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For pity's sake, trainers, move with the times 19/8/2008
Greg Wood

There have been two racing stories over the last week, both involving the British Horseracing Authority and the nation's racehorse trainers, that appear to be pulling in different directions.

On the one hand, there was the fuss over the BHA's seminars on the use and misuse of inside information, as the Authority tried to drag our handlers, if not quite into the 21st century, then certainly towards the right side of the first moon landing.

On the other, the Racing Post reports a sharp increase in the number of non-runners, coinciding with the introduction of a system at the start of the current Flat season which allowed trainers to declare a horse a non-runner without the need for a vet's certificate. In contrast to the strong-arming over inside information - which was "do it or lose your licence," - this sounds like a much more cosy, "right you are, old chap" sort of arrangement.

Look at it another way, though, and both issues revolve around the same thing, which is trust. More specifically, can our trainers be trusted, either with inside information, or when they say that their horse has met with a sudden setback when it just so happens that it has been given a dreadful wide draw in a sprint at Chester?

Given that their horses are the basis of a billion-pound gambling industry, the right answer here, clearly, is: I should bloody well hope so.

Yet if the Middleham training fraternity had deliberately set out to make us all think twice, they could not have done a better job than the one they showcased last week. The BHA asked them to attend a 45-minute seminar, or spend the same amount of time completing an online teaching module. In response, the trainers seemed angry and obstinate. If Timeform rated humans, they would have given every last one of them a squiggle.

For pity's sake, people, it's not even an hour out of your life. In any given week, there will be thousands of people who spend many thousands of hours sitting in training seminars. They may not want to be there, they may think they know it all anyway, but they just get on with it. It's just the way the modern world works.

The problem is that for some trainers, the modern world is a foreign country that they have no desire to visit. Even the BHA's executives will privately concede that when it comes to changing attitudes on an issue like inside information, the jockeys were always going to be a relative walkover when set against their employers.

The weighing room's staff, after all, has a comparatively high turnover rate, so the BHA can tackle new recruits as well as old hands, and wait (or hope) for a new mood to percolate through the ranks. Trainers, on the other hand, can live in a bubble for 40 years or more, and their attitudes, habits and prejudices are in there with them. When they kick up a fuss as they did last week, they have no idea how it looks to anyone peering in from outside.

They are not all like that, of course. More recent recruits tend to have a rather broader outlook on life, while rumour has it that one of Britain's best-known trainers, and one what's more who has had a few run-ins with the authorities, phoned last week to tell them he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

But there are definitely bubbles in the training ranks that need to be popped for everyone's benefit. Even their inhabitants may appreciate it one day.
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