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Racing For Change – Some Ideas From Marcus Townend

Home Forums Horse Racing Racing For Change – Some Ideas From Marcus Townend

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  • #12496
    Venusian
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    • Total Posts 1665

    Some radical suggestions from Marcus Townend in the Mail, with 10 ideas for improving racing in the UK, in particular, flat racing.

    He’s not convinced that just putting on pop concerts after racing is much of a solution to (flat) racing’s growing anonymity.

    I don’t myself think that they’re totally a bad idea, but they may mask the problem more than they solve it.

    Some of them are quite dramatic – the idea of a 2-heat 4f sprint race, followed by a final on the same day is potentially a winner, in my opinion, as are his ideas for re-jigging the start and finish of the racing seasons.

    Here’s the link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing … acing.html

    #246111
    phil walker
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    • Total Posts 1374

    All very laudable and well thought out ideas, however knowing how useless racing’s owners are, nothing will change.

    #246116
    % MAN
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    • Total Posts 5104

    I think Marcus is one of the better members of the press room who frequently slips under the radar – he deserves a higher profile.

    Some good ideas – I particularly like the loyalty card scheme and it is something the RCA could well set up quickly and easily if there was the desire.

    Indeed it is hard to criticise any of the suggestions he has made – however getting them adopted could be more of an uphill struggle.

    #246120
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    I think the four-furlong sprint idea is perhaps one of the worst I’ve come across and its comparison with Twenty20 cricket is nothing short of laughable.

    Aside from the fact that not every horse is conditioned to take in two races in the same day – on hot days it would be an absolute nightmare – are people really going to consider shorter races to be better value for money? Would three races, lasting a little over two minutes in total, be any more exciting?

    I have my doubts.

    The desire to embrace the Twenty20 model is seemingly apparent in every sport, though few seem to realise it’s merely an adaptation of five-a-side football. How many sports have been clambering to copy that? Twenty20 works within the bounds of cricket – slogs, sweeps and high run rates create impact – but few, if any, other sports have the structure to adapt in a similar way.

    Horseracing (like snooker – the idea for six-red frames is comical at best) is one of them, requiring creativity rather than settling for looking across and copying from someone else’s answer sheet.

    #246148
    Tuffers
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    • Total Posts 1402

    Bring back the hippodromes!

    #246152
    apracing
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    • Total Posts 3329

    Also, if you run two 4F semi finals, however many runners you have in those races, the potential total of runners in the other races is reduced by that number. You’d still need a racecourse stable for every horse.

    Some of the other ‘ideas’ are already being practiced – there is a nationwide discount scheme for entry fees, it’s called the Racegoers Club. And as for the bookies funding extra meetings if they want them, well surely that’s exactly what happens now.

    Trying to keep older flat horses in training by a program of valuable races – well there’s no way of providing prize money that could match the potential stud fees. The flat does produce horses that the public can relate to over a period of years – the best recent examples being Persian Punch and Sergeant Cecil, and of course, Yeats. Those names should provide a clue – it’s the stayers stupid! But racing (as I’ve mentioned here before) is increasingly moving towards a program that excludes horses that want more than 12F.

    Agree about deflecting attention from our big events by staging other meetings on the same day. Why not take an example from football here – this coming Saturday, it’s Man Utd v Arsenal. There are still other Premier League matches, but they kick off at 3pm and the big game is at 5:30. So you could have other meetings on Derby day, but only in the morning or the evening.

    AP

    #246154
    phil walker
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    • Total Posts 1374

    With all due deference to course such as Thirsk and Cattarick etc, these are hardly top class racecourses and offer mostly mediocre fare so why do they get so many Saturday fixtures?

    There should be a huge shake-up of the fixture list and the number of meetings should be cut by at least a third. More racing doesn’t mean better racing and if we had less fixtures this will hopefully improve the quality.

    #246155
    SwallowCottage
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    • Total Posts 1008

    Forget the four furlong sprint and I don’t think that the idea to expand a programme for older horses to encourage flat racing stars to stay in training would work – too much money to be made elsewhere at stud etc.

    His other ideas make a lot of sense in my opinion especially number 1 about too many fixtures and number 5 about running more big races on a sunday when there is less competition from other sports regarding media attention.

    He’s also right about having fewer meetings on major flat days – why does racing have so many other cards on these special occasions including aw meetings – not that I’m against the aw but there are times when it should not take place.

    However as paulostermeyer has already stated, it will be an uphill struggle for any of these ideas to take place and racing’s share of betting shop turnover will continue to fall because it is becoming boring compared to other sports which punters like to bet on.

