MELISSA JONES SAYS: Racing bosses have missed a trick

First published in Sport

BELIEVE it or not, horse racing used to be an Olympic sport.

In 648 BC, the ancient Greeks thrilled thousands of spectators who had come to watch.

In London 2012, competitors will battle it out in equine disciplines such as eventing and dressage, but Britain’s second most popular sport for attendances is missing.

While racing is unlikely to be included by the International Olympic Committee for future years, I think this time racing’s authorities have missed a trick.

Each August, the sport hosts the Shergar Cup, which brings riders from across the world to compete against our home jockeys.

For their finishing positions in a number of races they obtain points which go towards a team total – Great Britain and Ireland versus the Rest of the world.

It has divided opinion, as racing is not a team sport, but I think it is a fabulous way of showcasing the best in the industry.

But why not create another event, or adapt the Shergar Cup as it is such a special year for British sport? The top trainers in a number of countries could have been asked to support it with their best horses.

Frankel is the star attraction next week at Goodwood and appears to have a simple task in taking his unbeaten run to 12.

Surely, if the wonder horse took on better overseas rivals it would add a bit of spice.

Instead of there being two teams, a number of countries such as America, France and Germany, who have Arc and King George winner Danedream, could compete against each other.

There would have to be a variety of events as compared to the UK, as there are less racehorses in some other countries, but a few handicaps would suffice.

Millions of people will have their eyes fixed on the UK’s capital city over the coming weeks and the feel good factor could ripple into the racing community too.

Look what publicity the sprinters Overdose from Hungary and Black Caviar from Australia brought the industry. Not a week went by when there wasn’t an article about their British outings.

Arguably, the Cheltenham Festival is Britain’s racing Olympics . But its appeal could have been extended to the Flat, with all the robust drug testing that goes with it.

Racing for Change wants to broaden the appeal of the sport and this was a fine opportunity.

Sadly, it has gone begging.

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