Plug shouldn’t be pulled on Bath fixture
A feature of the latest racecourse attendance figures, which saw a 2% increase in the first half of 2019 compared to last year, was the contribution made by fixtures over Easter, spearheaded by the number of people who went racing on Good Friday.
One of the three tracks who raced on what, until relatively recently, was a blank day, was Bath. They attracted a crowd a shade under 10,000.
Sadly, if they were hoping to build on that very encouraging figure, they won’t be doing so next year.
Good Friday’s three fixtures are in the gift of the BHA who offer them up for auction. Lingfield and Newcastle will again be playing host on the first day of the Easter weekend, but Chelmsford City has outbid Bath.
That’s the way it goes with auctions, and Bath have lost out.
So too, have racegoers in the West Country, whilst the south-east has bagged two Good Friday meetings.
It’s an unsatisfactory geographical spread and, on what is now an important day for racegoer numbers, exposes the flaw of the auction process. The BHA pockets the best bid, but a sizeable part of the country is without a meeting.
True the Good Friday fixtures are thinly spread, and many areas will go without but, along with Newcastle, two home-county venues will both race.
True also that Easter is a moveable feast, but Bath have been done no favours in trying to establish a public holiday fixture, and a lot of hard work to gain support for their 2019 Good Friday and develop it for the future has come to nought.
Meanwhile, Chelmsford City in Essex will race. It is not a racecourse I have been to but I admire the enterprise they’ve has shown with races offering decent prizemoney, and the installation of a turf course to join its all-weather surface.
What they haven’t got is a grandstand looking out over the course. Instead, there’s a building located on the infield, with much of the track out of sight behind it.
And it’s not blessed with the of best public transport links.
Bath has recently opened a new stand, is on a busy mainline, and there’s a shuttle bus service from the city-centre station to the racecourse. Chances are it offers a better racing experience.
Maybe the Good Friday auction process should be divided into broad regions, so that only one track per region can hold a Good Friday fixture.
Some of the regions might attract lower bids, whilst others could be more competitive. But it should mean the south-east doesn’t win two of the three meetings on offer.
Calling the tune
A criticism levelled at racecourse music nights is that a high percentage of people attending are not interested in the sport.
Having been to two of Sandown’s evening music nights (Madness and Jess Glynne) there is some truth in that.
However, when Jess Glynne was going to perform there was, judging by crowd reaction, much more interest in the evening’s races.
And what seemed to make the difference was that Mark Johnson was commentating.
He had the advantage of some very close finishes to call, but his voice boomed out over the loudspeakers, making every contest exciting and was gaining the attention of the crowd, who were soon cheering the runners from start to finish.
Racing’s Marmite meeting
When The Racing Hub flagged-up its guide to the Shergar Cup, there was a bit of negative response on Twitter.
Fine if you don’t like it, but you don’t have to read about it, you don’t have to watch it, and you don’t have to bet on it.
But as a one-off, it has its place and there are plenty of casual racegoers, not to say non-racegoers, who can relate to the team competition concept, even if it is an anathema when racing is a contest between individual competitors.
All the races will be on ITV4, along with races from Haydock and Newmarket, which is great exposure for the sport and the presence of Hayley Turner, with her links to ITV, does no harm at all.
It’s one Saturday, and it doesn’t deprive anyone of regular racing taking place elsewhere. So moan if you like, but please look at the bigger picture.