Warren Greatrex has come to the defence of jockey Dylan Kitts following a 14-day non-trier ban given by the stewards for his ride on Jet Of Dreams at Warwick. Greatrex argued that Kitts’ considerate handling of the problematic horse demonstrated the jockey’s maturity.
Although Jet Of Dreams finished as the runner-up in the 2m maiden hurdle, the stewards believed that the horse was not ridden with the intention of achieving the best possible position, as it finished six and a half lengths behind the odds-on winner, Soldierofthestorm.
During the race, Jet Of Dreams was ridden in midfield and steadily advanced to fourth position, showing signs of traveling well. Kitts did not exert pressure on the horse until the final furlong, where it finished strongly to secure second place, overtaking the 50-1 shot Rockette.
Greatrex explained that the ride may not have been a flashy, all-out effort, but it was necessary due to Jet Of Dreams’ breathing issues, which Kitts reported to the stewards. Additionally, the horse was experiencing soreness in its near-fore tendon, causing it to veer left. Given these circumstances, a more cautious approach was required, and a more forceful effort would not have improved the horse’s final position.
“If he’d been more vigorous, would he have run better? No'”
The trainer said: “They [the stewards] have to make a decision but I think the lad in the situation did ride him to finish in the best position with a horse that hasn’t been easy, has been keen, and hadn’t been finishing his races. He was trying to the best he could on that horse. They’re saying he should’ve got stuck into him but I disagree.
“Sometimes you have to give credit where it’s due and the young 7lb claimer has given the horse the best he ride he possibly could. Looking at the horse’s history, I was happy with how he’d ridden it.
“If he’d been more vigorous, would he have run better? No, but that’s their decision on the day. If he’d given it an all-action ride the horse would’ve fallen in a hole. In my opinion, he’s ridden that horse like a mature rider and he’s done what I’ve told him to do. He’s got to feel during that race what that horse is feeling to him. He felt he was hanging and was making a noise, which he’s done in the past.”
Greatrex praised Kitts as a talented jockey and acknowledged that he would accept the stewards’ decision gracefully. Kitts has achieved success by riding 11 winners, with the majority of them coming from Greatrex’s Lambourn yard.
“It’s a shame because he’s a very good rider going places, but we’ll move on,” Greatrex added. “I’ve been lucky and I think I’ve made two champions in Gavin Sheehan and Harry Bannister, while Caoilin Quinn was with me for a few years, but this kid is as good as them. He’s got a serious career ahead of him. If he keeps his head down he’s going to be good.”
Jet Of Dreams, who had raced just three days prior at Fontwell, started the race at odds of 6-1 after initially opening at 5-1.
During the 5f novice at Windsor, a bizarre incident occurred when a goose flew onto the track and collided with one of the runners.
As Tears Of A Clown led up the four-runner field, a goose flew across the track towards the leader, causing Rhiain Ingram, the rider of Tears Of A Clown, to brace for impact. However, the goose quickly turned and moved in the path of the Eve Johnson Houghton-trained Revenue, who collided with it. The incident caused the runners to swerve, and they were wide apart, with Revenue having to be pushed along.
Tears Of A Clown remained unaffected by the incident and continued to stay widest of all, while the other runners swerved towards the inside. The front-runner managed to stay clear of the pack, winning the race by a comfortable five-length lead, while Revenue could only manage third place.
Commentator Richard Hoiles exclaimed, “We’ve collected a goose along the way there,” highlighting the unusual and unexpected nature of the incident.
Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher has called for the UK government to adhere to its promise of frictionless financial checks on gamblers and not increase their intrusiveness.
On Thursday, the government unveiled a gambling white paper, which included proposals for “background checks” at thresholds of £125 in net losses per month or £500 per year, with enhanced checks set at £1,000 in losses in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.
The government estimated that only 3% of customers would face more detailed checks, with these conducted via credit reference agencies or open banking. Requests for documents would be a last resort.
