In February this year I addressed the issue of Irish horse racing moving from its long-time home of Attheraces (now Sky Sports Racing) to Racing TV. The piece discusses a number of challenges for the move, particularly Irish racing's place on the new channel. After nearly one year of the new provider, some of the obstacles remain.
This week the Racing Post ran a article about television coverage of the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on Sunday. In the piece, general manager of Punchestown racecourse and chairman of Horse Racing Ireland’s media rights committee Conor O’Neill, said he was “very disappointed” that the race was broadcast on a split screen on Racing TV and lacked commentary until the final number of furlongs.
The race shared the screen, firstly with a race from Huntington, and then Cork. As the Peterborough Chase at Huntington started before the John Durkan it took commentary from the English track. Once this ended, Cork replaced the English course in the split screen, with commentary changing to the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
Of course, this only happened because of a delay of more than 10 minutes to the race at Punchestown. The race was due to start at 1.50pm. Huntington started as planned at 1.55pm and Cork 2.05pm. Because the John Durkan Chase did not start until just after 2pm, it was sandwiched between the 1.55pm and 2.05pm races.
But things may get worse. The 26th of December is the busiest day in the horse racing calendar. 11 meetings take place in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Racing TV have exclusive access to 8 of the 11 courses. One can understand the need for multiple split screens during the day, as it is impossible to sequence races so that they do not clash. And what if there is a delay?
This is a little like an airport and landing slots. If a plane is delayed or not ready to leave it can miss a slot. Races courses won't wait however so races will proceed, later than planned, and clashes will be unavoidable. If may even be the case that three races are in running concurrently, despite the best efforts of organisers.
There were just four meetings on Racing TV last Sunday. One has to wonder how a doubling of this to 8 can be accommodated on just one channel.