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Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

Tuesday 20 February 2024
Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

For regular readers of my RaceShare blog you’ll be well aware of my passion for NFL and having watched a couple of Chargers games at Sofi last year I wrote a blog about what racing could learn from the fan experience at an NFL game. (insert clever link to former blog here).

A couple of weeks ago the Super Bowl took place in Vegas featuring the Kansas City Chiefs/Taylor Swift and the San Francisco 49’ers – the Chiefs, guided by a generational talent in Patrick Mahomes came out on top in a nail-biting overtime victory.

Just a few days before the Superbowl the NFL announced their season winners in categories such as MVP (most valuable player), Offensive player of the year, Defensive Player of the Year and the one that interests me most regarding this column – the Rookie of the Year.

But what has any of this got to do with racing? I hear you ask. Well let me explain.
A lot has been spoken about the Mullins’ monopoly in recent weeks and as we approach Cheltenham, the power and likely dominance of his squad will be seen by all once again. This is in no way Willie Mullins’ fault – he has demonstrated year after year his supreme talent as a racehorse trainer and has earnt the right to be at the top of the tree through many years of hard graft.

However, during the conversations and discussions about this I haven’t really heard many people offer solutions – perhaps, simply put there isn’t one but here's mine. (To be clear, this isn’t a solution to stop Mullins winning a lot of races – he can keep doing that). This is an idea to create opportunities for new trainers/jockeys/owners etc to penetrate into the big leagues more easily.

Why doesn’t racing trial Rookie Racedays? This concept is designed for participants and fans with a real emphasis to get first time racegoers through the gates. We saw recently with packed stands at Exeter and Musselburgh the popularity of student racedays and the aim of Rookie Racedays would be to target racecourses near university towns/schools who would welcome the opportunity to take their students out for a day at the races.

Within the fan experience on the day would be educational areas as well as fun, engaging, creative ideas to entertain between races and as mentioned in a previous blog – proper use of big screens and the PA system to introduce the youngsters to the horses/jockeys/trainers that they’re cheering on. For the much younger racegoers, ensure family zones and interesting elements for parents to entertain their kids between races. In my role at ITV I have seen first hand the popularity of family friendly zones and really think it’s a key area for racecourses to focus on moving forward. And for the youngsters who enjoy data, analysis, puzzle solving – create an area with pundits/punters who can answer any questions and educate on how to study form correctly as well as where to find the correct data from. As well as that, how about a RaceShare stand with current owners, sharing their experiences with new racegoers and highlighting how they can get involved in ownership for the cost of a Freshers week night out.

Whilst the fan experience is key, the root of this idea came from finding opportunities for trainers and jockeys who are trying to make a name for themselves against the powerhouses.
So – for one or two meetings a month stage Rookie Racedays – during the card 1 race can be for trainers with fewer than 10 winners, one for 20 winners and so on and so on. You can repeat this model for apprentice jockeys providing both trainers and jockeys who are inexperienced a card catered to highlight their talents and credentials. If say a trainer has a double on the card or a treble on the card – offer bonuses – likewise for jockeys. That money for a trainer starting out would go a long way and could provide a significant springboard to their career. This is, to a certain extent, a mash-up of the Sky Bet Sunday Series, which I present for ITV and the Racing League, also on ITV and hosted by Chappers. I can only speak with a Sunday Series hat on but I love those slightly more informal racedays with racegoers of all ages having a lot of fun, and watching competitive racing.

There are of course currently races for jockeys with a certain amount of rides/wins to their name and I have definitely heard the idea floated of adding similar races for trainers – but with the Rookie Racedays – this would be a whole day, marketed well and crucially in the right areas to engage new racegoers. It would unashamedly be a day for the rookie racegoer and the rookie racing participant. I think if the loyal, regular racegoer lost too much sleep over these days not necessarily being their cup of tea then so be it, but what shouldn’t happen is that their raceday experience is not catered for on the 315 or so other racedays a year. Retention of the current customer base is as important as drawing new customers in.

There are obviously a few hoops to jump through in order to make this happen but as a premise, and at a time when racing should welcome or certainly listen to all ideas – (no matter how stupid) perhaps creating a raceday for the new names and faces that this sport will be relying on in years to come will go some way to ensuring a competitive sport for the next generation.

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Upcoming and past events

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18 November 2022
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The RaceShare team will be at Ascot on 18 and 19 November at the Shared Ownership Days. This is a great chance for us to meet racegoers and explain...
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19 November 2022
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RaceShare will be sponsoring the opening Novices' Hurdle at Ascot on 19 November. Alongside this, we will have a stand at Ascot's Shared Ownership ...
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