Last weekend saw the nth running, dear reader, of that tremendous team event that has every man, woman and their pets clambering for a TV screen to cheer their side on. No, not the Community Shield or any other football match. I am, of course, referring to the Shergar Cup.
Lest you don't know, the Shergar Cup is a team horse racing event run at Ascot. It's popularity is now so massive that the BBC decided not to bother covering it this year due to ever dwindling viewing figures in recent seasons.
The fact is the whole thing is pants, and it doesn't get people racing, nor does it raise the temperatures of fans into any sort of nationalistic (or, more correctly, regionalistic if that's a word) fervour. No, it's misguided and crap.
Funnily enough, in my ongoing skirmishes with Racing for Change - who occasionally reply to my emails with banal platitudes like the ones below - I mentioned that the Shergar Cup proved beyond doubt that racing people are not interested in team events. They ignored me, which is fair enough. I suspect they may find it harder to ignore the BBC's absence.
The track attendance was up 3.5% at 28,741, which will doubtless satisfy the beaks that this concept works. But look more deeply and you'll see this: thousands of tickets have been given away free for the Shergar Cup since its inception in a bid to bolster the gate.
But that's not the problem. In fact, I actually like the idea of free tickets - it works very well for, I think Uttoxeter, who have had free racing for a couple of seasons.
No, the problem is this: if you want to get people to go racing repeatedly then you need to show them the actual product they'll be served. It's akin to taking up a restaurant on an offer of three courses a la carte and then returning, expecting the same sort of thing, and being served a fast food burger.
Again, there's nothing wrong with the occasional burger. That's not the point either. It's that the expectations of the public are not being sensibly managed. The facts are that we live in an age where there is just TOO MUCH choice. And racecourses and horse racing fixtures is another example of this.
We need to cut down the number of fixtures - and almost certainly the number of courses, horses and trainers - and make racing more of a treat. A classic example is today. Monday racing is appalling, pointless - excuse me, shit - put on for the benefit of bookmakers and betting addicts. It serves no purpose aside from that.
It's a long time since I placed a bet on a Monday outside of a system in my portfolio. It's just rubbish.
More meetings on Sunday with a greater family element - face painting, candy floss and all that caper. That's the answer to bringing the more people through the gates on an ongoing, sustainable basis.
Look at Irish racing. They don't race every day and, even when they do, it's usually one meeting except for weekends. Although revenues are down there (due predominantly to being one of the hardest hit economies in Europe by the current downturn), the product remains as popular as ever.
In other words, despite betting turnover suffering, people are still going racing. The product survives. There's no bloody team events over there!
OK, soap box away for another day or two, and Ireland's racing is a good place to start the rest of the round up. Zoffany was the star turn yesterday and confirmed what many clock watchers had made of him prior to yesterday's Phoenix Stakes, when he won that race by a short margin.
Although the margin was small, the manner of victory was hyper-impressive as first his own pacemaker impeded him, and then he had to dart through a gap between the toiling second and third horses.
He flopped at Royal Ascot but, that Coventry Stakes reversal aside, he is five from five in Ireland. He's a worthy ante-post favourite for the 2000 Guineas in my book. That said, I'm not sure I'd be piling in to the best priced 10/1, and I can certainly swerve Stan James' 'generous' 6/1 quote.
Elsewhere, the racing was fairly moderate and that is the case until next week when we welcome York's August meeting with open arms.
Personally, that rather suits, as I am looking forward to the Premier League football season, and all that jazz.
One thing that is really bugging me right now, and I need to get it off my chest, is the pathetic pouting of pro footballers. English pro footballers. The recent actions of Paul Robinson, Ashley Cole and to a lesser degree Michael Carrick and Wes Brown are deplorable.
Lest you didn't know, these are all related to England selection or otherwise. Now, I'm not sure about you, but I would consider the utmost honour of all honours to be even the tenth choice goalkeeper for England. And to receive a call up to the England squad (or any national squad) is just nirvana, for any player in any country in any sport.
