Conor Grant the new chairman of Racecourse Media Group; previously in charge of Flutter.

 

Conor Grant, the new chairman of Racecourse Media Group, was previously in charge of Flutter.

The new chairman of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), Conor Grant, who previously held the position of chief executive of Flutter UK & Ireland, is scheduled to assume the position later this year.

Grant, 46, is a veteran of the gambling industry. On April 1, he will join the racecourse-owned RMG as a non-executive director. On October 1, he will take over as chairman from Roger Lewis.

He stated, “I am delighted to be joining Racecourse Media Group at such an exciting time for the business and the broader racing industry.

“RMG has delivered outstanding results for its shareholders in recent years and I would like to pay tribute to Roger who has done a fantastic job, along with CEO Martin Stevenson, in growing and developing the business.

“I look forward to working with the RMG team and continuing to deliver for all of our racecourses.”

Grant, a racehorse owner, started his career at Paddy Power before working at Blue Square, BoyleSports, and Sky Bet, where he eventually became chief operating officer.

After gambling giants Flutter Entertainment and Sky Bet’s owner, The Stars Group, merged in 2020, Grant became Flutter’s UK & Ireland CEO, overseeing Sky Bet, Paddy Power, tombola, and Betfair.

Last summer, Flutter made the announcement that Grant would be leaving his position as part of a planned career break and to spend more time with his family.

As the parent company of Racing TV and the umbrella organization for 35 British racecourse shareholders, RMG welcomed Grant’s appointment.

A non-executive director on the RMG board and chief executive of Jockey Club, Nevin Truesdale, stated: I am thrilled to have Conor join the RMG board and to collaborate with him as we expand the company for the benefit of shareholder racecourses.

“Conor brings significant and in-depth expertise to the industry, acquired over a long period of time, and this will help shape our strategies and address the challenges we are facing.”

After 22 months with the racecourse group, chief commercial officer Charlie Boss has left to take the same position with Premier League football club Southampton.

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TonyBet, an online betting company, was fined £443,000 for using untrue identification terms.

TonyBet, an online gambling company, was fined £442,750 for breaking a number of rules, including unfair terms that allowed it to request identification documents for all withdrawals but not for deposits.

The operator was penalized by the Gambling Commission for not adhering to social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, in addition to being found to have terms that were unfair and opaque.

TonyBet, which owns and operates tonybet.co.uk, will also have to go through a third-party audit to see if it is meeting the requirements for AML and social responsibility.

TonyBet’s website’s unfair terms included the company saying it could ask for ID documents for “all withdrawals,” but not insisting on those checks earlier in the process, which the commission said could hinder deposits but not withdrawals.

When customers failed to provide AML documentation within 30 days, winnings could be confiscated, and accounts were considered dormant after six months of inactivity when they should have been considered dormant after twelve months.

Kay Roberts, the executive director of operations for the Gambling Commission, stated: This case not only highlights the measures we will take against gambling establishments that fail to be honest and open with customers, but it also demonstrates our drive to crack down on anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures.”

Failure to identify and interact with customers who might be harmed by gambling was one example of social responsibility failure.

Failures in anti-money laundering (AML) included failing to carry out adequate risk assessments of the businesses that were being used for terrorist financing and money laundering, as well as failing to ensure that they had the appropriate policies, procedures, and controls in place to stop money laundering and terrorist financing.

Following a series of AML and safer gambling failings, Vivaro Limited, which trades under the name vbet, was fined £337,631 by the industry regulator. This is the second punishment this week.

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Flooring Porter’s attempt to win the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle for the third time in a row is in jeopardy, according to trainer Gavin Cromwell.

The star of the staying hurdle division was a 5-1 shot to win the Stayers’ Hurdle for the third time, which would bring him within one victory of Big Buck, but his trainer now rates his participation at 50-50.

Cromwell told the Racing Post on Wednesday: “Unfortunately Flooring Porter has suffered a setback and it’s going to be tight as to whether he will make Cheltenham or not. I would say at this stage it’s probably 50-50. The next three weeks will tell a lot, but he will be missing bits of work which is not ideal.

“It is not a career-threatening injury or anything like that, it is just a small setback which is going to hold us up a bit.”

One of the most successful success stories in jump racing in recent times is Flooring Porter’s journey from poverty to wealth. When he won a maiden hurdle at Bellewstown in 2019, he was only rated 95 and had lost his first four races.

