How NOT To Improve Racing’s Popularity

It was with a heady cocktail of bemusement and incredulity, dear reader, that I drank in the latest proposals to improve the popularity of horse racing in the eyes of the British entertainment seeker.

Details revealed yesterday included an array of ideas, running the full gamut of the sublime-ridiculous scale. Some of the suggestions proffered seem reasonable (if not necessarily sensible). Others seem... well, to this racing fan, they seem abject and preposterous.

So what precisely am I harping on about?

An article in yesterday's Racing Post is what's piqued me. There, the respected trade journal relates that a project team called 'Racing For Change' (ingenious project title, guys!) has been assembled to consider how to drag horse racing into the 21st century. Apparently, a subset of these thoughts will be in place as early as 2011. Something for all of us to look forward to, for sure!

Somewhat ambiguously (it's not clear to me whether these are RP's ideas or ideas which RP's investigative journalism has unearthed - using history as a baseline, I'd suggest the former!), the quote is thus:

"Those identified by the Racing Post include:

*Flat championships that run from Newmarket's Craven meeting in mid-April to a concluding ‘champions day', possibly at Ascot, in late-September.

*A jumps equivalent that begins at Cheltenham's Open meeting in mid-November and reaches its climax on John Smith's National day.

*Readily identifiable premier fixtures on the Flat, adding to those already recognised as such, with a high level of minimum prize-money.

*More Group 1 events to be staged on Saturdays.

*A team-based series involving Flat handicaps to be staged over six summer Saturdays. There will be points for placings, but the make-up of teams to be nominated in advance - owners, trainers, jockeys, horses, sponsors, or a combination of each - has yet to be decided.

*Qualification for the big Cheltenham Festival events through designated races, providing a championship that would supersede the sometimes-flawed Order of Merit.

*Stronger link between Cheltenham and Aintree, including possibly ending the jumps season at Britain's most-watched race meeting of the year."

Now, like I say, some of these are eminently reasonable. We know, for instance, that the big trainers don't run their flat horses typically until the Craven meeting in mid-April (and arguably even the Guineas meeting in May). But the Craven meeting is only two weeks after the current official curtain-raiser at Doncaster. So what is the real point of that? And, given that the all weather flat season finishes at the end of March, what specifically would be the benefit of having a two week hiatus, where fit horses had nowhere to run? Pointless, in my opinion. Reasonable, but not sensible.

Moreover, ending the season at the end of September with a 'Champions Day' not only usurps Newmarket's established and hugely successful mid-October end of season jamboree, quirkily enough called... 'Champions Day'; but it would also require trainers to decide whether or not they entered their horses for the biggest 'fin de saison' (end of season) meeting in Europe, the Arc Festival at Longchamp, which is always held on the first weekend in October. I wonder what the Newmarket beaks would make of the suggestion to cancel their fete and instead hand it over to Ascot.

Come on guys, that's just NEVER going to happen!

The same is true of the jumps, albeit to a lesser degree. With the growth of the 'Summer jumping' season, those light-framed horses who need faster ground to prosper have their moment in the sun (unintended pun, please overlook!). Again, most senior trainers will not introduce their better types before Cheltenham's November fixture anyway, so why deprive the lesser lights of some much needed prize funds. Those small fish are pretty tasty to the journeymen (and women) handlers who rely on such 'under the radar' meetings for their bread and butter (too many food analogies there?).

And then we have the same end of season bunfight in prospect - Ayr's Scottish National meeting would be out of season, as would the traditional 'last hurrah' for the Countryside Alliance card-carriers, the 'Whitbread' at Sandown (or whatever it's called these days).

Now I should say that firstly, I'm not Luddite, and I do believe that these things should be considered; and, secondly, in jump racing especially, everything after Cheltenham in March - let alone Aintree in April - feels a little 'after the Lord Mayor's show'.

So, perhaps Ayr and Sandown could be embraced into the Summer Jumping calendar without too many tears or blood cells being shed, metaphorically of course. Personally, I actually think that might be a good thing.