Except football in England. I am so embarrassed to be from the same nation as those pathetic overpaid, pampered animals. Their disdain for the national shirt - and their apathy towards their country - is abominable.
Paul Robinson was dropped some time ago, largely because he was playing terribly. He didn't get to the World Cup, primarily for the same reason. So it's a bit much for him to come out now, when selected for the squad, to say he's retiring. Really, it's a case of having the last word and it's pathetic.
Like anyone actually cares if Paul Robinson retires from international football. Jumped up little tw*t.
Next up, Cashley Cole. Is there a more despicable individual in the country? First, he bitches about 'only' being offered Â£50,000 A WEEK at Arsenal in his autobiography (where do I start?! 25 years old and an autobiography - do you need to know anything else about this guy's God delusions?). Then he cheats on his wife. Several times. Then he ignores the England manager's outstretched hand on the way up the Wembley steps. Oh, and I didn't even mention the allegations about him and his mates 'pleasing each other'. Whatever. I despise this person. He is no kind of example to any young fan, and as long as he and his ilk are in the England team they will go the way of their woeful World Cup performance.
Carrick and Brown, well they should know better. Carrick shouldn't have asked Capello about being dropped at the same moment he was receiving his Community Shield medal. It could wait until the lounge afterwards. Brown's retirement seems reasonable enough, but again it could have been managed much more discretely.
The issue here - which extends to John Terry, Steven Gerrard and now of all people, Peter Crouch allegedly - is that they're not very nice human beings. These guys, the first two at least, have both been involved in public affray incidents in recent years; and have all beenÂ involved in cheating on their partners.
I know it's not an exclusively English thing. But it IS a majoritively English thing. I would 'retire' all of them from the international stage. I want to see people in an England shirt who a) want to wear it (and I mean really WANT!!!), and b) deserve to wear it.
Fully appreciative of the backlash these comments may receive, I'll point out these are just my opinions. I happen to think Ashley Cole might be the best left back in the world, and Steven Gerrard is a fantastic central player. My issues are not about footballing ability with these two.
Anyway, you might have a thought or two on this. Feel free to leave a comment... 🙂
A bit to and fro today, but what about Harbinger's injury? Conspiracy theorists will be loving this one. Unbeaten in four runs this year, including that rout in the King George, he apparently fractured his cannon bone.
Now I'm not saying he didn't incur that injury. I'm merely remarking on how often it seems that these high class animals break down after a major breakthrough victory. This ensures H's stud value, assuming he recovers from the injury (I'm pretty confident he will, but I'm often wrong!).
To be honest, I'd probably have been tempted to retire him after the King George myself. Having been rated the top horse in the world and the best since Ribot apparently, what else is there to prove aside from his precocity in the boudoir (or the barn at least)?
Good luck to connections and the horse, whatever the outcome. That King George performance was formidable.
His main rival in the ante-post market prior to the injury - and now Arc favourite - is Fame And Glory. In winning the Royal Whip Stakes, he proved little more than he still has a leg in each corner and here he managed to beat four other horses who probably had more than just that in common with a coffee table (a leg in each corner, that is).
Bekhabad is now a standout bet for me in the Arc. The 7's with Laddies and Stan James looks more than fair to me, and I've already had a nice poke before Harbinger's crocking.
And finally... the last word today is on the Premier League. You've heard me spout off on certain issues, and you probably now think I know nothing about football. Well, prove it!
I've created a league in the Barclays Premier League fantasy football competition, and you can join it too.
It's totally free to enter, and you have the chance to brag about beating me. Actually, that's very little to brag about. You have the chance to brag about winning the league though!
All you do is pick a squad of fourteen, and nominate your eleven starters. There's a budget constraint and a few other limitations. Each player scores points for you depending on where he plays on the pitch and how he performs. You probably know the general drill.
So, get over to http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ and register your team. Once you've signed up and chosen your team, you can join the Geegeez Super League by clicking the 'Leagues' link on the left side, then clicking the 'Create / Join' tab that comes up, and finally entering this code: 47057-220607
Like I say, it's free and it'll be a lot of fun. And you'll probably finish in front of me! 😉