We regularly hear of the need to attract a new generation of people to come racing. Free entry for under 16s is universal, but persuading those a little older than that isn’t easy. On Saturday, the first National Student Raceday attempted to address that challenge.
All six meetings, Aintree, Chepstow, Doncaster, Newbury, Stratford and Wolverhampton offered discounted admission at £10, along with a free food and drink voucher and a racecard. It’s to be hoped that there weren’t many who were amongst the 2,500 or so at Wolverhampton for the launch of the All Weather Championship, as last week tickets for that meeting could be had for nothing on the Internet.
Altogether, around 1,200 students swapped their books for betting. At Nottingham University, the student union offered free transport to Doncaster’s Racing Post Trophy day, and Sophie Jenkins, President of the Horse Racing Society there, was pleased with the take up. She said that another trip to Haydock for Betfair Chase day was already planned.
35 different universities took part, and Rod Street, from organisers Great British Racing, declared the day a success. He said, “Having never promoted a day such as this before we had no firm idea what to expect, but felt 1,000 would be a good number, so we’re happy with 1,200.”
Asked why racecourses didn’t just offer free admission he said that half of the money from the tickets went back to the respective university racing clubs and student unions. He added that there was a much higher level of dropout with free promotions; when they had shelled out some money, people came along.
So far so good. As to the future, Street was sure the initiative would be repeated next year, although there might be some tweaking to the arrangements. He said, “This date was a bit close to freshers’ week, so we may look at other options. First we’ll talk to the six racecourses that made this weekend possible. Also we want to take a wider look at racing’s year round offer to see if we can come up with a more consistent offer to encourage more racegoing.”