Saturday, 26 August 2017

ATTRACTING THE ATTENDEES


No matter what the smirking good news fibbers tell us,horse racing is very much struggling to create a permanent following among the current 18- 35 age group.This a group whose active involvement is desperately needed to replace the ailing and cynical long term supporters that the sport has relied on for so long.

If racing's share of the betting pie continues to fall then how will we be able to rely on the delayed levy replacement scheme to be implemented as proposed,and to generate the additional monies we are reassured it will create?

Not surprisingly the statements are always full of optimism.As all parties are not yet in harmony, they've just added an extra year on so they are now speculating how this anticipated increase from the 2018 yield,will be spent in 2019.Some believe that it is castle in the air talk and it will remain so.

If ultimately the money does not materialise,or worse if the present funding flags,there will continue to be an increased emphasis on venues to generate profit from sponsorship,themed race days and with it the willingness of the race day attendee to splash out on overpriced food and drink,and in some cases put idle convenience first and bet with an in-house fixed odds betting system separate from the Tote,as adopted by Chester and Bangor On Dee.

By accepting the reality that the actual racing per se does not excite the emerging generations as it did their predecessors,then this is the most that can be hoped for with the chance that just maybe,when they return home and focus on their main sport of football,they may be tempted to bet a little more frequently on the horses,even if only as support to their main betting interests on other more popular sports.

But they have to keep returning,and an undoubted vital ingredient in what makes one racecourse more appealing than another is location.Many of those visiting York today will have spent some time strolling around the city centre earlier in the day.Lots of enchanting tea and cake cafes,a multitude of cracking pubs,curious hobby collectors shops,and generally a feelgood factor aura.

Contrast this with Doncaster,voted in one survey conducted around ten years ago as the most depressing place to live in.Walking from the course to the city centre is a different experience than York, passing through parts where you don't really want to aimlessly wander around.The town centre is not pretty on the eye either.

Mention of Doncaster conjures up the images of pit and steel mill closures,and not a lot be hopeful about, though there is at least Nurse Gladys!Oh yes,not to forget that foreboding,towering slag heap from Rossington Colliery that you cannot fail to spot when you watch black and white footage of old races at the course.

In reality the town has benefited from high level investment in recent times.The racecourse itself unveiled a new stand for the 2007 St Leger meeting,while the Harworth Group that own the land on the site of the long gone slag heap have been granted clearance to renovate the spot into parkland.

Nevertheless,a day at the races at Donny does not hold the same charm appeal as a day at the Knaveshmire. A particular gripe for many is the hindrance of having the paddock in front of the stands which restricts free space in the area.There is actually nowhere else near for it to go as the busy A18 runs yards away from the back of the stands.Moreover in the hands of Arena Leisure this is a venue that could easily go the wrong way despite having notable historical prominence,

Kempton is proof that you are never too good to go,and is due to be sacrificed for a housing project. The Jockey Club Racecourses organisation say the funds from the sale will enable them to safeguard and develop other courses in their portfolio.

And while land for a housing project in Sunbury-on-Thames will attract offers on a tier above that for land situated in South Yorkshire,the average time for a train journey from Doncaster to King's Cross is 1 hour 45 minuites,and it is not uncommon for workers in the city to commute from this location,the inconvenience and travel fare preferable to the substantial cost of living in the Home Counties.

Chester, like York,displays plenty of its Roman heritage and has a quaintness that may just swing the decision to pay the course a visit.There was a time when after the May meeting you had the Chester Summer Cup fixture and that was it for the season.

More fixtures were welcome but not on the thoughtlessly introduced basis as what has occurred.Think most have lost count how many meetings they now have - there was even one today!

The course has steep,unjustified admission costs, hosts more bum cards than ever before,but attracts the 'cult' crowds and is an inviting location to tempt the booking of a hotel room.It is one of the last courses in any danger of being culled,though it has its fair share of critics among proper racing fans.

Aintree along with its grim looking old stand was nearly lost in the 1970's when in the ownership of the colourful and recently late Bill Davies.It then had another near miss in the early 1980's but managed to survive again.

It has since thrived under the Jockey Club Racecourses banner who have developed the public areas beyond recognition and introduced two welcome and appealing fixtures in the first half of the season, and a couple of unappealing concert nights in early Summer. And for access there is the railway station facing the course giving you quick route to the city centre.

Whatever lies in store for the future of the Grand National itself,the meeting bearing that name will hold its place as a major festival in the calendar,and the venue can continue to prosper on the cult raceday crowds, tourists, and day trippers alone.

Haydock Park is another venue which you lose track over the number of meetings they now stage.Many of the old timers have never forgiven Tellwright and Co for ripping up the traditional steeplechase course with its drop fences for the purpose of creating an extra flat track to bring in more poor fare fixtures designed for the loiter around the bar and get sozzled brigades.

It does not offer a walk to the course experience.Classed as being part of St Helens but far away from the centre of that town,you have the choice of walking towards an assemble of busy roads and motorways,or in the other direction into the nearest town of Ashton-in-Makerfield,which does not have any hidden delights but can boast of being the birthplace of the 1970's political icon Joe Gormley.

This a course that does not deserve any good breaks but due to the easy access from the road networks,and a more heavily populated catchment area than most other courses outside of London,it will not be on the danger list anytime soon.

It would be a mistake to take for granted the continued existence of all but a dozen or so of our courses nationwide. Kempton is the home of one of the jewels in the crown in the King George Chase, a race that won't feel the same staged elsewhere.It has also played the modern game by staging regular AW fixtures.That facet will not be missed,but the fact that we may lose it as a jumping venue is a warning to all.


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