I'm not sure what to write about the team-based idea. Obviously, I try to avoid profanity in this little bloggie (it being a family show and all), but really. This has to be the most inane suggestion I've heard regarding racing for a very long time. Maybe ever!

Look, beaks - horse racing is a solo sport. Solo trainers, solo jockeys, solo owners (and syndicates). They all compete directly against each other. Why oh why do you think they want to be on the same side?!

In summary, two words: Shergar Cup!

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One more word: NO!!!!

Regarding the suggestion of a stronger link between Aintree and Cheltenham, including possibly ending the season at Aintree... what specifically does ending the season at Aintree have to do with creating a stronger link between the Liverpool course and the Cotswolds HQ of jump racing? (Er, none.)

Furthermore, is it not the case that there are no two National Hunt meetings in the calendar with stronger ties already, and that if the festivals were another two weeks apart, pretty much all the horses from Chelters would run at Ainters (as opposed to about 30% of them)?

Pointless - I'm not even sure what the point of that suggestion is, let alone whether it has merit.

And here, I think, we get to the rub (finally, I hear you cry from the back of the ethereal room)...

What, specifically, is the problem that the racing authorities have identified? A quote from the chair of the Racing For Change squad, Chris McFadden, offers limited insight:

"The driving force for these ideas came from the rebranding exercise conducted by Harrison Fraser for Racing Enterprises Ltd (REL), which highlighted the need for simplicity and a narrative that will hook the new racing consumer.

"The 52-week season won't be thrown away, but just as motor racing has events outside the grand prix, we need to make racing's big events bigger, by highlighting the start, the middle and the end.

"We are looking to create a situation where, when a new consumer asks, ‘When is the beginning and end of the Flat season?' there will be no ambiguity, because there will be a fanfare for both."

Now, excuse me, but how often does a new 'consumer' ask, "When is the beginning of the Flat season?". What?!!! To my mind, it beggars belief.

The use of the word 'simplicity' scares the living effluent out of me as well. It strongly implies a move towards the 'dumbing down' of horse racing. I'm a most secular person, but... God forbid!

My strong feeling here is that the racing authorities are mindful of dwindling audiences, naturally enough, and possibly of a commensurate reduction in racehorse owners. The latter point has made it much more accessible to the woman in the street with the advent and popularity of racing clubs and syndicates (a few shares still available in Baggsy - click here if you're interested!)

CONTROVERSY ALERT: I'm also noting an emphasis on a two-tier racing system, implying the return of 'gaff' or 'flapping' tracks. Whilst I don't think that's too big a problem, I believe a more explicit stance should be taken on that subject. There is too much racing. Fact. Less horses plus less trainers (or trainers with less horses, or both) plus less tracks equals more prize money, bigger audiences, more competitive (and compelling) racing.

Ultimately, who pays for racing? The punters in the betting shop / exchange, the punters through the turnstile, and owners.

If you want to get more money into the bookies' coffers, then innovate with the bets available. There is a brilliant (and deceptively tricky) bet in the States called the Pick 3, where - oddly enough - one is required to pick three consecutive winners. It's a sort of mini-jackpot and requires both skill and good fortune to correctly identify the horses that will not just win, but will also be overlooked by most other punters, ensuring a tidy payoff for a small outlay.

I'd play that bet every day. Seriously!

Instead, they give us the... wait for it... Super SEVEN! What?! If we want to play the fecking lottery, we'll go to Tesco and buy a ticket!!!!

That's NOT NOT NOT what punters want! Come on guys.

[Soapbox now tucked away again.]

The punter through the turnstiles is apparently not headed that way so often any more. Well, let me tell you, there are lots of packed race tracks on Sundays and Bank Holidays up and down the country, and guess what? There's no Group 1 or otherwise top class racing happening on those days. No, rather, the course honcho's recognise that if you want more bums on seats, you offer your product to a market that can access it. That is, a market that's not at work!

Simples.

More Sunday action. Cease racing on Mondays. Nobody ever goes then, and the racing is dire. This is really not rocket science, is it?!

