming forward without being instructed to in this race. M.P. Butler, J.S. McGarvey, K.C. Sexton, C.M. Walsh, B. Hayes, F.J. Hayes, S.E. Butler, I.J. McCarthy,S.J. Crimin, D.E. Splaine, A. Ring and B.R. Dalton were deemed to be at fault and will serve their suspensions presently.
*********************************************

*********************************************
Viewership of Channel 4’s racing coverage continues to tumble as figures released recently make poor showing. The Morning Line is down 18.5 per cent on 2013 while Aintree figures are down 19 percent. Since the departure of John McCririck, Alistair Down and John Francome, the refreshed format and presenting team of Clare Balding and Nick Luck have not struck a chord with the racing public as a whole. The lack of dynamism and the increase in novelty segments has clearly not worked. A recent episode of the Morning Line had a link with a milk man travelling around on his daily milk run dressing up as a jockey and then going into Aintree. Ted Walsh was also less than impressed when Channel 4 had a “psychic pig” pick out the winner of the Champion Hurdle. Unfortunately the selection was Our Conor. Walsh summed the whole episode up as " pretty pathetic really". A description which could easily be extended to the current viewing figures of Channel 4 racing.
*********************************************
In Chengdu, China, there was a race meeting held last week. Of course since betting on horse racing was outlawed by Chairman Mao in 1949, there was no gambling at the event. Still this may be taken as a positive step forward and in May, Hong Kong hosts the Asian Racing Federation Conference and which will include sessions on racing in China, its current state and its prospects. In gambling-mad Hong Kong, will the allure of the bookmakers be allowed a foothold. It remains to be seen.
*********************************************

A newcomer to the betting exchanges asked a well-seasoned member the following question:
 I would like to lay the favourite in every horse race. What's the easiest method of doing this?”
The reply came:
 “Just send a cheque to Betfair each month. Perhaps a standing order would be best.”
*********************************************






Recent News




*********************************************
Joseph O' Brien ran into some criticism at Leopardstown this week when beaten on four very short priced favourites, two of the at odd-on. However this is unlikely to trouble O’ Brien who was champion jockey in Ireland in 2012 with 87 winners. He then retained his title in 2013 with 126 winners and in doing so, set a new record which surpassed that held previously by Mick Kinane which was 20 years old. It is a long season and there will be better days ahead.
*********************************************
Tony McCoy has stated that this could be his last or second last Cheltenham festival and the question on everyone’s mind is who would be JP McManus’s new retained jockey ? It would be the most high profile position in jumps racing and a massive challenge to emulate the predecessor. Barry Geraghty is unlikely to leave Nicky Henderson and both Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell are approaching the end of their careers. The appointment of the last two stable jockeys points towards youth, Bryan Cooper  for Michael O’ Leary and Danny Mullins for Barry O’ Connell are both 21 years of age. If JP could prise Paul Townend (23) away from Closutton, it could well be a worthy and rewarding coup.
*********************************************
In the space of half an hour in Dubai everything changed for Michael Halford. Eastern Rule at 33/1 finished ninth in the Godolphin Mile but in the next race, the Dubai Gold Cup, Certerach, also at 33/1, ran a blinder. Already a winner at Meydan this season, Certerach dourly beat the 7/4 favourite, Cavalryman and claimed the $600,000 first prize for owner Paul Rooney.
Halford aside, Dubai World Cup night was a forgetful one for Irish trainers. The highlight of Aidan O’ Brien’s team was a fourth place finish in the UAE Derby. To add hubris, the winner of this race was ridden by former Ballydoyle stable jockey Jamie Spencer.
Another fancied Irish runner, Eddie Lynam’s Sole Power finished down the field in the Al Quoz 5f Sprint but the big Irish disappointment on the night was another Ballydoyle horse, Ruler Of The World. Last year’s Epsom Derby winner, the 4yo raced for the first time in the colours of Al Shaqab Racing, who bought a 50% share in the horse the week of the Dubai World Cup. This may well be a sign of things to come for Ballydoyle and Coolmore and it opens up possibilities for a new and powerful challenge to Sheikh Mohammed and the Darley and Godolphin outfits. From now on Ruler Of The World will abandon the dark blue silks of John Magnier and race in the new racing colours of Grey, gold braid, maroon velvet cap, with a gold fringe.
*********************************************




*********************************************
Qatari investment powerhouse QIPCO Holdings and Horse Racing Ireland have announced a new three-year sponsorship agreement for the Irish Champion Stakes which will take place at Leopardstown in the middle of September. This race will be the feature on Day One of the new Irish Champions Weekend and features a prize-fund for of €1,000,000, a significant increase on the 2013 figure of €750,000. The two day meeting will also feature the Estate Irish St. Leger.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said : “We are honoured to welcome QIPCO as sponsors of the Irish Champion Stakes and on behalf of Horse Racing Ireland, I would like to thank Sheikh Hamad, Sheikh Fahad and their family for their support. The Irish Champion Stakes is one of the most important races in the international flat racing  calendar and with the involvement of QIPCO it can become the first leg of a  ‘Triple Crown’ of European Championship races, followed by the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and the QIPCO British Champions Stakes at Ascot in October.”
The Irish Champions Stakes was first run in 1976 and winners include Sadler’s Wells, Daylami, High Chaparral and New Approach. The winner of the race receives an automatic entry to the Breeders Cup with all entry and travelling expenses paid
*********************************************
Ballinrobe, awarded Irish Racecourse of the Year in 2012, has announced that two high-value races will be held on May 27th  which will be the inaugural McHale Raceday. The Mayo National and the McHale Coranna Handicap Hurdle each carry a prize-fund of €30,000 and will make them the most valuable races ever staged at Ballinrobe.
McHale, one of the leading Agriculture Dealers in Ireland are based in Claremorris  will sponsor six races on the day. The company is run by Managing Director Padraic McHale, who commented on the sponsorship deal: “We are very happy to sponsor the Raceday on the 27th of May. Over the last 15 years since we opened the factory in Ballinrobe, we have watched as the Racecourse has developed into a top-class facility. The Racecourse Committee and Management deserve the height of praise for developing the Racecourse into the superb venue it is today”
*********************************************
Jim Bolger and Aidan O’ Brien both received commemorative pins and crystal pikes at the Curragh Racecourse. The pins and pikes were designed by Wexford Artist Fred Curtis and marked the trainer’s status as Wexford Ambassadors. Both Bolger and O’ Brien are Wexford natives and were chosen as Councillor John Hegarty, Chairman of the Committee charged with delivering the Ambassador Programme revealed: “While the county has many assets, none are more significant than the quality of its native people.  At home and across the world, in sport, literature, music, media and business, Wexford men and women have achieved significant success, disproportionately, it has to be agreed, to the size of the county. Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien are Wexford natives, professional, hugely successful, globally respected and yet very much associated with their home county; we felt were the ideal representatives for the county and what it has to offer.”
*********************************************