Monday 1 April 2013

Great British Racing ... but Compare Dismal Doncaster to Dynamic Dubai

I’ve been very interested in the way Racing for Change has morphed into Great British Racing. On balance I’m definitely in favour, and their web site,, gives all the details of what they are trying to do, as the marketing and promotional arm of British horseracing. Encouragingly, they have been really specific about their role, which is to widen the sport’s fan base, help grow revenue streams and maintain British racing’s position internationally. They have a clear mission statement about broadening the appeal of British horseracing at every level and have mapped out seven clear aims and objectives. Not everyone will like the marketing-speak, but if they meet their goals it will be a job well done.

So in this blog I thought I’d have a look at two of the aims and objectives, in the context of the start of the Flat at Doncaster. Let’s evaluate it in terms of aim #4, “Improve the production and delivery of the raceday experience .... Give customers a reason to visit and return”; and aim #5, “Market the thrill of ownership .... Attract, reward and retain existing racehorse owners”.

I don’t think the racing authorities could have kicked off the Flat in such a dismal manner as Doncaster on Friday, 22nd March. A seven-race card with total win prize money of less than £50,000; one Class 2, one Class 3, three Class 4s and two Class 5s, one of which was a very modest race for amateur riders. All run on very testing conditions in front of a minute crowd, and absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever. No evidence here of “the thrill of ownership” or “a compelling story”, and no incentive to “widen racing’s exposure across all media platforms” as the Great British Racing web site describes it. A total damp squib, followed by fits and starts over the next few weeks. What an absolutely pathetic way to kick off the Flat, and as the marketers would say, “bookend the season”.

In comparison, what about Dubai’s World Cup Saturday? Total win prize money of a whisker under £10m, and with fabulous prize money all the way down to 6th place. Indeed the lowest place prize money in any race was £12,269, which is only £700 below the top win prize money of the Class 2 at Doncaster.

Now obviously there is no way at all that Doncaster on a wet Friday in March is going to compare with Meydan in all its pomp and glory. But surely the collective racing industry can do something to kick off our Flat season with a much greater sense of style and excitement. Some ideas:

•   Change the start date of the Flat. Put it back until after the Grand National. Build up a real
    sense of back-to-back weekends of fabulous racing.

•   Dramatically increase the prize money for the first day of the Flat, and have it on a 
•   Aim for £1m of prize money, with money all the way down to 6th place.
•   Frame the races in a way that really incentivises trainers to get their horses to Doncaster 
    for this kick-off meeting.
•   Make sure that the meeting doesn’t clash with another “showcase” event.
•   Have a proper PR and social media campaign well ahead of the meeting, to build buzz 
    and excitement.
•   Actively involve top jockeys and key sporting personalities in the whole event.

One of the races I’d like to see in this card would be the start of a “Syndicate Series”, say with a value of £50,000, that is open only to horses in joint ownerships, partnerships and syndicates with at least four owners per horse. Run this series throughout the season (and have a similar one over jumps). Have prize money down to 6th. It would guarantee maximum fields and big crowds with all the co-owners and their friends.

This seems such a good idea I think I’ll even send it to Great British Racing.


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