JUST WILLIAM: #ComeRacing

There’s been a lot written about racing recently. Not just the wonderful exploits on the track – and more on that later – but the experience of seeing the sport live, and how to promote the core product that we all love (or at least visitors to this website are sure to).

Last week, I ticked off some big firsts. Whilst taking some holiday, I went to York – both the City, and the racecourse – for the first time ever. I’d heard many good things about York, so decided to break my Knavesmire duck at the Ebor meeting. After all, why not go for the very best right?

Full disclosure, making good decisions is something I’ve struggled with this year; but the call to go to York was the best call I’d made of the summer.

The first thing to note about the course itself – a glorious sight from either the grandstand, or the opposite end of the track – is just how brilliant the view is. A grandstand and paddock pass, which cost just £100 for four days of seeing some of the world’s best horses, seemed to have space for every man, woman, child and stag party to pick their spot, including right on the winning post, supplemented by excellent big screens. This was also the case on Friday and Saturday, even with the larger attendances.

An increased police attendance on course (Ed Chamberlin wrote that there were eight sniffer dogs and 44 police officers) brought across the message of how seriously York were taking public safety and order, but the class and enthusiasm of the racegoers was underlined by the brilliant reception that Battaash got when paraded by Jim Crowley before the Nunthorpe – although he was not the only horse to get a wonderful reception, as those who watched Stradivarius win a thrilling Yorkshire Cup – or cheered on Winter Power’s stunning Nunthorpe win will tell you.

A great race meeting – at least in the eyes of yours truly – marries top class racing on course with a brilliant experience for those on track, and York does just that perfectly.

I could wax lyrical about The Knavesmire for thousands of words more – and they’d deserve all the praise I pour on them – but to be the best, you have to learn from the best, and you couldn’t do better than York on last week’s evidence.

Everyone’s had an opinion on the promotion of racing recently, right from those at the heart of those efforts like Rod Street, chief executive of Great British Racing (GBR), top jockey Tom Marquand, Lady Bowthorpe owner Emma Banks, and Star’s very own Simon Nott, a man who has been to more meetings than I’ve had hot dinners.

All have made good points – and you can read Simon’s recent writing on this topic by clicking here – and the fact racing’s having a conversation about these issues is excellent, particularly as the tone has been friendly and engaging, which feels rare in these current times.

Ironically, the Racing Post’s Maddy Playle – one of a few young writers at that paper and someone who got into the sport in their teenage years – wrote about how York was the ideal model for wholesale promotion of the sport too, which you can find here.

One key thing which has been mentioned again and again when it comes to racing is the raceday experience and turning racegoers into fans of the sport as a whole. Racing jargon can be tricky for the newcomer to understand – something which I know all too well – but other complex sports do manage (there are plenty of cricket and rugby fans in this country, for example) and as Rod Street said earlier this week, it can be a positive if the sport embraces it with pride. After all, top flight football fans have had to wrestle with VAR implementation rules for the last two seasons.

One of my earliest – and most enjoyable – race going experiences was working as a ‘Racemaker’ for British Champions Day, providing assistance and then explaining various parts of the sport to people who asked, noticeably around the paddock. A quick google gives me only one recent result – a call for potential racemakers to come to this year’s Grand National meeting, which sadly had no crowds.

Maybe it’s time to bring the racemakers in?

William


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.


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