In January, I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of Sky Sports Racing. Surrounded by leading presenters and jockeys, it was almost as if Christmas morning had come around again for me, the horseracing enthusiast I am.
At that moment, being in the presence of passionate horseracing fans, leading experts and Grand National winners was enough to convince me the sport would never be in any kind of danger. How could it be with Sky Sports behind it?
Oh how wrong and naïve I was. Numerous problems currently face horseracing after a challenging 12 months and Gambling Insider exclusively spoke to Tom Kerr, Editor at the Racing Post, about them.
He says: "It’s hard to ignore the storm clouds on the horizon. Racing needs to work with its partners in Parliament and the betting industry to ensure these issues are being appropriately managed."
Boycotts, prize money cuts and weather conditions forcing meetings to be abandoned have made it a difficult period for horseracing; but Kerr believes there have been plenty of strong highlights in 2019.
He adds: "In many ways, it has been a great year for racing, with stories such as Tiger Roll winning his second Grand National in a row, Bryony Frost winning the Ryanair, Enable landing the Arc de Triomphe, Frankie Dettori’s Ascot form and Khadijah Mellah really resonating with the public. TV audiences are up, track attendances are stable and betting turnover looks solid."
Horseracing has become more popular in recent times; meetings are at an all-time high, Sky Sports launched a dedicated racing channel for the first time and ITV announced a record 9.6 million people tuned in to watch the Grand National, over one million more than in 2018.
With the sport continuing to grow its audience, Kerr explains to Gambling Insider how popular favourites and well-backed horses at the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot affected both operators and the industry.
He says: "As we saw with the shock drop in levy yield this year, a low win margin for betting operators has a direct impact on racing. It’s unlikely to be causing great concern with operators, however, especially as part of the cause of the shortfall was ultra-competitive pricing and offers during major festivals."
Kerr spoke to Gambling Insider for a feature looking at the challenging year horseracing has faced, to be published in the upcoming Sports Betting Focus. You can find all Gambling Insider’s publications free here when they are published.