Owners... now this last point is perhaps the most tricky. It's not cheap to own a race horse. And prize money is a little weak generally. But, with less racing and fewer horses, prize money would at least be able to make some dent into the heavy costs of ownership.

Please don't misunderstand me - for most, owning horses is either a tax dodge or a wealthy woman's whimsy. Whilst I have no particular truck with either of those ends, nor do I have any sympathy when it comes to their ownership being a loss-making enterprise. After all, nobody forces people to own horses. And it's not like we don't have enough horses to sustain the industry.

Rather, the industry in recent years has grown too big, and it needs a (serious) trim. So, here's my somewhat controversial suggestion list:

*Lose the ten tracks that gross the least money (in terms of both racecourse and bookmaker revenues), and lose their fixtures as well (these tracks generally race on a Monday)

*Stop racing on a Monday - we don't need it, and it's embarrassingly bad

*Forget lottery type bets (we have a lottery, and racing can't compete, so shouldn't try - surely the Scoop6 has proved this beyond doubt!), and instead focus on nice, achievable win bets

*More Sunday race fixtures. Currently there seems to be a maximum of two, very occasionally three Sunday meetings. I'd be happy to see the same level as Saturdays. Let's have six meetings on a Sunday afternoon, geographically spread so as to encourage as many 'working class' racegoers as possible. Trust me, this one thing would probably do more to solve 'racing's problems' than anything the stuffed shirts will come up with.

*Embrace the fact that there is a learning curve when first accessing the sport. It's never been a problem for football. Or rugby. Or hockey. Or darts. Or tiddlywinks. Or any other pursuit on the planet. It is the nuances of racing that make it so infinitely appealing. To 'dumb it down' is to kill it off.

Those then are my thoughts.... doubtless you will have your own on this great debacle debate.

Feel free to leave a comment below. I'm sure that, between us, we can solve all of racing's woes this very afternoon!!! 😉

Pip pip!

Matt

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36 replies
  1. Leo says:

    Hi Matt,
    Well done. I do love a good soap box job.
    As i am out of town (Australia ) i cannot make any
    constructive comments, except perhaps one.
    When does the consumer ( bettor ) have any say in
    racing. The Racing Board will do whatever they want
    and we will still have a bet.
    Regards,
    Leo.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Leo – you’re right that the punter does seem to get a poor deal. I think this is best illustrated by the ridiculous ‘innovations’ the tote have introduced in recent years. We don’t need another national lottery.

      Best,
      Matt

  2. Michael Brennan says:

    Hi Matt
    I absoloutely agree with you regarding Mondays racing, it is DIRE to say the least. I also agree about more Sunday, and better quality racing. A suggestion regarding the race day itself; A lot of sporting venues ‘Diversify’ ( i hate that word) that is, using other ‘entertainment’ on the day in-between racing. Have a slightly longer interval between races making the day last a bit longer, thereby making the punter feel he/she has got value for his admission money. Ascot, with it’s fashion shows jazz/big bands etc etc would be one example. I’m sure there are many local to the course entrepeneurs, who would jump at the chance to show off their trade/art/experience/style/talent etc etc. I know it happens to a small extent at some courses, but the marketing at most tracks is pretty awful. Anyway, i enjoy your site, more power to your elbow…i hope ‘they’ listen to you.
    Regards
    Mick Brennan

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thank for the comment Mick. There’s definitely more that can be done around the ‘periphery’ of the raceday experience, and I do think that some race tracks embrace this much better than others.

      Farmers’ markets; country sports; mascot races (!); fashion shows; live music all pull in more punters. (Newmarket on a Friday evening is often sold out, and most people are there for the music!)

      But there’s got to be more room for improvement. Some tracks simply don’t bother and, generally, it’s no surprise to see those gaffs at the bottom of the attendance leagues…
      Matt

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Matt
    I think I agree with most of what you say. There is in truth far too much racing especially of low level horses. This i particularly true of All Weather racing in winter and race meetings on any Monday.

    One point no one seems to mention is the actual cost of going racing. People are getting hard up and something has to go. If football clubs are suffering from falling attendances what chance has racing got?

