Is horse Racing the sport of Kings or the sport of the People? writes @carson1789
It has long been accepted that the peoples sport in the UK and Ireland is football (soccer for those staunch GAA supporters). A rich history of the working man grafting away all week with the escape of 90 minutes on a Saturday where he can go and cheer on his local heroes the only thing keeping him going. Attendance at football grounds across the province would back that statement up with a lot more people attending stadiums to watch football than racecourses to watch racing but what I’m fully prepared to state is that horse racing can be more engaging and personal to anyone who attends. How I hear you ask? Let me explain.
I’ve followed football from I was a boy and been to support teams local to me and across the water in the Premier League. I’ve fully enjoyed my experiences watching my heroes who I’ve only seen on television go about their business right there on the pitch. What has struck me over the years is the lack of connection fans have with the players, particularly those at the highest level. Footballers at the top level are wrapped in cotton wool, rushed into the stadiums before a game under heavy guard to play the match and then whisked away after the game as quickly as possible. Sure, there are certain stories that seem to be highlighted all over social media when a 300k a week footballer does a member of the public a good turn. Why is such a big deal made out of this? Should they not try and engage with fans alike? Does being a famous football mean you stop becoming a human being?
Granted the sheer number of fans makes this more difficult for footballers to achieve but I don’t feel they do enough.
Racing on the other hand and the main point I’m trying to make (probably unsuccessfully) is that you can watch racing on TV every Saturday or most days if you have Racing TV or Sky sports Racing, see your favourite jockeys go about their daily jobs then make a trip to a track whenever possible and see these jockeys up close and in person if you really want.
For instance, I attended my local track for a meeting and without any restrictions I could walk round to the weighing room and shake any jockeys hand coming out and into the paddock or ask for a quick picture if I wanted to. Over to the side of that area stood Gordon Elliot and Noel Meade, two trainers at the absolute top of the game as far as National Hunt racing goes. Where they behind any partition or in a fancy heated booth? No, they were standing to the side of the paddock, fully approachable and freezing like the rest of us!
I’ve been following racing a long time and didn’t feel the need to go over there but the point stands. Attend a football match in the premier league for the first time and can you go and ask a player for a picture? The answer is usually no. You can certainly do this at most race tracks and the majority of jockeys would duly oblige. Numbers of race goers is always under the spotlight and it definitely needs improved but one thing I would encourage all new racing fans to do is attend a lesser meeting as such. A midweek meeting at your local track. You may not get grade 1 horses on show or the best quality racing but what you will get is a great day out with the very real possibility of being within a bet slips width of a jockey or a trainer you watched on TV the week before! Ask them for a quick picture or their thoughts on the next race and I’m confident if they have the time they will agree.