Starting with the meeting next Wednesday, Newbury is scrapping its silver ring, with the result that the cheapest admission price will increase from Â£7 to Â£15. The silver ring is popular with families, and on busy summer meetings often attracts a crowd of around 800.
Bookmakers from the silver ring will be rehoused in the main grandstand enclosures, but one of them, Alan Carter, of bookmakers Smith and Fox, was appalled by the move. "Is it the intention in these economically challenging times that those with limited income be excluded from enjoying our glorious sport? With all the publicity nationally about Racing for Change encouraging people to come racing, this seems like the sport shooting itself in the foot."
Last week Newbury was voted the Racehorse Ownersâ€™ Association racecourse of the year for the seventh time in eight years, and the trackâ€™s joint managing director Stephen Higgins made it clear that the course was only seriously interested in people at that end of the income stream. "From our perspective, the silver ring didn't reflect the kind of experience we want to give people when they come racing. While we do all we can to make the main grandstand enclosure (admission price) competitive, the price reflects the quality of the facilities in that space. The question is whether you consider Â£15 to be an expensive day out. We do have discounts for OAPs and entry for under 18s is free."
Just how out of touch with the world most of us live in can you be? Higgins clearly doesn't realise that most race goers don't attend by themselves, so the starting point is really whether people are able to afford Â£30 for a day out. And actually, if you then add on a Â£2 bet each on half a dozen races, and a few litres of petrol to get there and back then you well over Â£50 mark a day out at Newbury. If you then starts to add on the cost of the race card and something to eat from the rip-off burger or roast meat stalls it's hard for a couple to go racing and come back with much change from Â£100, unless they find a couple of winners between them.
Higgins did offer a tiny olive branch of hope for the silver ring devotees, saying that the course would review the layout of enclosures once the redevelopment was completed. "We hope to open a new picnic enclosure," he said. Big deal.