I’VE LONG been a supporter of jumps racing and I still am, but the sport is in real strife at the moment.
Yesterday just four horses went around in a $100,000 hurdle at Sandown, which was watched by no more than 1000 people at the track.
Worse still, the race was named after one of the doyens of Australian jumps racing in Jim Houlahan.
Luckily for organisers, the issue was covered up by the fact Zaman won the race, which is co-trained by Jim’s daughter Fran Houlahan and Brian Johnston.
One of the problems for jumps racing is the attrition rate of horses.
The two jumps racing carnivals – at Oakbank and Warrnambool – are early in the jumps season and many of the top quality hurders and steeplers are not still racing by the time it gets to the end of July.
Oakbank has always been at Easter and Warrnambool is always in May, so that won’t change, but jumps racing is going to have a major problem if we continue to see low numbers in feature races.
While we don’t want a Melbourne Cup-size field, we do need a minimum of eight runners in those top-class events to justify the prizemoney.
I think Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons, who is a part-owner of champion hurdler Black and Bent, is keen on getting jumps racing back to Caulfield and on a Saturday.
This can only be good for the sport’s profile.
Personally, I’d love to see jumps racing back at Moonee Valley.
The Hiskens Steeplechase was one of the great races and punters love it because you feel like you are a lot closer to the action at the Valley.
One thing’s for sure, if things stay the same, all the hard work that has been done to keep jumps racing alive will be for nothing.
You can’t keep a product if the paying public and punters won’t support it.