    #246160
    Venusian
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    • Total Posts 1665

    Also, if you run two 4F semi finals, however many runners you have in those races, the potential total of runners in the other races is reduced by that number. You’d still need a racecourse stable for every horse.

    I don’t agree with the logic of this argument.

    If we take the case of a typical 7 race card, then we could have 5 standard races, 2 heats and a final, which gives 8 races run from 7 "races-worth" of horses.

    The capacity of a racecourse’s stables only relates to the total number of individual horses taking part. It doesn’t matter whether some of those races are heats or not.

    #246171
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    An expanded programme for older horses would simply mean the same horses we have now running more often, for more money. How does that serve to make racing more appealing? Ap is bang on when he says the real attractions of the sport are the likes of Persian Punch, Sergeant Cecil and Yeats, so why is (relative) speed perceived to be the way forward?

    There goes the unworkable Twenty20 comparison again.

    The fundamental problem horseracing has (other than those charged with running it) is that there is nobody to support in the traditional sense. Very few, if any, racegoers wake up in the morning and think ‘I’m going to go and cheer for Pat Dobbs today’. The betting angle obviously makes this difficult, in that we’re naturally inclined to veer away from anyone who has cost us money, but the fact is those involved directly with racing are far too inaccessible.

    It amazes me that 100,000 people will gladly suffer searing heat to catch an occasional glimpse of a car-shaped blur in Formula 1 (I’m a fan of F1, but only from the comfort of my living room), yet the same can’t be said of horseracing which is infinitely more spectator-friendly as a form of entertainment.

    The only difference is the amount, and quality, of the promotion.

    Here’s a thought – if you were placed on a racecourse with a basic racecard, five excitable mates, a pie, a pint and a race with ten colour-less (i.e. no silks) horses, would you be able to tell what grade of race you were watching?

    I’d be fairly sure that 90% of people would say ‘no’.

    Too much is being made of quality when, in reality, it’s competition, familiarity and quantification that people crave. Jockeys, trainers and stables need to be brought to people, rather than people brought to them, and historical footage needs to be made available, free of charge, as conveniently as possible. Pack videos out with facts – show people how fast the winner is running, show them how much he’s won, tell them how much they could have won backing him. Take people on video tours of yards – show them how things work, let the ‘professionals’ give the presentations some character, explain what it is to be involved in one the country’s biggest industries.

    Racing needs to undergo massive re-structuring, nobody can argue with that, but that’s for the purists to worry about. The masses aren’t going to care how 48-hour declarations make Mark Johnston feel, whether or not there is too much 0-50 racing or if Aussie sprinters race off their t*ts on performance-enhancing drugs. They want to know their getting value for money, what it is their actually watching and what it means to be watching it – we need faces, not just names.

    #246173
    graysonscolumn
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    • Total Posts 6964

    With all due deference to course such as Thirsk and Catterick etc, these are hardly top class racecourses and offer mostly mediocre fare so why do they get so many Saturday fixtures?

    Presumably because they bid for them, as they are wholly entitled to do, and because I’d imagine it fits the business model of each course to secure a certain number of meetings on more lucrative days.

    Placing a qualitive prerequisite on which meetings should be entitled to race on Saturdays and Bank Holidays is no nettle I’d want to grasp. You’d deliver a likely mortal blow to somewhere like Cartmel in short order if you prevented it from racing on its current dates just because the mostly class 4-and-lower fare it offers wrankles.

    Moreover, do we not run a risk with putting on, say, four cards under the same code on a Saturday afternoon in which all races were class 2 or higher? Four cards of undoubtedly quality fields, but at the same time numerically markedly-depleted fields that have cut up at each others expense?

    16-runner 2m6f 0-110 handicaps from Kelso on a midwinter Saturday when Haydock or Sandown or Wetherby’s feature races have reduced to penny numbers (again…) serve a purpose beyond offering mere light and shade. Cherish them.

    gc

    The patron saint of lower-grade fare. A gently critical friend of point-to-pointing. Kindness is a political act.

    #246202
    yeats
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    • Total Posts 3140

    Agree about deflecting attention from our big events by staging other meetings on the same day. Why not take an example from football here – this coming Saturday, it’s Man Utd v Arsenal. There are still other Premier League matches, but they kick off at 3pm and the big game is at 5:30. So you could have other meetings on Derby day, but only in the morning or the evening.

    AP

    What would punters in the betting shops and in front of their computer screens bet on before and after The Derby?
    To be fair I don’t think there’s that much wrong with the sport apart from bookmakers and poor prize money, 25,000 at Newcastle the other week for a mediocre card and big crowds throughout the summer.
    I must admit I was sickened when I saw one of the main objectives of Racing for Change was to work more closely with bookmakers just after two of them had pissed off to Gibraltar with their internet business.