    Regards
    Dave

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Dave

      Of course, in recessionary times, attendances do fall across the board. What’s interesting to note from the football analogy perspective is that, since the Premier League was introduced, attendances outside of the top tier have fallen markedly.

      Given that the racing bigwigs are proposing a similar sort of Premier League of racecourses, there must be a danger of that situation replicating itself, with all the attendant liquidation unpleasantness…

      Matt

  4. David G says:

    I left school in 1965 , not too long after betting shops were legalised and spent 7 years working in a credit office as I was initially too young to work in the shop. The firm also had a stand at a ( sadly now defunct ) greyhound track where I spent about 3 years working twice a week.

    During that time there was an attempt to get people to go to the tracks. That was called ‘ The Betting Tax ‘. What a tremendous success that was ! It decimated turnover in the office and shop overnight. Was there a corresponding upturn in track attendance ? No.

    What it may have done was to help the introduction of Sunday racing when people could go to the tracks and betting shops. Catch 22 – previously the law prevented betting shops opening on Sundays although the credit office could open basically for one Sunday a year – The Arc Sunday.

    Sunday racing was introduced here after that and to help swell the coffers of the tracks , they had to allow free admission as it was illegal to charge ! OK , so one was invited to buy a programme at an extortionate cost to get round that.

    Racing had gone from a 6 day week to 6 and a bit ( there were very few Sunday meets at the beginning ). Sunday racing became more popular – the powers that be eventually realising that more people COULD attend courses on Sundays than midweek ( OK , maybe somebody did have to tell them !! )

    Racing became 7 days a week – fields seemed to get smaller for a while as there were no more horses around than before.

    Fortunately for all concerned , the advent of electric milk floats and mechanical ploughs freed a lot of horses to fill the void. These now usually run on Mondays – leaving racing back to a 6 day week by another name !

    A drastic reduction in the number of meetings and therefore races could have a nasty side effect though. A card of 26 runner cavalry charges would not be to everyones taste irrespective of the standard. Going back to 3 divisions of maiden races for horses rated 0-20 on every card to make fields manageable would not improve the fare on offer. Balloting out 70% of the runners on a regular basis would also be unthinkable – trainers would be up in arms never knowing when a horse may run.

    Football has its World Cup outside the main season and even the Summer Olympics are held in winter for one hemisphere ! There is NO need to specify a start and finish to racing seasons.

    Finally , a bit more controversy. Get the management at Racing Post to buy out Great Leighs and come to an agreement with the authorities to make it the SOLE meeting on Mondays with reasonable fare on offer. A similar venture could be envisaged for the NH season too although the worst NH racing is often not as dire as the worst flat racing. If that failed , then so should ALL racing of a lower grade on Mondays leaving us with a 6 day week.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Good stuff David – I especially liked the advent of electricity freeing up cart and plough horses for Monday racing!

      Alas, the RP are too skint to buy Great Leighs, but the concept is a good one, in my opinion.

      Matt

  5. Derek says:

    What I say is leave things as they are and not let the bookmakers bully the RHB, also, if I had my way I would do away with bookies all together and just have the Tote and Betting Exchanges.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Now that is controversial Derek!

      It might force some sort of competitive acumen into the tote but, from an exchange perspective, Betfair already seem to be baring their teeth at winning traders with the additional 15% fee they levy.

      That said, if we did away with traditional bookies, it might stimulate more competition in the exchange market…

      Matt

  6. Tony says:

    my only interest in racing really is to make some money laying horses……it doesn’t matter what the powers that be do the problem is that fundamentally most racing is boring and the sport in general is boring……the only races i am interested in are the classic races such as those at cheltenham in march, the grand national and the derby……horses like denman, kauto star and red rum trancend the sport…..there arent that many that do…..

    people know what they like…..football gets crowds because the product is exciting…….rugby union at club level has small attendances becuse the sport is basically dull…..you gain ground by kicking the ball out of play……whats that all about?……compare it to rugby league which does get decent crowds because its more exciting……im getting off the point here which is that it doesnt matter how you dress up a pig…..its still a pig as barack obama once said……or something like that……

