As you can read below, aspiring racing journalist Michael Andrews, didn’t think much to the recent Fitzdares 35 under 35 Racing Futures List. I’ve known Michael for a few years now, having followed him on twitter and met up track-side a few times at Aintree and Cartmel. He’s a top bloke, a star of the future, and has already had articles published on Attheraces (he likes his Australian racing). I’m grateful to him for letting me publish this article.
I for one think he was just jealous at not being included on the list, but you can judge for yourself! 🙂
Over to Michael…
Fitzdares: An Odd Definition for Diversity
On Friday, racing quietly, and a little ashamedly, announced arguably one of the most exclusive, yet self‐proclaiming ‘diverse’, lists this side of the millennium. The Fitzdares 35 under 35 Racing Futures List, highlighting those destined to be the next generation of horse racing giants.
Up until last week, Fitzdares – a private bookmaking company – hadn’t registered in even my peripheral vision. It took only a quick glance at their website to reveal why; a recently graduated student from a working class background is hardly going to have much in common with a company that asks £25 as a minimum bet. In their visual example of how their slick service operates, the guy has a casual £1,200 in his account and bets £100 on a football treble. If I have even three digits in mine, I withdraw it quicker than you can say Frankel.
Nevertheless, while I still bleat on about winning £40 from a £5 bet, I understand there is obviously a market out there for those that wish to use a firm like Fitzdares. So it kept to its quiet upmarket corner without needing to brand itself as exclusive. Perhaps that was no longer deemed sufficient.
Whether in reality or just our perception – perception matters equally as much – the Fitzdares 35 under 35 Racing Futures List is a statement of nepotism, social immobility and class maintenance. Its only pardon could be its own ironic perfunctoriness. Even so, its crystal clear message, fulfilling racing’s age‐old stereotype, is that rich gentry dominate racing. Forget the rest.
I’m wrong? Let’s do the maths. Out of thirty‐five, at least seventeen are there as a result of their parentage. Fitzdares even embarrassingly acknowledges ancestry in fifteen of the short biographies. In some, it dominates the text. In absence of attainment, is ancestry a sufficient replacement? Does it merit public acclamation? Whilst I’m not suggesting that the 35 have done nothing more than slip out of their parents, a biography that summarises little more does naught to dispel that assumption.
Even those on it don’t seem to be overjoyed with their ancestrally‐catalysed selection. Tom Charlton, son of Roger and brother to Fitzdares choice Harry, called the list ‘embarrassing’ on Twitter. Rightly so, who wants to be picked because you are, in a patronising tone, a ‘bright young thing’ that is ‘heir apparent’ to their father’s stables and married to the daughter of another trainer? Worse, Jake Warren is simply ‘destined to take over from his father’. Little aptitude in that. I’d reckon both have done more than that biography suggests… so why not say so?
And why select a group of people who need little buoying? It’s hardly going to make the hour of the Duke of Sussex’s life, never mind the week or year of another’s. They don’t need this. In direct contrast, the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards can be life‐changing and life-making wins for many, just look at last year’s Adrian Stewart. A selection onto this list could have been an unforgettable memory, an authoritative stamp of approval for hard work, passion and skill. Instead, it chose millionaires, hereditary heirs to lands and countries and the only two presenters under thirty‐five on racing’s terrestrial channel. No offense to those on it, but if Balthazar Fabricius believed that they ‘left off a few obvious stars’, I know none.
There’s a worrying if yet unconfirmed argument that a few are already thirty‐five, and thus ineligible to be included in a category specifically titled ‘under thirty‐five’. If true, why were they needed on, by Fitzdares own admission, such a cramped list? That seems odd.
Now we reach the real problem, the use of the word ‘diverse’.
‘Diversity: the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness. variety; multiformity. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color [sic], religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.’ [Dictionary.com, 5 August 2018]
Now I hate tokenism, but there are enough diverse characters in the world racing scene that could fill this list on merit. And yet,
-Fifteen come from the UK.
-Twenty‐four are men.
-Three from non‐white countries (excluding South Africa and Australia).
-Three from the southern hemisphere.
The counter‐argument is obvious: I’m jealous. Big ol’ Michael Andrews wouldn’t be saying any of this had he been included. Though I can’t speak for alternative universe Michael, I’d like to think I would be.
And for those that did deserve to be chosen, on merit, to fulfil a diverse international racing futures list, I believe it really would have made their year. That’s what this list had the ability to do; to celebrate the attainment of those striving to break through all manners of ceilings in our ancient sport. It fell far, far short.
Instead, it was, whether in just our perception or in reality, a twenty‐first century pat on the back for elitism.
Thanks for reading,