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Monday 17 June 2024

Horse Racing Papers: Remember The Old Sporting Life?

Back in the 1990s my brother and I used to have the Racing Post delivered every day. I’m sure the paperboy must have thought we were a couple of addicts. We must have been 20-years old and our love of horse racing, specifically two-year-old horses racing, was undertaken with professionalism. There wasn’t a horse we could detail its form, a trainer’s name forgotten, an understanding that went beyond our years.

Like a good horse we were precocious.

In those days having access to the Racing Post was cutting edge. It was before computers or smart phones. I remember watching horse racing results on Teletext. I doubt anyone under fifty would even know what it was (it later became redundant with modern technology). The racing publications were the lifeblood for horse racing fans. The daily papers may have detailed horse racing but it didn’t show previous form, the tissue prices were something pulled out of a hat and had no reflection to the starting price and it was like going back to the dark ages. The racing publications changed all that.

The Sporting Life was the first publication of its type. It was the original racing paper and eternally accepted as the best. It had no competition. There may have been The Horse & Hound but that was more about country life and wellington boots. I don’t think it lowered itself to the level of some nag jumping hurdles at Plumpton.

I rarely purchased the Sporting Life. It was a bit before my time. Well, me time of my interest in horse racing. The Racing Post did the job nicely so I wouldn’t purchase its rival unless it had sold out. I remember one occasion going to the races by train. It must have been a day out to Great Yarmouth. I’m not sure if I purchased the Sporting Life or my brother or cousin, Danny. Someone bought it. I was pleased as it was better than the daily papers which I scorned.

However, the killer blow for the Sporting Life wasn’t so much the lack of information but its size. When spread open it seemed to be about a metre wide. Perhaps that is an exaggeration although I don’t think so. It must have been one of the biggest newspaper-style publication in the world. You’d be siting side by side on the train and half of the paper would be on someone else’s lap. You’d say: ‘Can you read that paragraph for me. Or, what is the form of Master Trooper in the last race at Catterick Bridge?’

I think the demise of the Sporting Life was due to its size. If only they had made it smaller like the Racing Post. It was like a big, clumsy dinosaur that couldn’t escape it’s smaller, faster prey. It was only a matter of time before it became extinct. Well, disappeared from the news stands. It remains online, although it isn’t as in depth as the paper (at least I don’t think it is).

The race for victory went to the Racing Post.

When I purchased the Racing Post in those early years it cost £1. I think it is now £2.80. It may be more. These days I try not to buy it using the online app as it’s cheaper and does the job although you need to subscribe to get all the features.

How times have changed.

In the 1990s I felt like a professional gambler going to the races with the paper under my arm.

Now, horse racing punters have a wealth of information at their hands. It is a far cry from the old days.

No wonder the Sporting Life was on borrowed time. It expired.

It was simply too big to handle.


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