Promoting racing: just get on with it
Mike Deasy on the promotion of racing, when is a banned substance not a banned substance, National Racehorse Week a hit, more fixtures mean more problems, and more
There’s been some discussion recently on how best to promote racing and a growing consensus – how it could have ever been otherwise – is that the horse and the race should take centre stage. One can’t help feeling that people should just get on with it.
There is, however, little in the way of central promotion to get the message across that racing is exciting, accessible and offers something for everyone.
Much of the promotion comes from racecourses and many do a decent job for their own venues. The problem is they promote their own meetings but not nearby tracks. There are also significant disparities between racecourses, racecourse groups and the smaller operators.
The closest there is to coordinated promotion is the Go Racing in Yorkshire initiative, but it’s of limited duration and there’s little evidence of other regions undertaking similar activity.
There’s Great British Racing and its website but it’s hit and miss. It contains details of Britain’s racecourses, blogs, fixtures and quizzes. There are also news and features. Yet, nearly a week after the final Classic of the year, it still tells you everything you need to know about the St Leger.
There’s nothing about this weekend’s feature events at Ayr or Newbury and no details of racing on ITV.
It has a glossary of racing terms and the first one you find is “Abandonment” – not the most positive racing term to begin with. Similar glossaries appear on some racecourse sites, where the term “tic-tac” still appears.
Horse Racing Ireland is a good example of how to promote the sport. It features details of upcoming festivals and big races, often giving updates on the key runners, and provides interviews with the sport’s leading participants including videos.
Great British Racing does not replicate such helpful coverage for this side of the Irish Sea – it’s primarily left to individual racecourses, with varying results.
This weekend sees Ayr’s biggest Flat fixture, featuring the Ayr Gold Cup. The Ayr website has all the necessary information about booking and how best to enjoy the day, but little or nothing about the principal runners over the three-day meeting, the history of the big handicap itself, or any trends relating to past winners.
The most prominent piece of news on the Ayr website is how pleased the Scottish track is to welcome Virgin Bet as their sponsor (bit of a come-down from William Hill me thinks).
So the next Of Course column is going to be devoted to what can be done to promote racing. It’s not going to approach the topic as if money were no object – but hopefully propose sensible and affordable initiatives.
What will be at the centre of the proposals is a need for a coordinated and cooperative approach – so it’s likely to be an uphill task.
It’s banned, but not as Kim knows it
There was, reported Chris Cook in the Racing Post, some attention given by racing fans on social media to last week’s £1,000 fine imposed by the BHA on Kim Bailey. It was for a banned substance in a feed that resulted in Bailey’s Subway Surf being withdrawn from a race at Ludlow in March.
What there wasn’t was attention given by the Post to the fine until pertinent questions were being asked on social media and the circumstances in which it was imposed
Indeed, some of those questions were why had the Post been so slow in covering the story.
What got the Post into gear was Bailey’s reaction to the fine – he said there was no banned substance.
Now it gets complicated.
The horse did not return a positive result after a BHA official noticed a substance around the horse’s mouth, and a used oral syringe was subsequently found in the horsebox. The screening of the brown liquid, however, did show up numerous banned substances.
The BHA have declined to say what they were, but have acknowledged the liquid was Pulman Pro, a widely used herbal treatment for broken blood vessels and not a banned substance.
But it had been administered on the morning of the race therefore rendering it an illegal substance. Had it been given to Subway Surf the night before, all would have been fine.
So no, it was not a banned substance, but it was administered within a timeframe which renders it illegal, and evidence was left in the horsebox drawing attention to its use.
The Post finally caught up with the story and Kim Bailey’s response is somewhat semantic.
There’s more and more information available to punters to help them find winners and the Daily Mirror has added a feature to the humble newspaper racecard which wouldn’t be amiss in more specialist publications.
The preferred going for runners is now indicated where such information is available.
That would be a helpful addition to Postdata, which can be overtaken by events, as would the horse’s running style which appears in the Weekender’s cards.
National Racehorse Week
With the highlight of Newmarket’s Open Day still to come, there’s every indication that Richard Phillip’s brainchild, National Racehorse Week, is a success.
It just shows you what can be achieved when racing’s participants pull together.
More fixtures, more problems
Next year’s fixture list for British racing yet again features more meetings. That’s in an environment where we have ever more races with fewer runners, especially some handicaps designed to generate optimum betting revenue.
But a major bone of contention is the continuation of the Flat’s Sunday Series. On the one hand it’s been a success in creating good races with healthy prize-money (albeit bookmaker analysis suggests it’s been at the expense of other contests).
But, it’s also stretched a fragile workforce with extended hours of late afternoon/early evening off-times. Few workers this day and age are required to work longer hours.
At some point, it may be next year or sometime in the future, the whole thing is going to prove unsustainable.