Epsom’s Derby greeting misses the mark
I first went to the Derby in 1972 and haven’t missed one since, but this year’s Epsom classic is the first I recall when there was a degree of disappointment.
It started well enough at the new Queen’s Enclosure entrance where the necessary bag checks and ticket scanning took place. Racecourse staff were welcoming and efficient.
But once through, the heart sank.
This year, Epsom turned a trackside facility, a two-storey champagne and seafood bar and lawn, which used to be available to Queens Stand badgeholders, into a premium priced area.
It was an ideal place to go towards the end of the afternoon when there were just two races to be run after the Derby and the idea of some fizz and a sit-down was welcome.
For those prepared to pay more on top of their £130 entrance fee, it still was.
But what was provided as an alternative, for those who felt they had paid enough, was a huge let-down.
It was a shabby piece of uneven land, partly scrubby grass, partly loose cork chippings and partly rough road surface. There were tables and chairs plus food and drink options.
It was in a backwater and had a view of not very much at all. As an alternative to the Princess Lawn, with its view of the course just beyond the winning post, it was an insult.
If the greeting at the entrance was polite and friendly, there were further checks of badges outside the Queen’s Stand. These, to my mind, were done officiously and without charm.
From that point on it was another hugely enjoyable Derby Day, made with a number of friends attending their first Derby and who had a great day.
But the series of badge checks seemed to have left an impression on them as, during the afternoon, they were asking if it was OK to go to various parts of the enclosures.
♦Maybe Epsom could divert some of the money it makes on charging £6 for a pint of Guinness on providing a decent surface for the Queen’s Stand lawn
Holt at the top of his game
Racecourse commentator Simon Holt was at the top of his game at Epsom, not just with his race-calling, but also with his mentions of the track’s iconic landmarks, not least Tattenham Corner.
He combined accurate commentating with just the right level of background information.
So he can be forgiven for saying that the Oaks winner was “on his way back to the winner’s enclosure.”
Curragh misses a marketing trick
The redevelopment of the Curragh has, for general racegoers at least, been favourably received, and these scribblings have suggested one or two things which would enhance a day the home of Irish racing.
What the course now needs to do now is increase raceday attendance because this is the key measurement of the success of the €80m, some of it public money, spent on the redevelopment.
So it was a disappointment when my ticket for the Irish Derby came in the post. In the envelope was the ticket, and that was it.
No opportunity taken to thank me for my custom. Nothing to help me with my day at the races such a guide to getting to the track or a map of the racecourse and its new facilities. And, nothing to promote future meetings, such as a fixture list or a discount voucher to incentivise a return visit.
These scribblings have said before that it is cheaper and easier to keep you existing customers than it is attract new ones.
The Curragh have missed a golden opportunity to do just that.
Bookies miffed at Ascot charge
There is a degree of disgruntlement among racecourse bookmakers about attending Ascot, particularly as the Royal meeting is on the horizon.
On-course layers pay a sizeable fee to attend Ascot, an amount that puts a considerable dent in their satchel before they incur other costs, such as travel, staffing and kit.
So there has been some disquiet at a further “marketing fee” which Ascot has levied this year, leading to some head-scratching as to what exactly this fee contributes to in terms of promoting bookmaker betting to racegoers.
They’ve listened in vain for PA announcements about the availability of on-course bookmakers and haven’t seen anything in the racecard.
Bookmaker representation has been seeking clarification from Ascot as to what the fee is being spent on.
On the best of terms
Here’s a conversation I recently had with an on-course bookmaker:
Bookmaker: you here tomorrow?