He has gone from strength to strength ever since he won a handicap hurdle at Gowran Park in 2020. He now has a rating of 162 and has won the last two Cheltenham Festivals.

Flooring Porter was defeated at Navan and Leopardstown on his way to winning his second Stayers’ Hurdle in 2022 under another excellent front-running steer from Danny Mullins. He typically saves his best performances for the spring.

This year, the eight-year-old went through a similar training. In November, he finished fourth to Home By The Lee in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan, losing by 12 lengths. However, in the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, he came within three and three-quarter lengths of the same horse.

Flooring Porter has been competing for the Stayers’ Hurdle all season, but the news of his defeat has made Home By The Lee the 4-1 sponsor favourite.

Ned Hogarty, who owns Flooring Porter with father and son Tommy and Alan Sweeney and Kerril Creaven and owns a flooring company in Galway, was one of the festival’s most memorable moments when they carried Mullins on their shoulders after winning the Stayers Hurdle last year. The Thursday lineup at Cheltenham would suffer greatly if he were to withdraw from the 2023 festival.

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The battle between Energumene and Edwardstone has begun, but only one other rival is expected to participate.

The two star chasers, Energumene and Edwardstone, are both on track to compete in Saturday’s LK Bennett Clarence House Chase (3.35), bringing the much-anticipated Ascot matchup one step closer.

After the confirmation stage on Monday, which eliminated Fugitif, Funambule Sivola, Messire Des Obeaux, Minella Drama, and Sizing Pottsie, Amarillo Sky is the only other potential runner.

Energumene, trained by Willie Mullins, will be looking to get back on track in the big race after losing to Shishkin by a length last season after a memorable fight up the straight.

Energumene will compete against Arkle hero Edwardstone for the first time after winning the Champion Chase at Punchestown and Cheltenham.

“That’s the plan.”

On his first start of the season, Energumene won the Hilly Way Chase at Cork in December with a wide margin. According to his connections, he will take his chance this weekend.

Energumene owner Tony Bloom’s racing manager, Sean Graham, stated: “That’s the plan. Rather than go to Leopardstown at Christmas and then to the Dublin Racing Festival, we thought we’d go back to Ascot.”

“He was so good in the Hilly Way and this route gave him an extra couple of weeks. This plan worked last year for him with Cheltenham in mind as well. Hopefully him being there will put a few people on the gate.”

After winning the Tingle Creek by nine lengths in December, Edwardstone strengthened his position as the best two-mile chaser. However, he fell short when he was last seen in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas.

The chaser trained by Alan King was supposed to run for the first time in November at Ascot, but it was pulled out of the Hurst Park Handicap Chase because the ground was too fast. At the moment, the going at the track is soft, from good to soft in some places.

Although Amarillo Sky is rated 19 pounds lower than Edwardstone and 6 pounds lower than Energumene, he has won both of his starts this season.

It will be just the fourth British Grade 1 race in the past ten years that has only three competitors competing. In 2019, a trio entered this race, which Altior won at odds of 1-10.

The number of runners in this year’s field has decreased by at least one. £9,327 was scheduled for the fourth-place finisher.

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Davy Russell’s first victory since his shocking return is “This is what it’s all about.”

Sunday: Punchestown

At Punchestown, Davy Russell spoke as he celebrated Sa Fureur’s first win since coming out of retirement, saying: “It feels great.”

Following Jack Kennedy’s fifth leg break at Naas on Sunday, Russell announced on Wednesday that he would return to race riding less than a month after retiring to assist trainer Gordon Elliott and his owners.

The jockey, who has won two Grand Nationals, had two unsuccessful rides on his first day back at Fairyhouse on Saturday. On his second mount, Sa Fureur, owned by Caldwell Construction, he won division two of the 2m maiden hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

Elliott-trained Sa Fureur won by four and a half lengths at 3-1, improving on a previous second at Limerick. In his debut for Willie Mullins, the 5-4 favorite Bialystok placed third.

“It feels great,” said Russell. “Winning is what it’s all about so it’s great to be back in the winner’s enclosure.

“The crowd is what makes it, the supporters that are here. They clapped me all the way into the parade ring and it’s very nice. It’s a cold day but there’s some great racing on and the crowd appreciates it. If I’m giving joy to them, it makes it all worthwhile.”

