It was good to get back on the turf again before I have to go under the knife.
My surgeon’s proviso that I should take it easy and not go out boozing until 4am before a day racing seemed eminently doable being those nights on a work day, or any other day come to that have long gone anyway.
The Star Sports-sponsored three-day meeting at Brighton was a joy to attend. OK, the first two days of the meeting were a joy to be at. Friday ruined by sea fret was a shame but the weather was kind to us for two days.
The meeting proved to be very popular with the locals who were there in force. There have been a few news stories recently regarding the early morning rush to bag a sun lounger on foreign holidays. I’m marking your card now, if the Brighton racecourse faithful ever take to the Med on mass for their holidays, the German tourists would get a run for their money. There wasn’t an outdoor seat to be had within 10 minutes of the racecourse opening their doors on Wednesday and Thursday.
I managed to bag a couple on Thursday, I did have the advantage of being able to get in before the general public though. The reason for such privilege is that I was interviewing now recently ex-jockey Mattie Batchelor for #BettingPeople. It was an interview that I had been trying to get for a while and was looking forward to.
Amongst all the laughs you’d expect with Mattie, he said something very surprising, to me at least. He told me that he didn’t start riding horses until he was 15, that’s quite late for someone that goes on to become a professional jockey. That wasn’t it though. He told me that he’d lived in Brighton all his life, within sight of the racecourse, but he was totally unaware of its existence.
That’s quite amazing, isn’t it? There’s a lot of talk about racing losing its share of audience recently due to lack of effort on the sport’s part. It’s no recent thing though, if Mattie didn’t know about the racecourse for the first 15 years of his life. How could that even happen, surely a happening leisure city like Brighton, with a historic racecourse on the hill should have been trumpeting it.
But apparently, they didn’t.
Things have obviously changed for the better, this week’s mid-week meeting was packed, great testament to the marketing of the racecourse and I’d like to think in no little part, the meeting’s sponsors. Even Friday’s single race, threw up some magic, anyone who saw trainer Dylan Cunha talking emotionally about his charge Mr Fayez, retired after just winning the Class 6 Celebrating David Dark’s 80th Birthday Handicap, would have seen first hand the joy that horses competing in even the lowest grade can bring.
My Saturday morning was a quick jaunt up the motorway, to Ascot and the Shergar Cup. It’s still a meeting that some racing fans get a bit sniffy at. I really don’t know why, surely with all the racing that there is, probably the same people complain about, there’s a place for a once a year unique event like the Shergar Cup. Incidentally, I was interviewing racecourse bookmaker Spinning Mick before racing and can vouch that the Ascot crowd can give their Brighton counterparts a run for their money in the chair bagging stakes too.
I don’t know what the Ascot team did to promote The Shergar Cup this year but whatever it was it was they hit gold. The racecourse was packed with people, young people too, good natured young people dressed to the nines and enjoying themselves. Anyone commenting before racing might have dismissed the size of attendance as mostly only having come racing to see the entertainment afterwards.
But no, well, it could have been yes, but they were really getting into the racing too. The bookmakers, at least in the area of Tattersalls where Star Sports bet, with tell you, the racegoers were betting. The average stake on Saturday was more like £15. They were enjoying betting as it’s perfectly OK to do, as part of the fun of the day out, then really roaring their horses home, in short enjoying the racing for the sport. Get them into the racecourse, put on some competitive sport and the pure essence and excitement of all aspects of the game will capture the imagination of any crowd.
What made it perfect for me was that the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Challenge was won by a micro share company RaceShare horse Scampi. Not just won, but in a thrilling, desperate, blood pumping, short-head photo finish victory. As with the Shergar Cup itself, racing people have been sniffy about the increasingly popular micro share concept. But come on, people get give shares in horses like Scampi for Christmas, Birthdays or buy them as added interest for their horseracing hobby, often for under fifty quid.
Just imagine being one of the lucky ones who got owners badges for Scampi’s run at the Shergar Cup and cheering your winner home from that historic parade ring. Money can’t buy that, or at least a lot of people have thrown fortunes into the unfulfilled hope of ever experiencing it. Even those watching on TV would have had a fantastic thrill, it engages so many people in another level.
Racing really can get a lot of things right, this week, to me at least, it displayed all the elements to instill confidence that there’s a long future in horseracing yet. Get people involved, make them feel they all belong, and show them what the sport can do, then everyone’s a winner.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.
Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
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