As detailed in last week's blog, the horses are having a short break in the paddocks for a couple of weeks to get over whatever bug had been causing them (and most of Newmarket) to under perform recently. I'm very happy with how they all look and the younger horses we have kept on the go seem in good health so hopefully when the others begin ridden exercise again on Monday they too can return to top form. We usually have as many runners over the winter as we do during the summer so a few weeks off now will do them no harm and they will probably be fresher for an all-weather campaign as a result. Hopefully we will be back on the racetrack with runners from September 15th onward.
Even though we haven't been going racing, there's still plenty to keep us busy at home, including the daily exercise of our horses on Newmarket Heath which was in the news this week with the announcement of a new £10m hill gallop planned to be built on our doorstep.
I have always felt that Newmarket is the best place in the country to train racehorses but one slight niggle from some is the lack of hills. Everyone is familiar with the town's world-famous Warren Hill which is now the most popular canter but it's popularity has resulted in daily congestion. To draw equine traffic away, The Jockey Club are planning to build a state of the art hill gallop with a motorway style flyover to increase the gradient. It looks magnificent and will certainly help us keep the horses fit. At present we use the perfectly good Hamilton Hill which would be a valued asset to any yard across the country but at just under half a mile long, it is a bit short and the new gallop will be longer and stiffer to really work the horses' hindquarters.
I won't be holding my breath though as planning permission hasn't even been lodged yet and building work isn't set to commence until 2020!
In the more immediate future, racing on mainstream TV is set for a change as the sport moves from Channel 4 to ITV next year. This week we have been gradually learning who the faces presenting the channel will be and it looks as though the new management haven't done much to address the decline in audiences which Channel 4 has seen in recent years.
I'm usually too busy in the yard to watch the Morning Line on a Saturday morning but when I was laid up after my hip replacement a couple of years ago, I watched a few episodes and wasn't too impressed. It was boring, mainly all studio chat. It struck me that those in charge where taking the easy option rather than going out during the week and chatting to those people connected with some of the weekend's big runners. Television is meant to be entertaining and there was a distinct lack of banter on the show which made it so popular when John Francome and Big Mac where on a decade ago. TV needs characters to grab the audience's attention and the new bosses would do well to sign up Matt Chapman who, for all he is annoying at times, is very entertaining and knows his stuff. Why have some dolly bird interviewing the jockeys when you could have Luke Harvey asking them questions and giving them some stick at the same time?
The likes of Big Mac and Derek Thompson weren't always right with their facts but they made great television and weren't scared to have an opinion. Racing on mainstream television doesn't have to be a fact-fest with some fat, bald bloke talking about the prices on Betfair. It should be engaging and entertaining. The action on the track will always provide the highest drama and it is up to ITV Racing to step up to the mark and make racing on TV fun again. I'm usually tuned in to RUK or Attheraces on a Saturday nowadays but I hope the new format can win me, and millions more, back.