Dugher admitted gamblers were likely to be anxious about the changes, however.
The white paper revealed that British racing could see its income from the levy, media rights and sponsorship fall by up to £14.9m per year as a result of the proposed checks.
Dugher said: “Racing is undoubtedly going to take a hit here, as we have consistently warned. I think that is regrettable. One of the issues around this is the extent to which racing is being listened to by the politicians. What I would like to see is racing continue to work with us in the months ahead because there is a symbiotic relationship between betting and racing and I think we need to work very closely together on the shared challenges that we face in terms of the future of the sport.”
The government also stated that it was reviewing the levy, considering whether to extend it to overseas races, increase its contribution and convert it to a turnover-based model from gross profits.
Dugher said: “We will work closely with racing on levy reform but it is not the panacea that some people think it is. This great sport of ours faces huge challenges. So I think there needs to be a fundamental look at what we can do together to improve the long-term financial health of the sport.”
Dugher criticised the white paper’s tone, stating that he was unhappy with culture secretary Lucy Frazer’s assertion that “the temptation to gamble is now everywhere in society”.
“I am not sure how responsible it was to indulge in some of the moral alarmism that we had around the white paper,” he said, “echoes of the religious right with talk about temptation is everywhere. Occasionally politicians do themselves no favours and can reveal just how out of touch they are.”
He added: “There could also have been more acknowledgement of the economic contribution the industry makes. The secretary of state said we pay millions in tax – well we actually we pay billions in tax. There are 110,000 people in this country whose jobs depend on the betting industry and there was not a single word in the secretary of state’s statement to acknowledge that.”
Ian Proctor, chair of the UK & Ireland division of Flutter Entertainment, which owns Paddy Power, Betfair and Sky Bet, agreed with Dugher’s concerns.
He said: “Somewhere lost in all of this is that there are millions of people who enjoy doing this, this is our fun and I think that balance didn’t really come out yesterday. There are millions of people who have a bet every weekend and it’s really key that we make sure that whatever we do next that we are not interfering with people’s enjoyment in life, that’s really important.”
The white paper also suggested that £29m in reserves held by the Levy Board could be used to offset racing’s financial losses while the levy was under review, but the British Horseracing Authority objected that this was not an appropriate use of the funds.
Levy Board chief executive Alan Delmonte said: “We will be holding discussions with DCMS on the white paper, the projections of its financial impact and on the levy review process. The board will consider everything in the round first when it takes decisions in June about expenditure for the rest of 2023, and then later in the year for 2024.”
Charlie Johnston, a young trainer in his first season with a license, is thrilled to have a runner in both Guineas races. Dubai Mile, a chestnut with a big white face, won a Group 1 at the end of October, making him an exciting prospect for Johnston’s Kingsley House. Dubai Mile is among the best in his class, though he may not be the sexiest horse in the lineup for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. Regardless, he belongs in the best company and his toughness may work in his favour.
Dubai Mile won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud after a long battle with Arrest, the Gosden-trained favourite. He had previously shown similar qualities when he finished second of four in the Royal Lodge. While he may not be the favourite, being in the running gives him a chance to do the double. Other horses, like New Approach, Masar, Australia, Sir Percy, and Generous, have been placed in the Guineas before winning at Epsom.
“He galloped on the Wednesday of the Craven meeting before racing and I was very pleased with how that went. It was to give the horse a day out, given that he was going to go into a Group 1 first time out, and a chance for Danny [Muscutt] to sit on the horse again. And to spark a discussion amongst ourselves about what direction we were going with the horse in the early part of the season.
“He’s a Group 1-winning two-year-old. Running into a place in the Guineas would make him a more valuable proposition as a stallion.
“Obviously, he’s run very well in a Royal Lodge over the course and distance. He handles the track very well and we know you have to stay well to win a Guineas.
“Do we think he’s a miler? No. We think he’s going to come into his own when he steps up in trip but this is the best starting point for his year.
