Monday 15 August 2016

ROA National Racehorse Owners Survey – Part 1, A Summary of the Results

When I took part in the BHA’s pillar strategy process a couple of years ago, one of the frustrations was the lack of facts and data on which to ground discussions and the formulation of important initiatives. The Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) felt exactly the same, and were determined to canvass both current and lapsed owners to find out their views, particularly in terms of what brings them into the sport, retains them and indeed drives them out of ownership. In this first blog on the subject I have done no more than list out the results from the survey. In the second part, on 1st September, I’ll do my own analysis and draw conclusions on what I think the survey actually tells us.

Encouragingly there was a good sample size, with 2,203 responses including a number of “hard to reach” owner samples such as new owners with less than two years’ ownership experience (255) and lapsed owners (203). Interesting to see that the average age of a racehorse owner is 59; the percentage of lapsed owners who cite facilities and treatment of owners at racecourses as a factor in their decision to give up ownership is 44%; the duration of ownership is longer for ROA members; the satisfaction rating of the ownership experience is higher for syndicate members than for sole owners; and the percentage of lapsed owners who would like to own horses again is 73%.

Theme 1: Owner Experience Results

  1. 73% of racehorse owners started out with others.
  2. Nearly one in four owners have taken a break, most due to finances or horse injury.
  3. The most influential steps to ownership are speaking to a trainer or other owners.
  4. New owners take more decision steps and are more likely to research online.
  5. Ownership is born out of family history, keen interest in racing or attraction to the excitement.
  6. New and syndicate owners think of the excitement above the expense.
  7. Owners are not likely to recommend owning a racehorse to their friends.
  8. Costs and prize-money are primary lapse reasons, racecourse and trainer experience crucial.
  9. Three out of four lapsed owners would return to owning if the circumstances were right.
  10. ROA members are much more likely to remain in ownership for longer.
Theme 2: Trainer Experience Results
  1. The most influential steps to ownership are speaking to a trainer or other owners: 53% say that speaking to a trainer or visiting a yard is the key step, and for 22% it is speaking to other owners.
  2. Owners want more information on costs and trainers: particularly on training fees, engagement and the owner experience, income and expenditure, and clear cost models so owners know what they are getting into.
  3. Trainers are approachable but could communicate more information, more regularly.
  4. Costs and prize-money are primary lapse reasons for 80% of lapsed owners; trainer experience (29%) is also crucial.
Theme 3: Racecourse Experience Results
  1. The racecourse is the pinnacle of the ownership experience: the primary motivation to become an owner is the enjoyment of watching your horse run.
  2. Racecourses are the shop window to ownership, not the salesmen: speaking to someone at a racecourse is not a crucial step in the decision to become a racehorse owner.
  3. New owners are motivated more by the social aspects of racing: particularly with combined with the enjoyment of watching your horse run as well as the non-raceday social elements.
  4. Winning is an important bonus, not the be-all and end-all: fewer than one in 12 owners believe that winning is everything.
  5. Costs and prize-money are primary lapse reasons for 80% of lapsed owners; racecourse experience (44%) is also crucial.
In the second blog on the survey, the intention is to explore whether there may well be a “two factor” model working here. I know that sounds a bit jargony, but it could be that there are subtle but important differences between the factors that bring people into the sport and those that discourage them and ultimately may drive them out of the game. Thinking caps on over the next fortnight on that hypothesis.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.

Monday 1 August 2016

Glorious Goodwood: Racing at its Absolute Best, and Broader Implications for the Racing Industry

Just back from a couple of days at Goodwood while staying in the truly beautiful South Downs National Park. Increasingly my wife and I, when we go racing, try to make it a proper trip and there is no shortage of places to stay. It amused us that both the hotel we stayed in and the restaurant where we ate were both frequented by a very well-known retired football star, now owner. He must read the same guidebooks as we do! Like us I’m sure he was raving about The Barn at Roundhurst and the excellent food at The Duke of Cumberland in Fernhurst.

The Qatar Sussex Stakes lived up to its star billing, bringing together the winners of the English, Irish and French 2000 Guineas – apparently the first time this has happened at Goodwood. The Gurkha had looked an unlucky loser in the St. James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, under one of Ryan Moore’s less impressive rides. This time however the horse was ridden much closer to the leader, Galileo Gold, and always looked as though he was going to beat him inside the final furlong. The only disappointment was that the French 2000 Guineas winner, Awtaad, failed to show his form on ground that was probably too quick. With over £1m of prize-money, it was hardly surprising that the field was top class, although one of the common themes being expressed after the race was that at the platinum level of racing the money is really just being shared out amongst a very few privileged people: the winner was owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. J. Magnier and Michael Tabor; the second by Al Shaqab Racing; and the third, Ribchester, by Godolphin. Having said that, I doubt whether any of these care much about the actual prize-money, since the bloodstock value is what really matters these days. Great battles though between top horses such as Galileo Gold and The Gurkha are thrilling to the core racing fan and the whole racecourse was buzzing afterwards.

As always there was a fair bit of publicity about Goodwood in the national press, with interesting coverage of Charles Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March, and his passion, even obsession, with raising the total Goodwood experience year on year. Managing the 12,000 acre estate, which is completely self-funded, employing well over 600 staff full-time, and dealing with all the various commercial ventures is a huge undertaking. So he must have been delighted when last year the entire Glorious Goodwood meeting was sponsored for the first time by Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, which is Sheikh Joaan Al-Thani’s Al Shaqab operation. They have committed to a ten-year sponsorship deal and it has already led to substantial injection of additional prize-money with around £5m on offer at this meeting. There is definitely considerable affection for the quintessentially English “Goodwood Experience”, not just amongst Qatari sheikhs but the racing public across all the levels from the privileged Richmond Enclosure (which is where my wife and I went courtesy of the ROA arrangements for their members) through to the bucolic (alcoholic?) pleasures of Trundle Hill overlooking the course, as well as the large number of picnics around the various car parks.

One aspect on which the Earl of March has been outspoken is the need for racing to “reinvent itself”, particularly through marketing, branding and strengthening its overall customer proposition. He clearly feels like many of us that racing is still not exploiting its assets and customer appeal in the way that it could do across the widest possible range of customers. This theme has also been reinforced recently by Simon Bazalgette, CEO of the Jockey Club, who is currently leading a strategic overhaul of what the Jockey Club actually stands for. At one level they are clearly a commercial success, turning over £183m last year, and that level of financial strength has enabled them to invest £415m in prize-money and improvements in facilities over the last ten years. Over 2m customers a year go through their gates, with a similar number for non-racing activities, notably pop concerts. However Mr. Bazalgette believes that the Jockey Club can raise its game hugely, and apparently is working with M&C Saatchi on exactly what the next phase of their commercial mission should be about, and how to communicate it.

It is hard not to be really optimistic and encouraged by the restlessness and strategic endeavour that Messrs. Gordon-Lennox and Bazalgette are putting into driving their racecourses forward. While I don’t think many of us were thinking like that while watching The Gurkha storm home, you cannot help but feel that the whole racing experience at the top of the sport can still be developed much further. Let’s hope that is the case and that there is a substantial trickle down in revenue and funding from it to the less exalted, day-to-day, grassroots racing.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.