At Thurles last month, Russell appeared to have been aboard Liberty Dance when he rode the last winner of his glittering career.

“You get a kick out of riding winners,” said the 43-year-old. “I had a bit of a blow way too early on him and I was kicking myself turning in. I was panicking a bit and might have to take a deep breath now the next time.

“He was good though, he stayed well down to the line. He’ll be a much nicer horse when he matures.”

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Paul Townend is impressed by the stylish Impaire Et Passe and says, “I think he’s very smart.”

Sunday: Punchestown, Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle

With an impressive performance in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, a Grade 2 race that Willie Mullins has used as a springboard for superstars like Vautour and Douvan, Impaire Et Passe made it two wins out of two over hurdles in Ireland.

The most important question is whether Impaire Et Passe will target the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore. Sky Bet has dropped him to 11-2 (from 8) for the Supreme and to 6-1 (from 9) for the Ballymore.

Paul Townend had the 1-3 favorite close to the pace throughout the race, which was mostly run steadily and very tactical. He took control in the straight to win going away by six and a half lengths from good yardstick The Model Kingdom.

The previously unbeaten mare Shecouldbeanything, who withdrew for the majority of the race before becoming sluggish from the second turn, was eight lengths behind.

Townend was pleased and impressed by the winner’s performance because it appears that she does not show much on the gallops.

“As I said after he won at Naas, he does not show us that at home, but he showed a good turn of foot today,” he said. “I was very happy with him. He jumped like a buck and the only hurdle he was slow at was the last.”

“It’s hard to know how good he is because he shows so little at home yet does it on the track. I think he’s very smart and he gave me a great feel today.”

“He jumped only four hurdles at Naas, but how he jumped there was very good and he didn’t miss a beat today apart from the last, which I wouldn’t worry about.”

Townend provided the following response when asked about the return to two miles after winning over two miles and three furlongs the previous time: “It was a worry and the ground was soft enough, but he showed pace out there. Wherever he goes I wouldn’t mind being on his back.”

David Casey, the assistant trainer, said: “He did it all right. Paul said he didn’t do a huge amount in front and he had loads in the tank. He was a bit sharper than he was at Naas and he is going in the right direction.”

“Jumping fences will be his forte. To come back in trip like he did was good as well, especially on the sharp inside track here, and he is still learning. He will have all the entries [for Cheltenham].”

The Model Kingdom, the runner-up, delighted her trainer Noel Meade because she had excellent form against mares going into this.

“I would say there is every chance she’ll go to Cheltenham for the mares’ novice, the owners are mad keen to go,” said Meade.

“I would say that was as good a run as she’s had. The tongue-tie helped but the ground helped too. I think the ground at Thurles last time was probably too quick for her.”

“We are very happy with that. I don’t know if she’ll get up the hill at Cheltenham, but there’s only one way to find out.”

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Goodwood boss accepts the loss of the Group 3s, saying, “We need to take our share of the pain.”

The BHA issued a warning on Friday that removing nine races from Britain’s Flat Pattern and Listed program is only the beginning of an effort to improve the sport.

The Legacy Cup, which is held at Newbury, has lost its Group 3 status, as has the Supreme and March Stakes at Goodwood.

Along with three races from Windsor, the Denford Stakes, the Buckhounds Stakes (Ascot), and the Fairway Stakes (Newmarket) at that venue will no longer be listed races.

The modifications, which were suggested to the regulatory body by a committee that included top trainer William Haggas, were accepted by Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth.

“We had to do something and we’ve done what I said we’d do; take our share of the pain, which is to lose two Group 3s,” Waterworth said.

“I don’t think there’s any debate about the March Stakes. It hasn’t worked. We’d love to see more runners and I’d love to have put more prize-money in but I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s not working as a race.”

“The Supreme Stakes, I’m genuinely disappointed about because we love that, but the committee and BHA team put the argument to us as to why, if we take that race out, it will help the seven-furlong pattern.”

“Although it weakens a meeting that is really important to us, I think, for the greater good of the sport we’ve done what we said we’d do. Everybody should be prepared to take their share of the pain because we’ve got to do something.”

The BHA director of international racing and racing development, Ruth Quinn, stated: “The quality and competitiveness of our Flat Pattern and Listed programme is fundamental, not just to the long-term reputation and sustainability of British racing, but also to the strength of the breed.”