“We go there hopeful rather than confident, hoping to see him run a nice trial for Epsom and if he can stay on into the frame, that would be fantastic.”
Dubai Mile may also be better suited to the Epsom Classics a month later. Johnston is hoping for rain clouds to turn up over the Rowley Mile this week, as they are forecast to do at several stages. Dubai Mile has had a quiet and smooth winter with no setbacks, and he looks like a stronger model now.
Dance In The Grass is Johnston’s entrant for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas. She was impressive in her first two starts, but was a disappointment in very testing ground in the May Hill. Johnston admitted that in hindsight, he probably should have pulled up stumps at that point, but they had one more go in the Rockfel. While Dance In The Grass may not be the favourite, being in the running gives her a chance to win.
How has his winter been? “Very quiet and smooth, no setbacks at all. He is slightly bigger, a stronger horse this year. He’s probably going to go into the Guineas only about 10kg heavier than he was going to Saint-Cloud but that’s quite appreciable to look at the horse. He looks a stronger model now.”
Dance In The Grass
“She’s tall and was quite an immature two-year-old and that was a bit much for her. She’ll be better equipped for that kind of level this year. Again, we would assume she would benefit from going further in due course but her owner is keen to roll the dice in the Guineas as the starting point for her season.”
Dear My Friend
Johnston’s first season as a trainer with a license in his name is looking up, as he has runners in both Guineas races. This is an exciting prospect for any young trainer, and Johnston is thrilled to be a part of it.
“I think we would both say that things have changed, probably a bit more than we maybe expected. The reality is now, with my name above the door, more people want to speak to me and I have to be the face of the business, going forward.
“Albeit the work behind the scenes is much the same as it was last year, there certainly feels a bit of added accountability for me in terms of the outcomes on the track and possibly there will naturally be a bit more scrutiny of our results this year. So it’s important we have a good year.
“I joked last year that, when things went well, I got 50 per cent of the credit and when things went badly I got all of the blame. Maybe my increment of the credit has gone up a bit.
“I’m sure he won’t be walking off into the sunset but him and Mum are taking a bit more time off, which is great for them. Over the last 30 years, when they took any time off the phone still rang every ten minutes, but now they actually get a chance to enjoy it.”
Paul Nicholls, the Somerset trainer, has broken his own 15-year-record for prize-money accumulated by a trainer in a jumps season in Britain, collecting a total of £3,646,585. He achieved the feat with a third and fourth in the final race of the campaign, beating the record set in the 2007-08 season when Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded were among the flagbearers. Nicholls was crowned champion trainer for the 14th time at Sandown on Saturday, and he praised a team effort for the success.
Despite disappointing results in some races, the day improved as Knappers Hill won the bet365 Select Hurdle, scooping £45,560. In the last race of the season, Samarrive and Iceo finished third and fourth, earning £4,186 and £2,093, respectively, and breaking the record by just £74. The £74 accounts for around 0.002 percent of the prize-money earned in the season. Nicholls had said breaking the record was a target after landing two winners at this season’s Cheltenham Festival.
Bravemansgame, the King George winner and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, was the highest-earning horse for Nicholls in Britain this season, earning £332,129. Pic D’Orhy, Knappers Hill, Greaneteen, Stage Star, Frodon and Hitman also achieved six-figure earnings. The yard sent out 161 winners, the third-highest for a season, and Nicholls also pointed to a big campaign for Harry Cobden as another highlight. The stable jockey was highly praised for his efforts on Nicholls’ Cheltenham Festival winners Stage Star and Stay Away Fay in March.
Cobden was stood down on Saturday after falling on Enrilo in the bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase. Despite the disappointment, Nicholls hailed the team effort “to be proud of.” The record-breaking achievement reflects the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the yard, and Nicholls’ praise is a testament to their contributions.
