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Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

Thursday 05 October 2023
Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

Hello RaceSharers! I am writing my latest blog from the 57th International Conference of Horseracing Authorities at Saint Cloud racecourse the day after a brilliant Arc won by Jean Claude Rouget’s unbeaten Ace Impact. The focus of this month’s blog will be about my learnings from Paris.

Firstly, my overarching takeaway was that the whole race day was a terrific example of how to put on a show. It really felt that the atmosphere, intensity and anticipation cranked up as we got nearer to the Arc and that sense of excitement could be felt amongst the crowd.

Things such as the right management of the PA system and getting the balance right between information and entertainment may seem small but make a real difference to the customer experience. Last year after the Breeders Cup I went to the Met Life stadium in New York to watch the Jets vs Bills. I'm a huge NFL fan so was very excited to see my first game Stateside having been to a few London games. I took my Opening Show producer, Tim Williams, who was an NFL virgin so to speak. We both left the game asking the same question…Why do British racecourses not make more use of the PA system/Big screens?

The way the sport is explained during breaks in play in the NFL means everyone can follow and understand the events unfolding. The way they introduce each player with short video clips of them means you get to know the sportsmen you’re watching. The way the stadium announcer and DJ hypes up the crowd ahead of big moments in the match really does get everyone invested and enthused. I truly believe that in racing where a lot of people don’t feel as though they can relate or know the big players, surely it wouldn’t be too much to film a load of fun and informative stuff with the jockeys/trainers/owners/grooms and play that out in between races on the big screen. Some racegoers will no doubt be totally oblivious to it but for a lot of racegoers it will be an informative and fun way of getting to know the people involved in the sport.

On ITV we do Jargon Busters which are hopefully short, easily digestible explainers about some of the more technical elements of the sport. Why not play some of them out on the big screen? They are filmed, edited and ready to go. Surely that would help fans young and old learn about racing. I know we have attempted to hype up the crowd, one recent example was the Derby a couple of years ago when fireworks were set off as the runners arrived at the start. Whilst well intentioned, this was a bit of a disaster in truth because the wind blew the smoke in the direction of the Derby start. I don’t think it needs to be that extravagant, as France showed yesterday, good video content, the right music and a good stadium announcer is enough to drum up the right level of anticipation. Before the Arc once the runners had arrived at the start they played We Will Rock You by Queen over the tannoy into the Grandstand. I saw racegoers singing along, clapping and feeling as though something big was about to happen. It was simple yet very effective. I’m not saying British racing is massively behind the curve on this but I do think we can improve this part of the racing experience for customers.

My other main takeaway is why, in 2023, can horses not parade in number order? They do in France, America, Hong Kong, Australia…EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD! It is so much easier for the racegoer (and broadcasters). I have not heard anyone in authority in the sport on our shores give me a good reason as to why we don’t? I don’t think I need to say much more on this – it’s fairly self explanatory as to why it benefits the customer and I really think it is an easy win. I hope some racing executives read this and seriously get a wiggle on in implementing this.

And my final point is how accessible a day at the races in France is. Tickets are cheap, racegoers get a free form sheet on arrival, the paddock and viewing areas are easy to find, there is plenty of open space further down the racecourse to get a drink and step away from the racing elements. I have no doubt that the number crunchers will be able to justify why everything costs the way it does in Britain but making everything as accessible as possible to everyone who comes racing is key if we are to attract new fans. It aligns with my thoughts on dress codes which I wrote about in an earlier blog and have made my views clear on that in the past.

It wasn’t all great mind you and I must say I was disappointed to see Rosallion’s connections and jockey looking for more buckets of water for their Group 1 winning star in the winner’s circle. There was only one available for a good few minutes and on a hot day it wasn’t good enough. Longchamp did ensure that in later races the situation was improved and I’m sure that they will get it right from the start in the future.

Before I headed to France we had two racedays at Newmarket and I think across the three days we were treated to three outstanding juvenile performances. Vandeek looks a star and I think he will be very hard to beat in next year’s Commonwealth Cup, the aforementioned Rosallion was back to his best winning his first Group 1 – he is a serious 2000 Guineas contender now as is Opera Singer in the 1000 Guineas on the back of a brilliant front running display to win her maiden Group 1. She is a progeny of Justify who Coolmore have invested heavily in and that is looking like a shrewd bit of business.

Whilst at Newmarket I started filming a fun new series called ‘Oversharing’ where I ask some famous racing faces a variety of random quickfire questions and I think you will really enjoy it so keep your eyes peeled for when that gets sent out! Hope you are all keeping well and look forward to seeing you at a racecourse or stable very soon.

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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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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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