“Work is under way, as part of the industry’s long-term strategy, to deliver substantive improvements to the way our racing is structured, presented and promoted.”

“This includes continually enhancing the performance of our black-type programme under both codes, and ensuring the best horses continue to be bred, owned, trained, and raced in Britain.”

“The changes to the programme for 2023 are the first of a series of measures, which aim to help address some of the immediate challenges in our black-type contests, particularly around field sizes and race competitiveness, ahead of further, more fundamental, improvements – with racecourses involved in the process from the outset – for 2024 and beyond.”

Quinn went on to say that the changes to the jumps schedule for the 2023–24 season would be announced before the Cheltenham Festival in March.

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“We’d expect to be banging winners in,” Honeyball says as the 38-day drought is over.

Blackjack Magic gave the yard a possible turning point for the remainder of the season with his 40th run, which brought Anthony Honeyball out of a slump.

The Dorset trainer typically thrives in the winter, but he had been struggling since December 3, and a bug is one of the possible causes of the drought.

The trainer also used a quiet spell to give vaccination shots, and he thinks it’s just been “misfiring” since.

Smart Casual, Honeyball’s last horse before Tuesday, ran well for a long distance at Ffos Las, giving the trainer confidence in the health of his group.

Blackjack Magic’s straightforward victory in the 3m novice handicap chase under Aidan Coleman added to that.

“It’s good to get the monkey off our back,” he said. “We’ve been a bit quiet, it’s been a combination of loads of factors which had been stopping them. Their blood tests have been saying don’t panic and they seem to be well. Then it’s just been a case of misfiring.

“Winning like that on this ground showed how healthy he, at least, is. It’s good to get that first win in the bank.”

The trainer acknowledges that the timing of his decline in form during crucial jumps season months is not ideal.

He continued, “If this happened through the summer then it’d be normal but it’s come at this time of year where we’ve put all our eggs in one basket to be ready to be firing.”

“We got to do our vaccinations early because they were running crap so at least we’ve got them out the way. We’d expect to be banging out a decent couple of winners but it’s just been a case of pressing pause. Now it’s the time to make hay.”

Nearly a year and a half after getting married, David Pipe and his wife Leanne are on their honeymoon. This meant that the trainer’s legendary father, Martin, was on the Pond House team.

The 15-time champion trainer was in attendance when Barrier Peaks won the handicap hurdle over 2m512 feet while he was in the Maldives.

It was a Scudamore in the saddle, a further nod to the past. Tom, the son of Pipe’s former stable jockey Peter, was aboard.

“David has gone on holiday to the Maldives so I’m here,” said Pipe. “He got married a while ago but there was Covid on so they’ve had to wait a bit!”

As part of the Racing to School program, Pipe was also on duty to teach Christow Primary School students his expertise.

He added: “I met the schoolkids and had my picture taken with them. They asked me if I thought we’d win a race, I said yes but told them the wrong one.

“I said the second race [with Anglers Crag] and we won the third. It’s great to see the youngsters here and enjoying themselves.”

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On Tuesday, both Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill were among 17 entries for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 14—a step closer to the highly anticipated contest.

Constitution Hill, trained by Nicky Henderson, is unbeaten and won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 22 lengths over stablemate Jonbon, arguably the festival’s best performance.

Honeysuckle, who suffered her first defeat at Fairyhouse last month in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, may complete her sensational career with a hat trick in the feature on day one of the festival.

Willie Mullins, who may also be represented by Vauban, Sir Gerhard, Sharjah, and Echoes In Rain, has entered State Man as one of Constitution Hill’s greatest threats.

The number of entries for the 2m12f competition at this stage last year was 23; this year, there were only 17 entries.

Honeysuckle is still running in the Mares’ Hurdle, but Epatante is not there.

After Marie’s Rock was one of 24 horses entered, Henderson will also have a leading contender in the Mares’ Hurdle. Honeysuckle is also in the running, despite connections favouring the Champion Hurdle once more.

With an emphatic victory in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham, Marie’s Rock is the ante-post favourite to retain the Mares’ crown she won last year at odds of 18-1.

Epatante, her stablemate, was omitted by Henderson from the 2m4f Grade 1 entries, but she could be added later. Additionally, she is entered in the Champion Hurdle.

