Ryan Moore and Tony McCoy are united. “Leave the champion jockey titles alone.”

Ryan Moore and Tony McCoy are united. “Leave the champion jockey titles alone.”

‘When I were a lad” you knew when the flat season ended and the jumps season began, writes Vernon Grant.

And you knew when the jumps season was over with and the flat season began. There were official dates and you did not get horses jumping during the flat season, and vice versa.

For some years now it has been impossible to see the join. True, there is still an official start to one code of racing, and an end to the other. But tablets of stone are no longer required.


You can watch or bet on jumps or flat racing of some kind or other on pretty much every day of the year when racing takes place.

While I would like to see a return to how things once were, it is not going to happen. That particular genie exited the bottle long ago. You can come up with a date that says: “this is the official start of the X season” but the fact remains, both codes of racing go on simultaneously these days.

When the body called ‘Racing for Change’ was set up I though the name was an ambitious one. Racing people don’t take kindly to change.

rod street runs Great British Racing

Rod Street, photo by Edward Whitaker

Rod Street leads what was Racing for Change. It is now called Great British Racing. I hope to interview Rod on camera later this year.

But earlier this year he was quoted as saying: “We are looking at the overall seasons. The thing is that now, the seasons blur. Bar Good Friday and Christmas Day, we race every day, and we seamlessly go from Flat turf to all-weather, some horses run on the all-weather before the turf and vice-versa, and the jumps season ends on a Saturday at Sandown and starts again the following Monday.

“What we’re looking at is probably more the championships [for trainers and jockeys] as opposed to the seasons. It’s not about seasons, because consumers can dip in and out of racing as and when they choose, it’s about the championships and now we’ve got a 52-week-a-year dedicated broadcaster, it might make it easier to promote the championships more effectively. But it’s very much a work in progress. To review it properly, there can’t be any sacred cows so we are giving consideration to a whole range of things, but it’s impossible to say anything specific right now.”

Now hints that the framework for the champion jockey title could be changed have raised eyebrows among those who watch, write about and take part in racing. Rod Street faces resistance to any notion of altering how the jockey’s title is managed.

Champion jumps jockey Tony McCoy says: ”I’m not in favour of splitting seasons. Summer jumping helped me to become champion jockey for the first time in 1995 and there is every chance it will help other young riders to establish themselves in the future.

““The only thing wrong with the current jumping year, as it stands, is there should be a defining end to the season at Sandown in April with a break, which could be followed by maybe a well in August for all those jockeys with kids.


“I think splitting the seasons would be the wrong move” says AP McCoy.

AP McCoy talks about planned changes to the champion jockey title

AP meets his fans

AP adds: “My job as a jockey is to ride as many winners as possible all year round and at all types of courses. I’m as happy riding at Newton Abbot in the summer as Cheltenham in the winter as it is my work and how I earn a living.

““It doesn’t matter if it is a seller or the Gold Cup, it’s all the same to me. I see no point in making two seasons for the sake of it.”

And former champion flat jockey Ryan Moore is in agreement with AP McCoy.

Moore said:  “I was a bit disappointed to read that some people are advocating changing the jockey’s title to start on Craven Day, finish on Champions Day, and ignore all-weather racing.


“To be blunt, I think it is a stupid idea” says Ryan Moore.

ryan moore talks about planned changes to the jockeys title

Friends Ryan Moore & Richard Hughes will fight out the jockey’s title this season

Ryan Moore has a great chance of winning the flat jockey title this season, and he thinks those who put most in should have the best chance of being called champ.

He says: “I believe everyone should be given a chance to get on the ladder and make a name for themselves, and if you are young and hungry and willing to put the hours in, then why shouldn’t they get the recognition? It is how I got the opportunity to progress. And I actually think it is disrespectful of people to even suggest these changes.

“They have probably been thought up by people who want to package the title with a nice little bow and present it on Champions’ Day but that is not how the sport works. We must give everyone an equal chance.

“And ignoring all-weather racing wouldn’t be wise, either. A lot of all-weather maidens are much better than many turf ones these days, and it wasn’t long ago that Ghanaati was winning a Classic after winning a Kempton maiden.”

Ryan Moore concludes: “I think people should respect the history of the jockeys’ title and leave well alone.”
horses fight out finish

I don’t envy Rod Street and Great British Racing. Change is seldom welcome.

