this is all a good idea for jockeys.
Time to discuss jockeys’ sponsorships
The development of Ride Guide, an initiative of jockeys that aims to provide information to punters, creates a great money-making opportunity for Australia’s riding ranks.
There is no doubt that jockeys, major stars of the sport of racing, deserve the opportunity to make more money. It is a dream of many people in any profession.
But is Ride Guide the right vehicle? That is the question that integrity officials will be assessing.
Australian racing is blessed in that, for many decades, participants have been open with the media in discussing their views on a horse and race, which has aided Australia to become one of the world’s great racing and wagering jurisdictions.
Ride Guide is an initiative that links jockeys to a corporate bookmaker in releasing information to a select few - customers of that bookmaker.
Launched on Friday, the service is exclusive to corporate bookmaker Ladbrokes - a partner of Racing.com - which provides jockey insight into their rides at the Melbourne and Sydney Saturday metropolitan meeting.
A concept that has been driven by leading rider Chris Symons and produced by sports company Unscriptd, a video presentation occurs when a Ladbrokes customer clicks on the jockey’s silks when looking at a race page that shows the rider discussing that horse’s chances.
Ladbrokes have paid what is understood to be a significant fee for this content. It is this payment that has raised concerns, especially in regards to integrity, by industry officials.
If Ride Guide was solely about promoting racing from a jockey’s perspective or providing better information for the market then one could argue that it could be funded as a ‘wipe your face’ exercise by the jockeys themselves - better information leads to increased wagering which leads to better industry returns.
The industry is already doing this through assets such as Racing.com and radio station RSN 927, along with wagering media companies such as Tabcorp’s Sky Racing.
News services such as the Herald Sun and numerous racing websites do similar on a daily basis.
All are producing informative content, through interviews with industry participants, to the broader racing audiences.
It is understood that the revenues that are made by Ride Guide are split three ways - some goes to the jockey who provided the insight, some goes to the producer Unscriptd, and the rest goes to the state jockeys’ association, whether Victoria or New South Wales.
Insiders have said that the money that would be directed towards the jockeys’ associations would target jockey welfare initiatives, especially around the administration support for injured riders, or, possibly, reducing riders’ fees in races run.
Terry Bailey, Racing Victoria Chief Steward, has said that he didn’t have full knowledge of the Ride Guide proposal and could not yet give approval to the concept.
“We have had dialogue previously with Chris Symons about Ride Guide and he had provided some more examples of what would be produced,” Bailey said.
“However, I understood that more trials were to come but it appears that those trials amounted to going live on Friday.
“Australian Rule of Racing 83 covers riders having a pecuniary interest without approval and we need to be satisfied with what is happening here.
“There are also concerns as to what the owners’ and trainers’ associations may think about the matter.
“Racing NSW Chief Steward Marc Van Gestel and I will be meeting with officials from Unscriptd on Tuesday to come to a resolution.”
Peter McGauran, Racing Australia CEO, is happy for the integrity departments from both states to resolve the matter.
“We see this as being an operational matter and Racing Australia doesn’t need to be involved,” McGauran said.
Australian jockeys are much better off than many other jurisdictions, with strong and united jockeys’ associations protecting their rights. This has led positive moves around riders’ fees for races, the strengthening of the Jockeys Trust to help those disadvantaged, and a greater acknowledgment of support for its ranks amongst many initiatives.
With jockeys clearly wanting an opportunity for greater financial returns, it is time for individual jockey sponsorship to become a reality in Australia.
The UK has allowed jockeys to have individual sponsorship, with branding appearing on breeches and clothing as per a code of conduct that is signed between the jockeys and the British Horseracing Authority.
Is Australian racing robust enough to offer the same opportunity? I think it is.
It is understood that riders have been keen to go down this path for some time but the resistance has been strong from industry administrators. This has included riders wanting to develop partnerships with groups that have had limited or no exposure to racing.
Racing Australia has previously been against the idea of jockey sponsorship but it appears that view may be softening. Currently, Racing Australia has approved a broader deal that involves sponsorship of all jockeys by LUCRF Super, with all proceeds going to the National Jockeys’ Trust.
“We would be willing to look at the idea of individual sponsorships again,” McGauran said.
“Clearly there are concerns around conflicting opportunities, there would have to be protection around major race club sponsorships and broader industry deals, and of course wagering partners.
“This would suggest that the pool of potential partnerships could be rather shallow and that it may require some imaginative thinking but I would be happy to have the conversation.”
Now is the time to have that conversatio