January is never a good month on the weather front and this one is no exception. Wet, dark and dismal days, cut short by a lack of daylight but at least we have passed the shortest day. Nevertheless, the horses are kept busy with their all important initial prep work of walking, trotting and, this year their muscles are getting extra help to grow and strengthen via the water treadmill which, right now is flat out working all hours.
While trainers start to get their teams ready for the 2016 season, Racings future on mainstream TV has been thrown into the spotlight with Channel 4 losing the job of screening our big meetings after a couple of years of dwindling numbers and below par coverage. Us simple trainers might not be that bright at times (how can we be doing what we do for what we get out of it? other than some marvellous, unforgettable days and the privelige of working with horses and no I wouldn't want it any other way), but we will all tell you that while the public might like a bet, they categorically do not want to see nothing but betting, betting and more betting with a quick shot of horses racing thrown in for good measure.
No, what the public craves is to see behind the scenes of one of the most fascinating sports ever known to Man. A sport where money doesn't buy success ( although it helps) and where we all learn to expect the unexpected. TV coverage of old showed inside the yards, talked to the stable staff, the jockeys, all the people at the grass roots of the game. They interviewed and quizzed trainers, they got to know, and see the individual horses personalities, see them in their home environment, in training and the tough graft that goes into preparing them for racing. And the public loved every minute of it.
They loved too the presenters of old who were well versed in racing, had an innate knowledge of the game and crucially understood racing and horses. They were people Jo public knew were more than well versed in all things horsey, not like some of the presenters now who lack credibility and wouldn't know a horse if they were kicked by one. Many of the current presenters are of course excellent but we can do without those who are not and whose focus is on nothing other than betting, odds, margins, distances, sectional times and how "they" would like ride a race. I am not saying that Jo public don't want to see some of the technical side of racing, or that presenters can't have their own opinion, far from it, but they don't want it rammed down their throats. They want the fascinating fun stuff that actually means something to them in real terms, well presented by knowledgable, and credible TV presenters.
Turning the clock back and learning from the past is all that is required to get racing back up there in the public domain as second only to football in the publics affection for TV sport, in fact I would dare to say that in the right hands racing could, one day overtake football. It certainly has the potential.
Happy New year and all the best to everyone, especially ITV.