Network on Air (studio)
313min approx (length)
16 April 2018 (released)
25 April 2018
One would have thought this Thames TV Series from 1979 might have had a slightly longer run than a mere six episodes. After all, former steeplechase jockey and 1956 Grand National veteran turned author Dick Francis (from whose best-selling racing novels the series was derived) had enough insight into the ruthless world of the ‘racing game’ to churn out considerable more material.
Welshman Francis was clearly a 'winner' wherever he turned his dexterous hand. His racing career came to an end in '57 as a result of the number of injuries he'd sustained over the years. Francis himself didn't actually write the scripts, these were supplied by top TV-writers like Terence Feely, Leon 'Minder' Griffiths and Trevor Preston. Not altogether surprising then that the series’ protagonist Sid Halley (Welshman Mike Gwylim), who features in a number of Francis’ novels, is himself a champion jump-jockey who has been forced to retire as a result of a shattered hand sustained from a racetrack fall. Sid is soon fitted with a prosthetic left hand (it takes him a while to get the hang of it and later comes in handy as a weapon) and sets himself up as a Private Investigator together with reformed thug and judo expert Chico Barnes (Mick Ford) – a likable but lecherous kind of fella who is the yin to Sid’s yang. Together the dedicated duo primarily investigates racing scams and occasionally also murder most foul!
The series positively 'wreaks' of the racing track: trilby hats, morning suits, racing cards, tipsters, bent bookies and the glorious smell of the turf. These factors can easily outweigh the racing aficionado's ability to lose a fortune - for the whole atmosphere of the track can be an addiction not easily overcome!
THE RACING GAME gallops into a thrilling start when Sid’s former father-in-law tips him off that nasty entrepreneur Howard Graves plans on buying the Seabury race course and build a monstrous shopping center on site. Could it be that the recent spate of strange accidents at the racecourse have anything to do with Graves’ plans?
In another episode both Sid and Chico travel all the way to bella Italia to investigate an insurance scam, the death of a race horse and a foxy lady more dangerous than the high heels she’s wearing.
The danger doesn’t let up and soon Sid and Chico find themselves embroiled in a peculiar case were a famous yet retired racehorse has been kidnapped with no demands for any ransom payment. However, a female journalist provides an invaluable suggestion that the kidnapping could be linked to a prisoner claiming his innocence and soon Sid and Chico in particular finds themselves knee-deep in the mud! Things get nastier still when an empty syringe is discovered outside a stable and an old flame of Sid’s, who just happens to be a Cambridge medical expert, soon discovers that the syringe has been used to extract fluid from the knees of a famous racing horse destined to win – which it can’t if the knees get wobbly so to speak. In a desperate race against time Sid and Sally try to save the horse while discovering the culprits behind it – will they succeed?
The series, which is action-packed and on a fast pace, features a number of guest star appearances by the likes of Iain Cuthbertson, Susan Penhaligon, and James Maxwell to name but a few. RSC actor Mike Gwilym gives a convincing and believable performance in the lead - it was a pity we never saw more of him. Shame that he retired from acting only after another ten years or so in the ‘biz’.
This 2-Disc DVD Set features all six episodes of THE RACING GAME though the somewhat abrupt and open ending suggests there may well have been room for a Series 3 which never materialised.