The former sports minister Richard Caborn admitted yesterday that he
had "dropped a clanger" in failing to ensure that the Tote was sold to a racing
trust during his time in office. However, he also proposed a new scheme for the
future of the betting organisation that would, he claimed, "simplify the whole
structure of racing".
Caborn was speaking
during a parliamentary debate on the future of the Tote at Westminster Hall,
during which he noted that uncertainty over the ownership of the organisation,
which has a monopoly on pool betting and also operates nearly 550 off-course
shops, has been going on for nearly 10 years. The Labour party has twice
pledged in its manifesto to ensure the transfer of the Tote to a racing trust.
During yesterday's debate Caborn was criticised by Tobias Ellwood MP,
the shadow minister for tourism, licensing and gambling, for the long delay in
securing the future of the Tote. "He has said, we are where we are," Ellwood
said. "That is an appalling excuse for what actually happened . . . He was in
the job for six years."
point, Caborn intervened, saying: "I dropped a clanger".
continued: "He says he was in the job and he dropped a clanger. He was the
minister and the industry has suffered because a decision has not been made. We
Earlier Caborn had outlined his proposals, under which
the British Horseracing Authority would take charge of regulation while a
newly-formed Tote Trust would administer the pool, credit and internet betting
operations as well as the current responsibilities of the Levy Board. The
Tote's betting-shop estate, meanwhile, would be sold off, with half of the
proceeds being handed to racing. "What you want to build here is a financial
vehicle to be able to continue to fund the sport over the medium to long term,"
he said. "What are the two incomes to that sport? One is the levy, and the
other is the profits from the Tote. So why not put the Levy Board into the new
Tote Trust, so the new Tote Trust actually becomes the financial body for the
The 90-minute debate was curtailed just a few minutes after
Gerry Sutcliffe, the current sports minister, had started to respond on behalf
of the government. He gave no firm indication of when a decision on the Tote's
future might be made.
Britain's punters, meanwhile, yesterday continued
to digest the performance of Montmartre in the Grand Prix de Paris on Monday
night. The colt has displaced his stablemate, the unbeaten filly Zarkava, as
favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in many bookmakers' lists and Alain
de Royer-Dupre, their trainer, said yesterday that both could go to post at
Longchamp in October.
"Montmartre can go on all ground, very soft won't
be a problem for him. For Zarkava, good-to-soft would be OK, but softer might
be a problem. They have never galloped together but always work with Sageburg.
When they carry the same weight, they finish in the same position with him,"
said the trainer, who believes Montmartre "is more mature now" and has overcome
the pre-race nerves that were blamed for his poor run in the Prix du Jockey
Club [French Derby] last month.
Meanwhile Mick Channon said yesterday
that he has no qualms about booking Tony Culhane for two rides at Hamilton
tomorrow, the jockey's first engagements since he was banned for a year for
passing on privileged inside information.
"He's always worked very
hard," said Channon. "He's done his punishment and now he's got to get on with
his life. I'm pleased he's back. He's worked hard, been to America, and done
Monica Dickinson, matriarch of the redoubtable
Yorkshire-based racing family, died yesterday aged 83. There were generous
tributes for the mother of Michael, who famously sent out the first five home
in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and wife of trainer Tony, who took over the
licence when her son moved to train for Robert Sangster at Manton in 1984.
Sir Peter O'Sullevan said: "She was a stalwart and a driving force in
one of the most efficient National Hunt racing production teams in the last