Promoting the race is everyone’s duty
Through Lachlan Pethica
In Global Views, Godolphin Flying Start interns provide insight into lived practices and observations taken during their travels around the world. Intern Lachlan Pethica explains how the industry can attract new fans.
Attracting a new and diverse audience is of paramount importance if the popularity of the race is to avoid fading away. This remains a topical discussion in the industry and is the subject of action around the world; however, individual participants must work together to ensure the continued success of the sport.
To an âinsiderâ our industry is often seen as open and accessible, where enthusiasts can interact with both equine and human performing stars. In some ways, this is true; however, to the uninitiated, the race can undoubtedly seem opaque and uninviting. Take the paddock on race day for example; folks dressed in their finery stand among the stars of the show, with little to no interaction with everyday running enthusiasts. This symbolic division represents those who âknowâ and those who don’t. Our sport’s complex running map and jargon does not promote inclusion and instead has the potential to scare off newcomers. If we can broaden what it means to be âa racerâ, we will move quickly towards a better future.
The term âperson in the raceâ is a badge of honor for many, and rightly so; we are all proud to be involved in this great game. We are an industry of committed and passionate people. Sometimes, however, one has to wonder if our industry is not too much of a coterie that seems off-limits to others. If we can broaden our horizons on what it means to be “a racer” and foster a greater sense of belonging, we will be in a much better position for what will be a difficult future. The more we open the door and lift the veil of secrecy and some of the barriers to entry into our sport, the sooner we open the door to a new and diverse audience.
Many in the industry have already recognized this opportunity. Take for example the Irish National Stud and its Irish Racehorse Experience, which is as impressive for an 8 year old as it is undoubtedly for a 68 year old man. The tourist attraction opened earlier this year to rave reviews, taking visitors on a journey from the birth of a foal to sales, onto a trainer and ultimately into the winner’s circle. Visitors learn about the life cycle of the horse, the incredible physiological capacity of thoroughbreds, equipment and tack, and even the history of the âpountâ. For conventional ârunnersâ and less experienced alike, this is an incredibly enjoyable experience that is invaluable to our industry. The more points of contact we can have with young people throughout their development and with older people, the better off we are as an industry to convert them into regular runners and participants.
Programs like the Newmarket Pony Academy help promote understanding of the horse, not just racing. Aimed at primary school-aged children, the program provides a week-long experience at local schools and combines essential learnings such as reading and writing with horses and their care as the main focus. Based in the heart of the British Racing School, participants are indirectly exposed to racing, allowing them to appreciate both the leisure horse and the race horse. The deeper the relationship with the horse, the better positioned our industry is to convert young people into racing fans. Any opportunity we can give children to learn and enjoy horses, the better served our industry.
The power of these initiatives is immense, but without industry buy-in their impact is limited. It is the responsibility of every industry participant to recognize the benefits of an open relationship with the public. The divisive nuances of our sport are detrimental to our future and in changing times we too must adapt. We should promote our work to the masses to humanize our industry; the rise of digital initiatives like Thoroughbred Tales is a demonstration of what can be achieved through openness and humanization. It is no longer acceptable to be passive; each participant has a duty to promote the race to the best of their ability and to generate interest. We are an exciting industry that intrigues people from all walks of life. To convert these people into and retain new race enthusiasts and participants, we must work to avoid our parish tendencies.
Many will say union success as a measure of changing race ways; it’s undeniable. Is there enough cultural diversity among these newcomers? Changing the definition of what it means to be ‘a racer’ can only serve to increase our influence in broader societal groups. We can no longer let the status quo hamper our future growth. It’s time for the race and its participants to show their products to a group beyond the current microcosm. Our future depends on it.
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