ON collecting his award for being the Racing Writer of the Year, at the 52nd annual Horserace Writers & Photographers Association Derby Awards lunch, Alastair Down made some astute observations in his acceptance speech. The problem is, as is often the way with these alcoholic-infused festive events, I can no longer remember exactly what he said.

Somewhere in between congratulating his fellow nominees and promoting his new vocation for counselling, Alastair expressed some regret at the reduction in the number of full-time racing correspondents employed to cover the sport. He said their role, the same role he hoped he had accomplished to some degree in recent years, was to bring some of the emotion engendered by a day at the races to a wider audience.

It’s all very well being able to look up the facts and figures in the results section of a newspaper – the pounds and ounces, the lengths, necks and furlongs that act as a summary for each race. But that doesn’t help you to understand the majesty, the beauty, the speed and elegance of the horses, the energy of the winning jockey, the relief of the trainer or the joy on the face of the winning owner. Not in the same way as if you were there. That’s the skill of a racing correspondent.

It’s a contextual gift which was lacking in coverage of this week’s publication, by the British Horseracing Authority, of the report into equine fatalities at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. Dry media bulletins condensed several months’ worth of investigation into a few seconds of airtime. The result, to the uninitiated, sounded as though the sport of horseracing had suddenly woken up to the idea that it might have to change in order to respond to public perceptions about animal welfare.

The truth, of course, is that no-one cares more about the welfare of racehorses than the people who encounter them and care for them on a regular basis. Anyone who watches a race live at a racecourse, who examines the emotions of those closest to the horses, will also witness the love and devotion inspired by the equine participants. The grief experienced, when a horse is fatally injured, is felt hardest on the racecourse by the people who are most engaged with the sport.

Racecourse executives have been focused on the issue of equine welfare for many years too. It is our prime consideration when we maintain our tracks. There has never been so much veterinary expertise focused on reducing the risks associated with the sport. The BHA developed a slogan which reflected our approach – the horse comes first.

It’s unfortunate the skill and devotion, applied to the care of our horses, wasn’t more prevalent in the coverage of the BHA’s report – but that’s why we should continue to support the media outlets which continue to provide high-quality coverage of the sport.

Some of them also provide useful tipping services. This one doesn’t – our selection for Sunday’s card at Carlisle is Blakerigg in the Novices’ Steeplechase.