Is it possible to have too much racing in one region? When the racing season at Cartmel commenced on Saturday 28th May, much comment was made by columnists of The Racing Post regarding the concentration of fixtures in the North which included Haydock, Chester, Beverley and Catterick in addition to ourselves.
Hoiles, one of the most personable and knowledgeable commentators on the
circuit said that the day’s programme “limits the opportunity for a whole
swathe of Britain to attend a meeting this afternoon”. I hate to disagree with
Richard, but I’m going to anyway… because people travel.
30% of the crowd at Cartmel stays overnight locally as part of their excursion,
some in hotels and B&Bs, others with friends. This year more than a
thousand racegoers stayed in the temporary camp site that we created for the
duration of the May meeting. Having reviewed the bookings for the first day, it
was easy to identify visitors from all corners of the kingdom – from Kent and
Cornwall to Bute and Argyll. Which means that quite a high proportion of our crowd
drove past Haydock to reach us. And yet do you suppose that Haydock were
disappointed with their crowd of 9,881?
have no doubt that the crowd at Chester will have included some of our local
residents from Kendal and Barrow-in-Furness: the reasons why people attend
race-meetings are many and varied – but being close to the racecourse is quite
a long way down the list. We know - because it was one of the questions asked in a piece of research conducted on behalf of the Racecourse
Association last year.
The most significant motivators were about the social
aspect of a day at the races. Statements such as ‘it’s a great day out with
friends and family’ are common. As a society we tend to live further apart
from our loved ones than ever before, so perhaps it's no wonder we're happy to travel for our social gatherings and celebrations. 46% of the individuals that book tickets for Cartmel races live more than 50 miles away.
such as ‘I love racing’ are sadly rare. But those of us who do love racing, and
who are familiar with the individual charms of Britain’s tracks, get very
wrapped up in the idea that racecourses compete with each other for custom. We
don’t – we might feel mightily competitive, we might jealously guard our
fixture slots, but our real competitors are outside the sport: they include
shopping centres, pubs, cinemas and other events, whether they be flower shows
or swimming galas.
I believe that there’s plenty of opportunity for five
racecourses to race in the North in one afternoon; even without all the travellers, there are 2.9 million people living within 50 miles of Cartmel - and 40% of that area is in the sea. We wouldn't have room for them all.
Perhaps the more pertinent
question should be: Why don’t we stage five meetings in the South too? Which opens several other cans of worms...
How many meetings offer the optimal
commercial return to the off-course betting industry; how far does the industry
want to go in facilitating the off-course betting industry in comparison to
other customer groups; how many meetings can be easily serviced by trainers and
their stable staff; how much form can one punter be expected to study? (Answer:
just one race required: our choice is Lord Wishes in the 3.50pm at
Hexham this Saturday).
racing industry has a complicated matrix of customers and suppliers and I don’t
envy the BHA in their quest to lead the development of the annual fixture
process. But can you have too many opportunities to come racing in the North? I don’t think so.