The UK government’s white paper on gambling regulation, released in 2020, is a mixed bag of proposals that aim to protect vulnerable individuals while safeguarding the rights of responsible gamblers. While some recommendations are proportionate, others are unclear and vague, and the paper has been criticised for attempting to have its cake and eat it too.
One area of contention is affordability checks, which have been a subject of debate for months. Ordinary bettors dislike these checks, which they see as intrusive and an infringement on personal spending decisions. The racing industry has also expressed concerns that these checks could drive responsible punters away and cause a drop in revenue for the sport.
The white paper includes two tiers of affordability checks. The first tier, called a ‘financial vulnerability check’, is triggered by a loss of £125 a month or £500 a year and includes open-source background checks. The second tier, called ‘enhanced spending checks’, is triggered by a loss of £1,000 in a 24-hour period or £2,000 over 90 days and includes credit reference agency checks. However, the details of how these checks will work in practice remain unclear, and bookmakers may interpret the results inconsistently.
The white paper focuses on online betting, but it is unclear what will happen to bricks and mortar bookies, which have already been conducting affordability checks for months. Additionally, the paper raises questions about implementation and interpretation, leaving many frustrated and uncertain.
While the outcome of the review will likely be a more restrictive regulatory environment for punters, it is not the ruinous fate that anti-betting campaigners sought. However, bookmakers must reflect on their mistakes and use this moment as a watershed, ensuring that the excesses of the past are consigned to history. Racing must also value its core customer, the punter, and defend their interests if it wants to preserve the vital source of revenue that betting provides.
The white paper is not the end of the matter, as the right to bet will continue to come under scrutiny in the years ahead. The fundamental question of whether the state is justified in interfering in how people spend their own money remains unanswered.
On Thursday, the UK government released its long-awaited gambling white paper, outlining proposals for reform in the industry. However, concerns have been raised by the British racing governing body, the BHA, about the effectiveness of the proposed financial risk checks.
The measures include background checks for issues such as county court judgements at a £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year. A second tier of checks, which might indicate harmful binge gambling or sustained unaffordable losses, would come in at proposed thresholds of a £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days.
Ministers have claimed that the checks would be “frictionless” and conducted online by credit reference agencies or through other means such as open banking, with documentation asked for as a last resort. The government claimed that around eight in ten players would not undergo the checks, and only around three per cent of the highest-spending accounts would have more detailed checks.
Speaking after the white paper was released, BHA chief executive Julie Harrington expressed concerns about how unobtrusive and friction-free the checks would be. Harrington said the sport would do its own due diligence to see if the three per cent of punters subject to more detailed checks would be mirrored among racing’s customers.
The subject of affordability checks has been one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s gambling review, with campaigners having called for punters to have to prove they could afford gambling losses of as low as £100 a month. British racing’s leadership has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances.
Other proposals contained in the white paper include a statutory levy on gambling operators to help fund treatment services and research of problem gambling. The Gambling Commission will receive extra powers to tackle black market operators, and a new industry ombudsman will be created to deal with disputes and rule on redress where a customer suffers losses due to an operator failing in their player protection duties.
New stake limits for online slots games of between £2 and £15 per spin will be brought in to mirror those found in bricks-and-mortar premises. The stakes had previously been unlimited.
However, campaigners who had hoped for bans on gambling advertising and sponsorship in sport will have been left disappointed. The government launched its gambling review in December 2020 with a call for evidence, which resulted in 16,000 responses.
The BHA has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances, while Arena Racing Company estimated last year that the sport was losing £40 million per annum from checks already put in place by bookmakers involving requests for personal financial information such as bank statements.
The government also revealed that a review of the levy, British racing’s central funding system, had commenced. It had originally been set to happen by 2024.
It had been expected that the government would set the rate at one per cent of the industry’s gross profits, which could raise as much as £140 million. However, the rate will be subject to further consultation.
