As we slowly count down the days until British Champions Day at Ascot when the cream of British flat racing with the added extras of a few invaders from the Irish Sea and possibly our Gaelic cousins descend upon what is normally a damp and chilly day I’m in a somewhat reflective mood about the 2017 flat season.
Now first off before I go on I want to say that I’ve enjoyed the racing this fast season, for many the main equine stars have been Enable,Winter,Churchill,Big Orange and Harry Angel and without a doubt the most iconic piece of commentary came in the Nunthorpe when Richard Hoiles still in the zone said “He’s sure,I’m not!” when Marsha pipped Lady Aurelia on the line to give many of the Elite Racing Club members an afternoon and night that they will never forget.
For me I have a slight gripe over something that was never truly expanded and could have given horse racing a new outlook and a new audience.
Now apart from horse racing I love going to many other sports during the year, so far in 2017 I’ve been to racing,football,rugby (both codes),track cycling,tennis and athletics.
The 2017 British Champions Series organisers for this year recruited two ambassadors and with London holding the World Para Athletics and World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium,the people in charge hired Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson-Thompson to do some promotional work, this included visiting various trainers, KJT found herself at Hugo Palmer’s to see Galileo Gold for example and Adam going to visit fellow sprinter Harry Angel at Clive Cox’s.
Both looked genuinely pleased and took a huge interest in the places they went to and noting just how the training of a racehorse and themselves as athletes can be a mix of different and the same.
Potentially this was a fantastic opportunity for two sports to come together and showcase the best that they have to offer for one set of fans to another and for me this is something that was never utilised.
The main trials for the British World Champs for athletes for Team GB took place in June as per usual at the Alexandra Stadium at Birmingham, for me this is the home of British Athletics in the same way that Cheltenham is for jump racing.
Watching on television back home and interacting on Twitter with other fans,many noted the huge amount of empty seats around, now many like myself didn’t go mainly due to attending the World Paras in July where I had two excellent evening sessions seeing Johnnie Peacock,Hannah Cockroft and many other stars of para athletics entertain a passionate London crowd.
It was when I was watching the trials that it dawned on me that more could have been done to get bigger crowds and unite fans of both sports into an appreciation of each other’s
Surely the people at the BCS could have maybe persuaded the people at British Athletics for example to allow annual members at racecourses a chance to get discount tickets for the athletics or people who have attended a meeting with a BCS race to obtain tickets and in a reciprocal deal members from the British Athletics Supporters Club and members of all British Athletics Clubs could of had a chance to buy discount tickets for race meetings?
Why did the BCS not try to set up stalls at the Trials,World Paras and World Champs to advertise the British Champions Series?
When you go racing their is plenty to keep you busy such as fine dining,checking the form out,watching the pre race forum in the parade ring and getting your bets sorted out, at the athletics and most certainly at Birmingham for the trials you have pop up exhibitions,games for the kids and plenty of food and drink stalls, if racing had used its noddle then as its an outdoor sport too then something like a chance to meet a racehorse,do a commentary,look at the difference between the two sports such as the huge difference in distances used for sprint,middle distance and long distance races would have been a great educational experience for all who turned up.
Many in athletics like their racing, at the Ebor meeting in 2012 after the London Olympics, Brendan Foster was interviewed on Channel 4 on the opening day and spoke about how he loves his racing and was looking forward to seeing Frankel in the International.
It’s not exactly a shock to be honest that golden opportunities like this were left unopened and unexplored, many other sports have used horse racing as a way to bring its fans together, Super League to give an example have had two race meetings this summer, one at Pontefract and another at Haydock so fans of the clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire can meet their respective clubs players,mascots and fans of other teams mixed in with the added bonus of the now popular mascot races.
I guess we will never know what could of happened, the thing is is that racecourses have been used to host athletics in the past, Leopardstown once held the World Cross Country Championships in 2002 as indeed did Chepstow in 1976,that probably finished many of the competitors off like a heavy ground Welsh National winner! plus Longchamp in France, in recent years the infield at Pontefract has held cross country with Olympic Gold hero Alastair Brownlee finishing second in 2015 at the Northern CC Champs in the senior men’s race.
Time and time again the edited for a family audience saying of “Brewery” and “Getting Drunk in a Pub” spring to mind when it comes to British racing missing out on a golden opportunity to expand itself and attract a new audience while at the same time working with another sport to showcase both talents, I will admit I am no expert on marketing but I’m damn well sure if I was at the helm then this would have been a huge success for both sports!