With Grade 1 winners Brandy Love and Echoes In Rain entered, Mullins is expected to hold a strong hand, and he may also be represented by Shewearsitwell, Braganza, and Gauloise. Mullins has won this race nine times since it was first introduced in 2008, six of those victories coming with Quevega.

Porter is flooring in pursuit of a Stayers hat trick.

Flooring Porter, who leads a field of 28 for the day-three highlight, will attempt to win the Stayers’ Hurdle for the third time in a row.

Home By The Lee, a fellow Irish raider who has defeated Flooring Porter twice this season, will present the eight-year-old, who is trained by Gavin Cromwell, with a formidable obstacle.

After winning the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in style last month, Joseph O’Brien’s team is 6-1 with most companies.

It is anticipated that Paisley Park will also compete for Emma Lavelle. Paisley Park has finished third to Flooring Porter in this race the past two years. On Boxing Day, the veteran showed off his class by winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton.

Champ, who won the Newbury Long Distance Hurdle over Paisley Park, was not entered.

The number of entries for the Stayers’ Hurdle has decreased since 2022, when 33 entries were received.

Entry lists in full

Champion Hurdle (17)

Bob Olinger
Constitution Hill
Echoes In Rain
Epatante
First Street
Honeysuckle
I Like To Move It
Jason The Militant
Knappers Hill
Love Envoi
Not So Sleepy
Pied Piper
Sharjah
Sir Gerhard
State Man
Vauban
Zanahiyr

Mares’ Hurdle (24)

Ailie Rose
Anna Bunina
Bop Bop Bobbin
Braganza
Brandy Love
Echoes In Rain
Gauloise
Get A Tonic
Holly Hartingo
Honeysuckle
Indefatigable
Lady Adare
Love Envoi
Marada
Marie’s Rock
Midnight Ginger
Molly Ollys Wishes
Queens Brook
Royale Margaux
Santa Rossa
Shewearsitwell
Skyace
Telmesomethinggirl
West Balboa

Stayers’ Hurdle (28)

Ashdale Bob
Asterion Forlonge
Beacon Edge
Blazing Khal
Botox Has
Buzz
Chacun Pour Soi
Dashel Drasher
Flooring Porter
Gelino Bello
Goshen
Haut En Couleurs
Hewick
Home By The Lee
Indefatigable
Klassical Dream
Langer Dan
Marie’s Rock
Monkfish
Paisley Park
Saint Sam
Sams Profile
Sharjah
Sir Gerhard
Sire Du Berlais
Summerville Boy
Teahupoo
Zanahiyr

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Beep Beep Burrow, the new horse that is aiming to raise money and awareness for Rob Burrow’s fight against motor neurone disease, will not make his debut on Tuesday at Doncaster because of a freak accident.

The six-year-old, whose name comes from the Leeds Rhinos nickname Beep Beep, was scheduled to compete in a bumper that had been renamed in his honor.

But trainer Jedd O’Keeffe said: “It’s unbelievably unlucky. We found him this morning lame in his box and found a haematoma between his front legs.

“We got the vet immediately and the vet found that he may have had a pin prick with a foreign body, or it might be as simple as an infected hair follicle. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those ever, never mind on the morning of a race.”

“I feel so sorry for all the people who have put in so much effort.”

Burrow was scheduled to be in Doncaster with his family to watch Beep Beep Burrow run, whose debut shouldn’t be delayed long.

“It shouldn’t keep him out long at all,” O’Keeffe said. “He may be able to race in ten or 12 days once the medication is out of his system. The good news is that he is okay.”

Phil Hawthorne of The Good Racing Co., which runs Beep Beep Burrow’s racing club, stated: “We got a call from Jedd this morning but fortunately it’s something and nothing, we hope he could be out on January 28 at Doncaster.

“It’s unbelievably frustrating. ITV News were sending a crew, so were the BBC and Sky Sports. We were going to get a fair bit of PR from it.”

Burrow has had motor neurone disease for three years. Last month, at the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, he received the Helen Rollason award for his efforts to raise awareness of the disease. This award honors outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.

Kevin Sinfield, his former Leeds Rhinos teammate, received a special award in recognition of his enormous fundraising efforts for MND charities.

Along with Burrow Seven, a six-year-old who defied nagging setbacks to finish second in a bumper and third in a novice hurdle from four starts before a further injury forced him into retirement, fellow ex-Rhino Barrie McDermott also helped establish a racing club.

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