For gamesmakers read racemakers. Great British Racing has taken note of the huge beneficial impact the army of volunteers had at last year’s Olympic Games and recruited its own team to share their passion for racing at this season’s Qipco British Champions’ Series racedays.
Nine volunteers were on hand at Newmarket for the Guineas meeting, where their work met with an enthusiastic response all round. Brian Simpson, a Newmarket newbie racegoer said, “I’m impressed. They are really helpful and friendly and, as I’ve never been here before, they made me feel at home.”
A similar number will be on hand at York on Friday and Newbury on Saturday to advise racegoers on three aspects of racing. The three roles are:
Paddock Guide –telling people what to look out for as the horses parade, and explaining what happens in the paddock and the winners’ enclosure.
Betting Guide – explaining how betting works on the racecourse, whether in the ring or the Tote, describing the different types of bet and some of the slang descriptions of prices.
Tour Guide – providing behind the scenes tour of the racecourse, explaining about the pre-parade and parade ring, the weighing room, betting ring and viewing points. Tour guides also talk about the history of the racecourse and some of its notable races and personalities.
Rod Street, chief executive of GBR reckons that the response to the scheme from potential racemakers shows that there is a wealth of knowledge amongst racegoers and a desire to share it with others. He said, “We are delighted with the response. All the recruiting has been done through social media (that explains why I didn’t spot it) – our website, Twitter and Facebook – so there has been no advertising for it. It has been oversubscribed and, while we had nine racemakers at Newmarket, there will be more later in the season.”
Is there anything in this for the volunteers, apart from the opportunity to share their knowledge? Jo Lambert, widow of trainer Mick, was surely jesting when she said, “I liked the look of the jacket.” Yes, there is the uniform of a bright blue fleece jacket, but there’s also the attraction of free entry to the meeting for which they volunteer and to another Champions Series Raceday in the remainder of the year.
Another volunteer, owner and breeder Don Clark, outlined the reaction he had from people. He said, “The response from people has been great. I’ve been talking to people for ten minutes and most have been first time racegoers. I’ve taken small groups to the paddock and gave them the one-two in the Palace Stakes. Overall it has been very positive, and although I got a couple of replies along the lines of ‘we’re only here for the drinking’, it’s a great initiative.”
I think it’s a great idea to have knowledgeable racing fans sharing their enthusiasm about the sport. As GBR says to them, “you’re the experts and the racegoers the novices”. If people come and learn more about racing and really enjoy themselves, they’ll come again.
What do you think of the idea? Did any of you volunteer?