  7. John 'Ears' Stafford says:

    Hi Matt,
    Yes, scrap Mondays and increase Sunday meetings.
    If there is to be a defined start/finish for the flats my suggestion is:-
    There should be a one day gap (preferably a Sunday) between the end of the Flats and the beginning of National Hunt. This day would be called the ” ‘Frank’ Spencer Fun Day” with the following requirements:
    All jockeys to wear berets and bib & brace overalls with Michael Crawford face masks (to hide their identity).
    Likewise the horses would be draped a la Knights of Old jousting contests (also to hide their identity).
    The horses would be drawn from ‘donkey’ stock from the defunct Monday racing.
    As the identity of neither horse nor jockey would be known, the starting price for all entries would be the same – say 10/1.
    All horses would be named “Ooh, Betty” or “Hmmm”.
    This is a charity event so all bookies would be expected to donate all their profits to good causes.
    Most importantly all the jockeys would be required to navigate the track in the same manner as racing’s own “Frank” Spencer. This would ensure plenty of bumping, snoozing at the ‘off’, army manoeuvres (left-right-left-right) etc and would GUARANTEE to bring the crowds flocking back to racing! And just think of the TV revenue!

  8. Matt Bisogno says:

    Interesting Tony, and I’m sure there are lots of people whose sole interest in racing is as a medium to make money.

    I’m not decrying opinion – how could I with this blog?! I do however believe that there are other sectors of the ‘racing tribe’ (as Kate Fox memorably alluded to us, collectively) whose interest in betting is either peripheral or non-existent.

    That is, whilst the sport dies without betting, betting is not the alpha and omega of the sport.

    Hope that makes sense, and thanks again for an interesting view.

    Matt

  9. mattgiffin says:

    its a funny old game this racing….
    .i have never been to a race track,and nothing you do will make me go……what do you do between races….i prefer to go and make a tea and bug the missus……i no longer use book makers ….i prefer to sit and bet against someone who has the same chance as me…..betfair……most of the owners and trainers i have come into contact are making back in bets what they lose in costs so yes to say its a tax dodge is an understatement……they pay nothing on the losses and pay nothing on the wins……..clever little so and so………i dont think bookies should be allowed to ban people,as the reason given is discrimination….

  10. Charles says:

    bring on the girls – have beauty contests at racetracks – with nice prize money – the girls will come – and with the girls come the boys – hurrah – some racing too for the betting – hiho – charles

  11. DaveS says:

    Hi Matt:
    Interesting to see the range of replies especially about Sundays. Has it escaped Racehorse authorities that many people do not work that day and wouild enjoy quality racing. Derrrrrr

  12. Kevin says:

    Hi Matt,

    Just a few thoughts, none of them will ever see the light of day because the big bookies run the “sport” and spoil the “sport”.

    1 Scrap racing on MONDAY and TUESDAY – it’s rubbish
    2 Get rid of 30% worst performing provincial tracks
    3 Race meetings to be 8 races long
    4 In summer 3 afternoon meets, 3 evening meets
    5 In winter 4 afternoon meets
    6 Get rid of buffoons running the race tracks
    7 Beef up Sunday racing in line with Saturday

    Bookies

    1 They have too much say in the sport
    2 If they make the books why ban people who are successful
    3 They should take all bets
    4 They are lily-livered
    5 They reduce 16 runner handicaps down to 15 every time
    6 They reduce 8 runner handicaps down to 7 every time
    7 Why?—-because they can!
    8 Overrounds should be reduced by 75%
    9 They give the normal punter no chance at all

    NEVER USE BOOKIES, USE BETFAIR

    As I say none of these will ever happen because the bookies will not have it.

    Kevin

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      No idea John on the lowest grossing courses. My guess might be something like (in alphabetical order):

      Bangor, Brighton, Carlisle, Fakenham, Hamilton, Kempton (AW), Nottingham, Redcar, Taunton, and Thirsk

      Of course, I could be wildly off the mark here. Anybody know the answer to this?

      Matt

  13. George E says:

    Only one course of action required to get people to the track—-reduce the cost of admission.Better to have 10,000 paying a fiver than 5,000 paying a tenner.

