I usually listen to the Today programme sports bulletin on Radio 4 each morning, as much as anything to find out the two racing tips for the day. They are often a couple of horses to miss. But on Tuesday this week it was the tips themselves that were missing.
Former jockey Luke Harvey had submitted his selections as usual, but somewhere along the line the production team had put the wrong day’s horses into presenter Rob Bonnet’s script. Outcome – no tips at all that day. There was no outcry from listeners, so on Wednesday the BBC decided to test the water and see whether people still wanted racing tips included.
Garry Richardson, the main sport presenter on the programme said on the 0730 bulletin yesterday, “The tips have been an institution on the programme, they’ve been going well for over 35 years I think, and I’ve been reading them out for 31 years. People say to me that they love the tips, but are they right or wrong?” He went on to invite listeners to mail their thoughts in to the programme, and it didn’t take the 48 hours allowed for a clear opinion to emerge that people wanted them to continue.
As reported on the Guardian's racing site, Ceri Thomas, editor of Today explained the response. “The interesting thing is that as soon as you ask the question, overwhelmingly among several hundred emails and other contacts, by about four to one people want us to continue, so we will. It was a finger in the wind, but it’s pretty clear that people think they’re rubbish, no one puts any money on them and they think you’d be mad if you did, but they still want them there. They are not all haring down the bookies, but they like the name-checks for their local course, there’s a whole basket of reasons.”
Given the much reduced coverage that racing now receives in the daily newspapers, with few publishing full cards these days, any further media loss would not be welcome, a point picked up by Rod Street, chief executive of Racing For change. He said, Any mention of racing to a big audience is a good thing, and in my opinion we should be very careful about ceding space, be it in broadcasting or the printed media. I would rather Today talked about racing once a day than it didn’t, it’s as simple as that.”