Racing should embrace the music
Mike Deasy on embracing racing’s music nights, mixed fortunes for racing’s summer initiatives, it’s not all glossy for the sport’s magazines, Fitzdare’s St Leger gaff, and more
Because Goodwood and York recently played out to decent crowds and the sole attraction for their respective fixtures was the racing, there’s been some naval gazing among the racing fraternity about the merits of holding post-racing concerts.
Racing, they say, should be strong and attractive enough to be the sole reason for attending a racecourse.
The suggestion is that music nights draw people who are only interested in the bands or singers, and the racing is a sideshow for which many show little interest. Why not hold them on separate occasions they ask.
That’s all too black and white.
First, I know plenty of racegoers who enjoy the music. Indeed, they’ll travel to racecourses beyond their usual local vicinity if the performers appeal. Mostly, I head home before the music begins, but I’ve stayed to see Status Quo, the Scissor Sisters and Madness to name but a few. And thoroughly enjoyed the gigs.
Music nights were introduced to bring in extra revenue which, depending on the host racecourse, finds its way back into the sport, not least as prize money. There were also the arguments that music nights could convert people to attend the races more often.
When once information was imparted over the public address to help new attendees get the best out of the sport, that seems to have been forgotten. It shouldn’t be.
In fact, it’s something which should be considered for every meeting where the profile includes a high proportion of occasional or first-time racegoers – the upcoming Bank Holiday Monday fixtures being a case in point.
Racing and music should be able to coexist.
I doubt many racecourses would see the merit of separating the two. It means there would have to be staffing on two days instead of one and, it has to be said, the numbers attending the racing-only dates wouldn’t necessarily turn a profit.
It’s up to the racecourses to push the sport to those whose priority is the music with the aim that the racing becomes more accessible and more enjoyable. Every effort should be made to encourage them to return.
Mixed fortunes for summer initiatives
We’re coming to and end of the two summer initiatives introduced to increase prize money, stimulate betting turnover and help make racing more attractive. As well as helping their promoters.
The Sky Bet Sunday Series has one more fixture to come, with the rearrangement of the Haydock meeting after its original date was washed out. The Racing League has one more fixture to go, returning to where it was launched, at Newcastle.
A good barometer of how the two initiatives have fared is the feedback from the big bookmakers on an increase, or otherwise, of betting turnover.
After the first of the three Sky Bet Sunday Series meetings kicked off at Musselburgh, with all the races shown by ITV4, the layers’ reaction was positive. However, it’s open to question if the series has increased turnover.
The likely scenario is that bets have been placed on the seven-race cards at the expense of midweek, and possibly Saturday meetings. More a redistribution of turnover rather than a net increase.
There has been little comment from the bookies about the value of the Racing League.
The probability is that two of the League’s fixtures were subsumed by Goodwood and York which left them high and dry.
What both initiatives have achieved is decent cards with decent prize money but, again, is it new money or a case if robbing Peter to pay Paul?
The Racing League doesn’t seem to have broken through in terms of racecourse attendance and the second fixture of the Sunday Series at Sandown played out to a fairly small crowd.
What didn’t help at Sandown was the relatively late change to the fixture, moved from its original Friday slot to a Sunday. That, and the struggle metropolitan tracks have in pulling Sunday crowds.
I’d hope the Sunday Series can return next season with all the races again shown by ITV4. In getting people to the track, it may pay to stay away from the London area and also consider an earlier start to proceedings.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Racing League. It had high ambitions which it failed to live up to.
It didn’t attract high profile team sponsors. Prize money was at 50% of original projections. The hope that Jockey Club Racecourses would get involved didn’t materialise and free-to-view TV coverage was not forthcoming.
Those were difficult shortcomings to overcome. Nevertheless, they got it off the ground. But the overriding question remains – is the concept of league racing a goer? The answer here is a resounding no.
Maybe not so glossy
The current issue of The Owner Breeder, racing’s glossy specialist magazine, is the first to be under the sole ownership of the Racehorse Owners Association.
It used to be a joint-venture with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association but the ROA negotiated a buyout of the TBA’s 50% stake. Needless to say, the ROA have welcomed the development, pleased that it now owns the monthly outright.
The TBA also issued a statement, acknowledging that its members would be disappointed with the move, albeit that they’ll receive the magazine until June next year. Meanwhile, they say, they’ll invest in online member communication.
Reading between the lines, the TBA responses suggests that producing the magazine had become a challenge:
“Rising costs of production and distribution, combined with the fast-growing ability to communicate with members through digital means, persuaded the board that the TBA’s resources could be better used elsewhere for the benefit of members.”
The consequence is that the ROA will have to shoulder the full cost of producing the magazine and, apart from advertising, the only significant source of funding will be through ROA membership fees. It could be tricky to maintain the magazine’s standards without hiking the price of membership.
Meanwhile, racing’s other magazine, Racing Ahead, has published its 200th edition. That deserves some credit.
Whilst The Owner Breeder is mostly about bloodstock and ‘industry’ comment, Racing Ahead majors on punting, which is not best served by monthly frequency. Even the two weeklies, Racing & Football Outlook and Racing Post Weekender can be overtaken by events.
So, hats off to Racing Ahead – it keeps on going although quite how is a bit of a mystery.
Buyer beware, if you’ve got the time
A Tattersalls catalogue metaphorically thumped into my inbox the other day. Thirty-seven lots, one per page, were up for sale. They were preceded by 58 pages of ‘small print’. Buyers beware!
St Leger gaff
Fitzdares, the self-styled “World’s finest bookmaker” has developed a nice line in providing magazines, traditionally read by high net-worth individuals, with racing content.
The latest example is in the huntin’, shootin’ n’ fishin’ bible, The Field, where Fitzdares have helpfully provided a history of the St Leger. In it, they say, the Doncaster Classic is the only one open to colts and fillies.
Let it lie
Newspapers are currently celebrating the work of their snappers with the annual British Press Photographers Association exhibition.
Various papers have been publishing examples of the year’s iconic pictures. The Times has chosen 20 photographs and modestly included nine of its own, one of which is a crowded scene at the Cheltenham Festival. The caption reads: “Huge crowds on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival in March 2020, the day after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO.”
To coin a shorthand term on social media: FFS.