    #246208
    phil walker
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    • Total Posts 1374

    16-runner 2m6f 0-110 handicaps from Kelso on a midwinter Saturday when Haydock or Sandown or Wetherby’s feature races have reduced to penny numbers (again…) serve a purpose beyond offering mere light and shade. Cherish them.

    gc

    While I don’t disagree with you Graysonscolumn I was only speaking about flat racing as I stopped following it a few years ago because I was tired of it’s monotonous and dull fare.

    I love my jumps racing whether it be Cheltenham, Cartmel or Kelso and certainly cherish these meetings.

    #246214
    Tuffers
    Member
    • Total Posts 1402

    Very few, if any, racegoers wake up in the morning and think ‘I’m going to go and cheer for Pat Dobbs today’.

    I woke up this morning and said ‘I’m going to go and cheer for James Doyle today’ :wink:

    Spot on with the other points, though. If you look at the features of racing that do penetrate the consciousness of the general public they are related to a great spectacle (the Grand National) or a well-known personality (Frankie Dettori).

    The trouble with jockeys as personalities is that they are too inconspicuous. It’s the human participants in most sports that make the sports popular. Maybe it’s time to think about popularising our jockeys more (rather than vilifying them)?

    Here’s a radical idea – abandon silks for owners and replace them with a system of silks for specific jockeys. People would then be able to associate silks with a particular personality rather than (with a small number of notable exceptions) faceless owners. Jockeys could have their names on the backs of their silks in the same way as footballers and one-day cricketers

    As for making racing more of a spectacle, I mentioned bringing back the hippodromes (slightly tongue in cheek) but there is a serious point there. Chariot and horse racing in a hippodrome was popular because the crowd were close to the action and there was the sort of atmosphere that you would get at other sporting occasions that take place in an arena. Anyone who has been to the Cheltenham festival will tell you that the noise of the crowd as the horses come up the hill is something that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s that vicarious thrill that all sports fans are looking for.

    A major problem for most of our racecourses is that the audience is quite simply too far away from the action. This is partly caused by the fact that a lawn or betting ring separates the crowd from the course. The effect is compounded on dual purpose courses where the flat course separates the crowd and the NH course.

    It would clearly be a major undertaking but I’d like to see racecourses put the track much closer to the stands to really get people involved.

    #246216
    Tuffers
    Member
    • Total Posts 1402

    QUOTE FROM TUFFERS
    The trouble with jockeys as personalities is that they are too inconspicuous. It’s the human participants in most sports that make the sports popular. Maybe it’s time to think about popularising our jockeys more (rather than vilifying them)?

    Food for thought Tuffers. Your ideas are good but until the newspapers and general tv channels give a far greater coverage of racing your ideas would only benefit those who already have an interest. To attract more interest racing needs to hype itself up. Unless you get the RP you don’t know for instance, who is leading the jockey championship till the last week of the season. Why not show the standings once a week in the general pres as is done with football? This might grab peoples interest.
    Why can’t the bookies give odds for jockey v jockey…. points for a win and places? Choose some of the smaller meetings and some of the less well known jocks would get a mention.
    Unless you are available to watch ATR in the morning you are unlikely to see interviews with jocks, trainers or owners. To have a presenter running alongside a horse and trying to interview the jockey is ridiculous.

    I wouldn’t wait for tv and the press to do something. I would buy advertising space to get jockeys in the public eye. I would get the tabloids to do features on the new personalities. I know it’s appealing to the lowest common denominator but try and find some good looking jockeys and do photoshoots designed to make racing look a bit more sexy.

    I agree completely with the league table idea. The table with the relevant jockeys colours should appear in every racecard so that the casual racegoer can immediately identify the top jocks at that meeting.

    #246219
    Tuffers
    Member
    • Total Posts 1402

    Perhaps the BHA should have called in Max Clifford instead of Racing for Change. Any one who can get as much publicity for Z list celebrities should be able to do something for racing.

    This is the sort of thing we need to be doing:

    http://sportsclimax.com/featured/maylan … a-patrick/

    #246220
    apracing
    Participant
    • Total Posts 3329

    Tuffers,

    It’s the dreaded ‘elf n safety’, combined with the racecourses fear of being sued, that has separated the crowd from the horses.

    If you watch films of the big jump races from the 60’s (Hennessey, Whitbread), you’ll see the horses running between long lines of racegoers who formed a funnel from the last fence to the finish. Now there are rails everywhere and a punter that wants to go out onto the course to watch is regarded as a nuisance and at plenty of tracks, the option no longer exists.

    That railed horsewalk to the paddock at Stratford is a prime example and a massive irritant that constantly disrupts the flow of people around the track.

    AP

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