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The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Irish Racing TV Rights

There was much muttering amongst the radishes at Hill Top Farm this week, when the new Peter Rabbit film sparked criticism for a scene which allegedly depicted food allergy bullying.

Hill Top, at Near Sawrey in the Lake District, is the National Trust owned former home of Beatrix Potter, whose books about Peter and the Flopsy Bunnies have inspired a movie which is due for UK release on 16th March – creating a conundrum of fiendish complication. Should I go to watch Peter Rabbit or the Gold Cup at Cheltenham? Hmm, difficult decision.

Apparently the film includes a scene in which a gang of bunnies attacks Mr McGregor’s nephew with blackberries, in the knowledge that he has a blackberry allergy. Over-sensitive members of the snowflake generation have demanded an apology from the film’s distributor, Sony Pictures, suggesting that the film mocks the seriousness of allergic disease. Which, of course, is complete codswallop.

After all, were we ever concerned when Jerry tied an anvil to Tom’s cartoon tail and pushed him from the top of a cartoon building? Or slammed his face with a cartoon frying pan until it was cartoon flat? No, the biggest disappointment about the latest exploitation of Beatrix Potter’s books is that the portrayal of the key protagonists is completely out of character with the children’s book.

In the original story, Peter is simply a rabbit who loves radishes and finds some on the other side of Mr McGregor’s gate – not unlike the executives of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), who love showcasing the best horseracing and found themselves in the fortunate position to secure pictures from the other side of the Irish Sea.

A deal has been done which will showcase Irish Racing in high definition and with a tiny degree of latency, compared to the current delay in transmission experienced with pictures broadcast by Attheraces. RMG has been unfairly chased around the garden because Racing UK, their residential channel, requires the payment of a subscription. Critics have conveniently forgotten that viewers of Attheraces are currently required to pay a subscription to Sky – and that future plans to convert the channel to ‘Sky Racing’ may even lead to increases in those subscription costs.

Of course I should declare an interest. Pictures from Cartmel and Kelso are broadcast on Racing UK and I happen to represent the interests of similar racecourses on the board of RMG. Naturally, I support RMG’s acquisition of additional radishes; it demonstrates a hunger which is entirely in character for the organisation and it will be a great benefit for subscribers of Racing UK.

I also understand the disappointment of Mr McGregor, I mean David Thorpe – the Chairman of Arena Racing Company, which is a major shareholder in Attheraces. But at the end of the day, he might have preferred that the radishes be put into a salad which would have been consumed by shareholders outside racing; whereas all of the profits from radishes processed by RMG will be used to benefit gardeners.

Racing UK is produced by people who love radishes, for people who love radishes, generating profits that are used to grow more radishes. The only thing that would be out of character, in the current situation, would be if we started to throw blackberries at David Thorpe. And that we won’t do, because we love racing at Fontwell Park and Worcester just as much as Cartmel and Kelso.

Or nearly. This week’s selection is Coole Hall in the 4.25 at Haydock; back him and use your winnings to buy extra radishes.

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