Gambling review white paper: the main proposals
The white paper proposes two thresholds for conducting affordability checks. The first threshold is called the “moderate loss threshold,” which involves checking for financial vulnerability indicators, such as county court judgements, average postcode affluence, and bankruptcies, if a net loss of £125 occurs within a rolling month period or £500 within a rolling year period. The second threshold is triggered by “binge gambling,” which involves a net loss of £1,000 within a 24-hour period and requires an “enhanced spending check.” The Gambling Commission is working with the financial services sector to determine the mechanics of this check, which is expected to involve credit reference agencies and only raise concerns if necessary. However, if frictionless checks fail to provide sufficient information, data may need to be collected directly from the customer.
The Gambling Commission plans to consult on the proposed thresholds, including a £2,000 net loss threshold within a 90-day period that triggers the same checks as a £1,000 net loss in a 24-hour period. The proposed thresholds are less strict than the previously proposed £100 loss limit and hard checks.
According to the white paper, 20% of accounts would be subject to a financial vulnerability assessment, and about 3% of accounts would be subject to an enhanced check. The government expects credit reference agencies to conduct the financial vulnerability assessments in a “frictionless” manner, and 80% of the enhanced checks can also be handled in this way. The remaining 20% of cases will require further checks, with half of them being “semi-agreeable checks,” such as open banking, and the other half being “disagreeable checks,” such as requests for bank statements or payslips.
The Racing Post’s Big Punting Survey found that one in six respondents had already been asked to undergo an affordability check. While the white paper claims that the proposed checks will be “frictionless,” the precise mechanics of how they will work have not been fully determined, potentially leading to higher-staking bettors receiving requests for sensitive financial information.
The white paper discusses levy reform and states that the government recognises the value of the racing industry and has already begun reviewing the central funding system, with the goal of completing it by 2024. The government estimates that the proposed financial risk protections for online betting on racing could lead to a six to 11 percent reduction in levy yield, resulting in a total income drop of 0.5 to 1 percent (£8.4-14.9m) for the racing industry. In response to representations from the industry, the government is considering extending the levy to all international racing bets made by British customers and changing it to a percentage of turnover, rather than profits.
While the commitment to levy reform is not new, the industry will appreciate the government’s acknowledgement of the sport’s cultural and economic importance, as well as the proposed extension of the levy and adjustment to a percentage of turnover, which could lead to more stable yields. However, these proposals may only offset the expected reduction in yields from other measures outlined in the white paper, and the government suggests that Levy Board reserves may need to be used to address any funding gaps the industry may face in the meantime.
The white paper addresses the issue of free bets and the need for clear rules and fair limits on their design and targeting to prevent excessive or harmful gambling. The Gambling Commission has already strengthened restrictions on online VIP schemes and introduced rules to prevent marketing targeted at people showing significant indicators of harm. The Commission will now review the use of incentives such as free bets and bonuses.
The white paper cites a Commission survey showing that a significant number of respondents believed that free bets and bonus offers encouraged them to gamble more than they wanted to. However, the evidence on the correlation between these incentives and harm is limited, and the government is calling for a greater evidence base.
The white paper also notes that re-wagering requirements for free bets are often set at high thresholds, and funds and winnings can expire after a short time, creating a sense of urgency to gamble. The Commission will consult on caps for wagering requirements and minimum time limits before offers expire.
The white paper outlines the Gambling Commission’s plans to consult on measures to give bettors more control over the types of marketing they receive, such as the need to opt in for bonuses. The use of technology by betting operators to target ads away from children and vulnerable people will also be encouraged, and there will be an emphasis on stronger messaging regarding the risks associated with gambling. Additionally, the government plans to work with governing bodies in the sector to develop a cross-sport gambling sponsorship code.
While some may be disappointed that the measures fall short of a complete ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship, the government’s aim is to place incentives such as free bets and bonuses in the hands of the punters. By requiring opt-ins, individuals who are more vulnerable to gambling-related harm are given greater protection against receiving incentives they may find difficult to resist. Further campaigning may still focus on a complete ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship.
