On The Rails

Global commingling on the agenda as Japan plans to begin overseas simulcasting with Arc

Interest is running high in the land of the rising sun as the JRA finds opportunities to funnel more yen into their coffers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2016, 11:05am

In that quiet, deeply bowed manner that Japanese have made their own on the international racing stage, an important announcement only just squeaked out between the floorboards with not a lot of fanfare this week, to the effect that Japan Racing Association (JRA) has put a commencement date on its first simulcasting of overseas races.

As expected, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October in Paris will be the starting point, as long as there is a Japanese runner, since that is the underpinning proviso – interest at home. And that will be the case whenever the JRA simulcasts any overseas race.

Japanese fans can now display their patriotism by backing equine heroes like Deep Impact or Orfevre or Just A Way at home

The first outcome of that decision will be to remove the need for people with wheelbarrows of yen in cash at Longchamp (or Chantilly as it will be this year) on Arc day – a sight that had almost become synonymous with the Japanese quest to win the world’s foremost 2,400m race. Japanese fans can now display their patriotism by backing equine heroes like Deep Impact or Orfevre or Just A Way at home.

Considering the JRA held well over US$300 million on a single race last year, the holds for simulcasting and the fees paid to the staging jurisdiction promise to be rather significant. Expect frequent kidnapping of Japanese horses by money-hungry racing authorities who then force them to run in their Group Ones.

Well perhaps not as desperate as that, but the entreaties to connections to run in a particular overseas race might move from polite inquiries to absolutely IOC or Fifa in nature.

But, as we have said before, the more important ramification of this decision is not about simulcasting but commingling – the distinction being that simulcasting involves the betting on an outside race going into a domestic Japanese pool, while commingling funnels the same betting into the pool where the race is staged.

World commingling requires the involvement of both Hong Kong and Japan to reach its full potential, and simulcasting is the first delicate step in that direction.

Closer to home, we were surprised to find that the simulcasting component was the main stumbling block of the Jockey Club’s application for more opportunities to open its windows.

The club has applied for five more race meetings and eight more simulcasts a year but did originally want fifteen more simulcasts. We understand that the five additional meetings was the easy part and compromise was required only on the other request, since the simulcasts would likely take place in the summer, outside the normal boundaries of the racing season.

With five extra race meetings to fit into the calendar, that will block all of those remaining empty midweek spots through the season, including the one or two usually left blank in case a meeting is cancelled or abandoned.

The feeling at Sports Road is to take the odds to typhoons. Since the turn of the century, just five meetings have been lost to a typhoon eight or higher and another three meetings to torrential rain on the day or night, so the club will now just grin and bear the loss of a fixture rather than insuring for something which happens rarely.

Of course, if life teaches you much at all, it is that Sod’s Law then applies and typhoons will hit race meetings left right and centre once there’s no fall back position to schedule a replacement.

Harmonisation of rules should apply to everyone

While we’re on simulcasting, one of the reasons often put forward for international harmonisation of rules is that fans everywhere expect to understand the rules of the game when they bet -  as they do with that most international of sports, for example, soccer - if they’re expected to wager across borders for simulcasts or commingling.

Makes sense too, although we’ve always thought the “harmonisationist” job was the most iron of iron rice bowls. A job for life, and beyond. How is anyone going to concede to another jurisdiction that its own rule book is the one that needs to be thrown out?

Well, recent events in Melbourne have shown that the fundamental premise of making punters everywhere wager more happily by having the same racing rules worldwide is flawed anyway. 

Perhaps it’s like that lousy offside or penalty decision you might see in a game of soccer - the fact the rules are the same everywhere doesn’t stop the officials in charge messing up the application of them.

WATCH: How Melbourne stewards changed a Group One result

We’ve poked a fair bit of fun over the years at the rules and stewarding in Europe and Britain - ok, it’s mostly you, France, mords moi - but the stewards in Melbourne, Australia, are making up ground on all of you, so watch your backs. 

And they’re doing it using the same rule book as Kim Kelly and his merry men at Sha Tin.

Last weekend, the Melbourne stewards observed a long and proud tradition of ridiculous protest decisions in that fair city by changing the result of a Group One over a particularly minor matter, a long way from the finish and in which neither horse nor jockey made contact with the other party.

There may be a crack house in the more troubled suburbs of Melbourne where upheld was the obvious vote but the Flemington stewards’ room must have been the only other venue where that was the prevailing mood.

The only thing to be said is that it was consistent with some previous decisions there in recent times, but this is a situation where “at least they’re consistent” doesn’t really cut the mustard. Consistently wrong is not a legitimate or worthy aspiration.

Don’t expect any repeats this Saturday if there are protests when the Jockey Club simulcasts the Golden Slipper meeting from Rosehill. 

That’s in Sydney, where the odd one gets through but it’s mostly sensible. Until of course you get to the whip rules, and that’s a whole new ball game, where offside is three dimensional and time travels backwards.

Harmonisation? Have I got a lovely bridge to sell you.