If changes improve matters for spectators, punters, jockeys, trainers and owners; I am for it.

If changes to racing are purely cosmetic, I am not.

Parade horses on the racetrack prior to big races by all means. I loathe the fanfare music welcoming back winning horses as though they were boxers entering a ring, but I appreciate such innovations are not aimed at hardcore racing fans such as myself.

If memory serves me correctly the ludicrous music played during a race pre-dates ‘Racing for Change’ and was the barmy idea of one racecourse. That was the daftest change I have seen in many a year and Ryan Moore, who took part in such a race, called it “crap.”

He was right about that and I think he is right about changing the formula that makes up the jockey’s title.

The jockeys don’t think there is a problem and I have seen no clamour from racing fans for a change in the set up for the jockey’s title.

There is plenty that is broke about racing. Let’s fix those things.

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  1. Neil Harris 7 years ago

    Hi Vern.

    This is a topic I’ve been banging on about for years.
    I personally think that AW racing has no place in the summer season and think it should be removed from the title stats. I really despair at the end of season dashes to Wolverhampton/Kempton to try and rack up the winners.
    I’m not against AW racing as a product, but I think the Turf flat season should have it’s own championships.

    Of course it all forms part of the bigger argument that there is just too much racing, we have too many courses and too many fixtures.

    National Hunt I’m a bit easier going about, but I do wish they would have more enforced breaks so that people get some time off.

    • Author
      Vern 7 years ago

      I agree re having an obvious break during the National Hunt season. There should be 2-4 weeks of no jumps racing, but financial pressure from various concerns will not allow it. Not least the racecourses themselves.

      There is way too much racing and, yes, too many courses. But when I say that people say “what happens to the horses bred to race?” Difficult question to answer other than saying breed fewer.

      All weather racing is like a toothache that will not go away. I am not a fan, but many punters are. Ryan Moore says AW should stay as part of the title and I guess that, if AW is to exist, it should be that way. I’d like to see turf only but then AW racing would attract only the dross and we’d never see Moore, Hughes and co at Kempton and the likes. They’d be off abroad. And I’d rather they were racing in UK than Dubai etc.

      There IS too much racing. There IS too much concentration on quantity and not quality. And too much of the quality IS concentrated on a Saturday. Look at two weeks ago with Newmarket vying against the annual John Smith’s meeting at York. And the figures for that Newmarket July meeting were down on previous years when staged at a different time. So that didn’t work for anyone involved in racing.

      So much dross racing on Monday’s and Tuesday’s. More 3 and 4 horse races than I can ever remember seeing. This current flat season – away from the big highlight meetings – has been the poorest quality flat season I can recall.

      And, as Graham Taylor would say, ‘do I not like that’!

      • Neil Harris 7 years ago

        RE: AW, it has it’s place but to my mind it’s when there is no turf racing.
        I also think the Turf season starts too early and ends to late.
        I would start the turf season the week after the national, National first Saturday in April, Lincoln the second, then straight onto the Craven meeting (of course Easter complicates this) With the season ending the last Saturday in October.

        Don’t get me started on the Saturday situation. It’s an absolute Joke.
        One meeting I used to love was Monday’s at Windsor, but they are serving up such dross now that I’m hardly watching (never mind having a bet).
        I used to argue that racing should have 1 day off per week (pretty much a lone voice) and that day should be either Monday or Tuesday to give everybody in the industry a day to take stock/regroup/catchup etc.
        We also don’t do anywhere enough to promote Sunday racing.

        The fixture list is something I could go on about all day long (I won’t bore you with it here) but I feel that many people in racing either feel it’s working or they just don’t care.



        • Author
          Vern 7 years ago

          You are spot on about Monday’s at Windsor. I used to enjoy going to that meeting. What is happening there? The cards this year have been woeful.
          But so have many others. I am concerned about the lack of quality on offer this flat season.
          I agree with you re a day off and fewer race days overall during the year – but we both know it will not happen. Bookies would not allow it.
          And you have a point about Sunday’s. Traditionally I very rarely look at Sunday cards but,at certain times of the year, I get the impression that the racing on offer on a Sunday these days is superior to that on Monday’s and Tuesday’s.
          Simple fact is that some punters cannot live without a day of punting. On any old rubbish. And bookies love punters like that.
          I do wonder who pays to go into midweek race meetings that have races containing no more than 5 runners.
          I would not!

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