Single Customer View
The white paper highlights the start of a live trial for a Single Customer View (SCV) system, aimed at preventing customers from losing unaffordable sums by sharing information across different gambling operators. The trial, which began this month with the help of GamStop, is focused on high-risk gamblers, with codes of practice being developed to assess whether the SCV system is identifying the right people and appropriate measures are being taken by bookmakers.
The government’s stance on the SCV system is clear – it expects the industry to deliver on this solution. However, the white paper indicates that the government and the Gambling Commission may reject the trial if they are not satisfied with its results and create their own alternative. The possibility of a further consultation before full implementation is also suggested.
The proposal for a national database of gamblers has been rejected due to privacy implications for the majority who gamble without any adverse effects. This acknowledges the fact that many punters may not want their data to be shared.
The white paper announces the government’s plan to introduce a mandatory statutory levy to be paid by gambling operators and collected and distributed by the Gambling Commission. The levy will fund research, education, and treatment of gambling harms, and a consultation will be launched to determine the details of its design, including the total amount to be raised and how it will be proportionately and fairly constructed.
Although the power to create such a levy has existed since 2005, the government notes that no previous administration has used it, and the industry has provided financial support on a voluntary basis. However, the government now believes that a mandatory levy is necessary for long-term funding certainty, despite opposition from the betting industry. The Gambling Commission will also have an enhanced role in directly commissioning research to inform regulation, and efforts will be made to stimulate independent research in the area of gambling.
Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Coral, has announced a strong start to 2023, reporting record numbers of active customers in its trading update. The company’s net gaming revenue (NGR) for the first three months of the year rose by 11% in constant currency, driven by solid performances in both online and retail. The 50% share that the firm has in US operator BetMGM also contributed to the rise, as its inclusion boosted NGR by 17%. Online NGR rose by 11%, while retail NGR rose by 13%.
Entain’s US joint venture BetMGM also reported strong numbers, recording first-quarter NGR of around $470m, an increase of 76% from last year. The company said BetMGM had a 17% share in the sports betting and iGaming markets in which it operates, and was on track to become profitable in the second half of 2023.
Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen said
Despite the solid numbers, the company’s CFO Rob Wood acknowledged that affordability measures had resulted in a low-single-digit net revenue fall year-on-year for online in the UK. On a pro forma basis, online NGR increased by 1%, which represents a return to growth compared to the 1% fall in 2022. Excluding the impact of regulation in the UK and Germany, online NGR would have increased by 6%.
David Brohan, gaming and leisure analyst at Goodbody, said Entain had delivered a strong start to the year in line with expectations. By Tuesday lunchtime, the company’s shares had risen by more than 2% to 1,337p.
Harry Skelton, former champion jump jockey, will have to end his season early due to a shoulder injury he suffered in a fall at Cheltenham this week.
Skelton sustained the injury when his mount, Cheltenham, fell early in the Grade 2 Silver Trophy Handicap Chase on Wednesday. Although he has not broken any bones, he will have to rest for a couple of weeks following a consultation with a specialist on Friday.
Skelton will not be able to ride in the remaining fixtures of the British season, which ends next Saturday at Sandown. He will finish the season with 96 victories, not being able to achieve a third successive century of winners.
Skelton had a successful season, enjoying Cheltenham Festival success with Langer Dan in the Coral Cup and a big-race double on Grand National day with West Balboa and Midnight River. The leading rider also had a golden spell in November and early December, winning the Betfair Chase on Protektorat for his brother Dan, the Coral Gold Cup with Le Milos and the Becher Chase with Ashtown Lad.
Despite the setback, Skelton remains positive and grateful for his relatively injury-free career. He said that it is just part and parcel of the game and that he will have a quiet few weeks out now.
“It’s been a great season and it was really good to get some big winners, especially that run in the early part of the campaign and to do what we did at Aintree last week as well,” he added. “I’ll have a bit of down time now before returning in the new season.”