Racing – Time to be relevant!

Anyone who reads my occasional ramblings (thanks if you do!) will recall that back in January I wrote about the perception that racing is elitist and therefore may be a turn-off to racegoers as well as potential owners. A Yawning Gap? – maybe it’s the elitism not the spectacle!

I have already stated that I do not hold the puritanical view that entertainment and Captureparty-packages should not be part of racing as I believe it will bring more people to the courses.  Certainly it gets bums on seats.  My concern though is not for the racecourse balance sheet, but that those “newbies” are the next generation of owners, breeders and racing fans and that this potential is  being missed – both at the racecourse itself and in the way racing portrays itself.  These events should be sold as a RACE MEETING with after race entertainment, not a concert with 3 hours of something to be endured (sometimes sadly with copious amounts of alcohol) before the music starts!

Back in January I mentioned that the Owner & Breeder magazine had a number of pages dedicated to “Lifestyle”.  It was my view that the magazine was falsely portraying a world of elitism and wealth which was not a true reflection of the vast majority of the racing world.  Whilst I do not expect the editor of that publication to bother with my blogs, I would have hoped that one of the many racing experts who write in the magazine would have thought along the same lines as I do.  Certainly the straw poll taken from the response to my tweet of yesterday shows I am not alone in my opinion.

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Racehorse ownership is accessible – so why make it seem elitist?

The excellent initiatives underway through the TBA and ROA (both contributors to the magazine and providers of the majority of the readership through their members), this month sit alongside articles on a trainer who sees his helicopter as a “necessity”, the story of the multi-billionaire who is trying to expand the Tote betting and NINE PAGES of what is now termed “Racing Life” (they cannot be saved from themselves!) dedicated to cocktails at a 5 star London hotel, hand-made shotguns, original artworks and tailor made country clothing.  How is this “Racing Life”?  It has nothing to do with racing, and is all about the “Loadsa Money” attitude we saw in the recession of the 1980’s, or the “Let them eat cake” view which served the French monarchy so well!  Aspiration is fine, but humiliation…really?

To be clear, I am not spouting some radical socialist ideal or saying that the rich should be stripped of their wealth.  Indeed I go shooting, I own and breed racehorses and I have even enjoyed a tipple in a posh hotel but I do not flaunt this as the reason I am able to enjoy racing, because it isn’t.  It is extremely harmful not just that the Owner & Breeder magazine thinks they should publish such articles, but that no one within racing’s hierarchy has seen the lack of resonance it has with the general public and said something about it.  I have been in racing for many years now and it has no resonance with me – so how can it possibly with a potential new entrant? There are great articles in the magazine as I have said and I urge you to read what is a superb publication full, in the main, with excellent journalism and informative stories, but to read those, you have to leaf through the elitist message to get there – and many people will see the money and equate that with the cost of racehorse ownership and find something with which they have more comfort and affinity.

The BHA have just launched a study into inclusivity across racing.  Well Mr. Rust and team, start by realising that the disposable income required to become an owner needs only be the price of a beer a day, not the cost of a stately home in Belgravia!  Get some perspective, make racing seem possible, make it resonate with the public and with the new generation, speak the language of inclusiveness and not of elitism – and make sure others do too!

As the “powers that be” sit back in their Bentleys as they drive to their London club (for that is the image they portray), and see that average ownership age is now in the mid-50’s and breeders are dwindling due to retirement and / or lack of profits, that recruitment of stable staff is the hardest it has ever been, and that meanwhile the record number of fixtures for 2019 requires increases in owners and horses to cope, perhaps they will realise that good intentions count for nothing if the messaging is packaged wrongly.

 

 

Sizzling Summer

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Masar – Godolphin’s first Derby winner

Last time I wrote we were reaching for the snorkels and wishing for the good weather – and the wish has come very true!  The flat season has also got off to a sizzling start with no clear leader in the classic generation, but instead a wide open, and therefore very interesting outlook at the higher levels of racing.  It is always good to see healthy competition amongst the training elite, and some great results for the “smaller” names too.  Does this mean it’s not a great generation of horses, or are they all so good that there is no clear leader?

Royal Ascot was superb as usual (with Frankel really showing his prowess as a sire), the Derby threw up a potentially great horse for Godolphin in Masar – their first winner in the famous blue silks.

Abacus Horses & news

Meanwhile back at Lower Linbrook Farm all the horses are going well.  The three foals are growing really fast and showing early signs of some athleticism.  The yearlings meanwhile are blossoming and working well in preparation for the sales and racing.

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Cityscape – a sire on fire!

Of note is the superb record of stallion Cityscape.  The Dubai record holder is proving real value and as a result we are hopeful that our colt yearling by him will do well for prospective owners.  He, like all our yearlings, offer great value for the prices we are asking and can be seen at our website.

Our Abacus Bloodstock bred runners continue to impress on the track, with the youngsters performing well for their connections, and the ever reliable Roll on Rory continuing his winning ways with a runaway success at Newmarket last month.  He is entered in the Bunbury Cup at the July Festival so we hope he makes the cut.

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Rory continues to win EVERY year!

We have acquired yet more land in the last month so our expansion continues.  Work on fencing and securing the new paddocks is a little held up with the dry ground, but at least hay making is going well!

Retirement from Racing

As many of you will know, the highly successful Pancake Day returned to us following a superb career – with 8 wins in the UK and Europe for his

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Fangfoss Girls – retired to stud

connections.  He joins a number of retirees we have, including his mother, Fangfoss Girls, and Imperial Bond who was injured as a 3 year old and therefore never got to fulfil his potential.  As a stud, we can offer our mares a retirement in the breeding program where possible, and if not we have space to accommodate the horses on our farm.  We have also sent Elegant Joan (“Treacle”) to the Northern Racing College, where she is a great favourite and is training the jockeys of the future – as she is still only very young she will have a hopefully long and successful career.

Sadly many horses do not make the grade as racers, and even if they do, they all eventually need to retire.  Whilst we, and therefore our horses, are fortunate, many are not.  The growth in syndication means that there is now a widening number of owners, most of whom have neither the facilities, or the ultimate ownership, to enable them to look after retired horses.  There is a market for thoroughbreds elsewhere in equestrian sport, but supply outnumbers demand.

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Treacle now working for the NRC

There are some excellent initiatives in UK racing to find new homes for retirees.  Indeed owners now pay an increased levy for all race entries, which is dedicated to the retraining of racehorses.  The Retraining of Racehorses and other charities work hard to support owners and trainers in finding new careers for what are very often still comparatively young horses at the end of their racing careers.  Therefore I would urge everyone to support these initiatives and make sure we give these horses the very best reward – a safe and enjoyable retirement.

Staff Dedication

Finally, a word for the staff we have here at Abacus Bloodstock.  We are a family run business and therefore our staff are mainly family members.  Sadly, due to this we cannot nominate them for the excellent Stud & Stable Staff Awards due to the rules.  Therefore I wanted to write, as we near the end of the stable staff awareness week, to thank everyone who works for and with us here.  We know we could not do it without your efforts – much of which is done in your own time and through a real professionalism and love of the horses.  Thank You!