The Captain's Log: Football-mad owner Simon Munir seems sure to be a hit with his staff

National Hunt racing has a new owner ploughing money into the game and one who looks as if he will prove popular off the track with his trainers and their staff.

Simon Munir, whose Nicky Henderson-trained Radium finished a respectable fourth on his UK debut at Newbury on Thursday, also has a box at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

At this week's Champions League 2-0 victory against Standard Liege, champion trainer Paul Nicholls and his key staff were all guests while Alan King is apparently booked in for Sunday's London derby against Chelsea.

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls: A guest at Arsenal

Munir has been advised by jump racing's 'super agent' Anthony Bromley, the man who bought Kauto Star, but his trainers will want to deliver to make sure they get another invite to the north London arena.


Whenever The Captain settles down to his favourite fix of Super League, there is one thing that he has learned. When a difficult decision is referred to the video referee, the longer it takes to come through, the less predictable the outcome.

Is a similar scenario hanging over the case banned jockey Dean McKeown's High Court challenge to the decision of the British Horseracing Authority.

Mr Justice Stadlen has now been considering the case for over five weeks with no indication of when he will announce his decision.

McKeown had been perceived as a massive outsider to win the case but there are a few twitchy figures within the BHA as wait  drags on.

Victory for McKeown would have serious ramifications for the way they rule the sport.


Newbury have had a bit of stick this year, including from the Captain, over some of their plans to attract crowds that alienated their core audience but credit where it is due and they deserve praise as well as they stage their best meeting of the year, the three-day Hennessy fixture.

For the first time on December 29, the Berkshire track will be offering an entrance ticket which includes a tote voucher to bet on every race.

Cost is constantly raised as a reason why racing struggles to pull in customers but, compared to other sporting events, I believe our big fixtures compare favourably.

Enlarge   Newbury's Winter Festival

Great spectacle: Newbury's Winter Festival

The problem is the feeling that once you have paid to come through the turnstiles you are still constantly dipping in your pocket for betting dosh as well a refreshments.

This new ticket, which is clearly targeted at particular racegoers, is a good idea.

What Newbury are thinking is not such a good idea is staging the two valuable novice chases on the first two days of the Hennessy card.

They've both attracted decent names, including top hurdler Punchestowns, but over £70,000 in prize money pulled in only eight runners when owners and trainers bleat about prize money.

The track's joint boss, Stephen Higgins, is not amused and there could be changes.


The fight racing has to hang onto its market share was highlighted again this week in the unlikely setting of Hull.

The city's football team already have totesport as their shirt sponsor and now online betting company Sportingbet, had signed a deal with Hull Kingston Rovers, the city's No 1 Super League team.

Another example of the gambling industries creep into other sports.


Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald thought that when he stopped riding, he'd being seeing a lot less of hospitals. But a cruel twist of fate has proved different with infections related to the metalwork in his fractured neck causing an infection which led to an abcess on a lung.

On Thursday he learned that the hole in his Oesophagus, which has meant he has not eaten or drunk since September 11, has got bigger rather than healing as he hoped.

On Radio 5 Live's Headline hour, Fitzgerald admitted it has got to the stage where he was hallucinating about food. And what was his dream meal? A rare steak, curly fries and mushy peas.

Let's hope he gets his wish soon.

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