  14. Tony says:

    hi matt…..thats just my view on racing and nobody should take offence…..i know people who love racing and some of the great sporting moments ever have been racing moments…..red rum and his third national win run in in 1977 had me screaming as a 16 y/o at the tv to encourage him home and i didnt have money on it…..same with kauto this year in the gold cup….he and denman were awesome……i cant watch the big jumps races anymore as i hate to see horses hurt……

    who is kate fox btw?……maybe i’ll google her!!!…..who knows where i’ll end up……

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Tony

      All fine. Kate Fox wrote a book called ‘The Racing Tribe’. She’s a social anthropologist.

      Matt

  15. jbzola says:

    in general yr totally on the money
    2 points good value entry fees eg 2 for 1 and return vouchers

    mondays are fine in summer evenings look at windsor where crowds 4-9000 are typical

    the team nonsense is a daft idea

    its an individual sport except for Aidan O,Brien then he gets fined for teaming along…by the stewards

    great

  16. LF says:

    The solution is simple: increase the quantity/quality of the racing when people have the time to follow it. For example: Friday and Saturday 3 day, 3 night meetings, Sunday 3 day 2 night, take Monday off and de-emphasise Tuesday with maybe just the 3 day meetings.

    There will be basically zero chance of racing stopping for any day during the week of course. The bookies will see to that (and then go offshore so they don’t have to help finance it, but that’s another issue).

  17. Paul Reynolds says:

    totally agree with others on the Sunday increase in racing. I went to Pontefract a few weeks back on a Sunday and where I would have thought 3000 would turn out there were nearly 11000, all buying food and drinks and I assume having a bet. More emphasis on the weekend and evening meetings is what we need. I agree we could do without Monday racing but by Tuesday I might be having betting withdrawls! 8 race cards are a good idea too, makes for a good day out and surely more economical for trainers and courses?

  18. Rob 'The Potato' Pacitto says:

    I am not really qualified to comment (I will anyway!) because when it comes to increasing the appeal and income of racing, I really am an equine entertainment luddite.

    I preferred race meetings when only actual racing fans attended, watched and punted. Brigadier Gerard evening at Sandown was my favourite. Balmy evenings, hardly anybody there, sprawling lawns, no queue for Pimms, spare benches and a nice academic four runner Group 3 nearly always won by Wragg, Cecil or Stoute at odds of about 8/15. Smashing.

    Where did it all go? How did we get here? Cheerleaders. Boyzone. The Rest of the World team. Steepledowns. Ladies nights. Good grief, it’s so depressing.

  19. Stoss says:

    Matt & all, some good comments.
    My 5 point plan to improve racing and it’s popularity:-

    1. Less racing – not just the rubbish Monday racing but reduce some of the Group 1’s so that the good horses are forced to run against each other more often. At present in Britain there are so many races that the top horses can avoid each other until Cheltenham – especially if Mr Nicholls has the top 4 three mile chasers! Who can forget how the Denman v Kauto clash of 18 months ago took the sport onto the front pages of papers other than the RP. There is too much racing full stop!

    2. A more positive approach from the racing authorities. So what if the odd average handicapper is ‘pulled’ – this will always be so with the current handicap system. Rather than employ a few ex Met Police numpties to run around asking stupid questions, the BHB, etc should be promoting the positive aspects of the sport. I mean the result of every wrestling bout is known before the actors step in the ring but Panorama do not run programmes on this.

    3. More Sunday racing to encourage families and a wider audience. Also why does racing have to start in the afternoon? Why couldn’t we have meetings at 11am (ok in the winter this would be an issue when frost needs to come out of the ground, but in summer it shouldn’t be an issue and could attract additional punters – those like me with a 5 year old son are usually up at 6am anyway!)

    4. Prevent the coach load of Geordies that appear to turn up at every race meeting on a Saturday from getting in!

    5. Ban that pillock McCririck from anything to do with racing – warning him off is too good for him. He takes plenty out of racing but gives it nothing.

