Racing Post columnist Alastair Down last week wrote of the problems Ladbrokes faced as new sponsors of the Hennessy Gold Cup. Friday’s blog on this site expressed similar concerns. Thus it was no surprise to find a letter in today’s Racing Post from Nigel Payne, chief executive of the Horseracing Sponsors Association. It was a high-handed response. “Does he not realise it is his responsibility … to assist in the promotion of this great race, but under its new title,” Payne asked.
“History, and respect for it, is a big part of racing’s future,” he acknowledged. Then he added it was time to “move on”.
Payne is a clever man and does a good job. However, he fails to see the point here. Mill House, Arkle, Spanish Steps, Diamond Edge, One Man, Denman and the rest all won the Hennessy Gold Cup. That was the name of the race, not the Ladbroke Trophy. The race had a new name this year, but history does not start with now. Payne knows that. However, his job does not allow him to admit it in public.
Payne’s letter wasn’t the first
In August 2014, Payne wrote another letter to the Racing Post backing Goodwood’s decision to rename the Stewards Cup. Again, that was his job, to promote the sponsors. He said he’d carried out a straw poll of racegoers and the press, asking if they knew why the Stewards Cup was so named. He said nobody was able to give him a definitive answer. Well, so what?
Had Payne carried out the same survey at Royal Ascot regarding the Coventry, the Ribblesdale and the Hardwicke he’d have got a similar response. The same if he’d gone round Newmarket asking about the Craven, Falmouth or Dewhurst Stakes.
Down’s column – and this site’s blog – were about reality. Yes, a new sponsor means it is time to “move on”. However, a race name such as the Hennessy, with its rich history, cannot just be dismissed as something that never happened. Payne’s lofty letter does nothing to help the sponsors’ brand or cause.