  20. Brian says:

    I think it’s brilliant that some extreme proposals have provoked such an extreme, entertaining and opposite reaction. Hopefully common sense will prevail and there must be a consensus to be found within the two extremes. Thank heaven for free speech!

  21. Andrew says:

    All of these surveys always seem to start with the premise that there is something fundamentally wrong with the sport of horse racing. What has in fact occurred is that the sport of football has been so expertly managed that all other sports have been left very much in its wake. Who for instance these days follows snooker or darts ? Both of these sports were very popular in the 1980s but these days they fade away to just the one tournament on terrestial t.v. every year. Going back even further than this in the days of “World of Sport” both swimming and motor-bike racing (anyone remember Stu Wildcat Smith?) were essential features of Saturday afternoon viewing.

    There is a soft underbelly prevalent at the left-wing BBC who perceive horse-racing to be cruel and therefore not fit for human consumption. The coverage on Channel 4 is worth watching but I increasingly find the Morning Line predictable and missable.

    The truth is that to the casual observer is that horse racing is missable. From my own perspective I only tune into either the big race meetings or race meetings in which I have placed a bet.

    To be honest I am not sure how you can get the uncommited into supporting horse racing. The only way is to look upon the sport firstly from the gambling perspective. In all honesty if there was no betting how many of us would have the slightest interest in the sport ? One way would be to highlight successful punters and to try and get them to explain how they arrived at their selections. In fairness Channel 4 have tried this, but they are hampered by the common man not being particularly media friendly, perhaps through nervousness. One exception to this rule was Agnes Haddock who did enough in her five minute appearance as to be given a regular slot on the show.

  22. Skint says:

    Matt,

    That was one of the best, if not THE best article by you that I have ever read.

    Your analysis was spot-on. Personally, I’m a traditionalist, I love the ‘narrative’ as it currently exists and has largely remained unchanged since Victorian times and even earlier. However, if there are to be any changes, they should be the kind of sensible ones you go for, and we should at all costs AVOID the ‘dumbing down’ proposals you condemn. Goebbels said ‘When I hear the word culture I reach for my gun’ – just substitute ‘rebranding’ for ‘culture’ and that’s what I wish I could do.

    Only thing I disagree with you about is Mondays: I love Monday racing, it always seems very profitable for me, low quality or not.

    In general, racing has had massive increases in racecourse attendance in the boom years pre-recession, and even now attendances are holding up pretty well. You can’t expect there to be quite so many punters in a recession – the sensible thing to do would be to simply reduce racecourse entry prices.

    Regards,

    Skint.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks to everyone for your contributions.

      One thing seems quite clear – we are all of a similar mind on Sunday racing. Why then can’t the beaks see the wisdom of this?!

      Matt

  23. tony h says:

    bring back 24hr declorations. too many none runners. 48 was supposed to be an experiment, this may not improve attendence but its something that needs voicing to benifit the punter. also reducing entrance fees to the meetings would improve attendence like the buses trains bankers MPs and a lot more not yet exposed but keep reading the news, racing is too greedy.

  24. Phil Root says:

    Hi Matt

    I enjoyed your article and the many responses, without doubt racing should be scrapped on a monday as its usually a poor affair. I would
    favour more sunday meetings geographically placed to enable easier access for all. I would definately 2nd an earlier comment that racing should start in the morning, and perhaps provides more attractions for young children to enable the whole family to enjoy a day out at the races.

  25. donkers says:

    Excellent article and responses. I agree with pretty much everything you say. some of the proposals are utterly absurd. Horse racing CANNOT be a team sport without totally undermining the betting! Stupid marketing company speak from people ‘brainstorming’ around a table, none of whom could have ever been near a race course! ‘Let’s have a Champion’s Day for the Flat season!!!’…..’Hey, great idea!!’….’and let’s call it…… Champion’s Day!!’.

    Genius.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that those of us who base a lot of our betting around historical stats. for the big meetings will be absolutely stuffed for at least ten years. The trends for say Cheltenham runners at Aintree would be a mess, as would any alteration of traditional races, gaps between races and so on. Nightmare scenario.

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