Thursday, September 05, 2013

Bluffer's guide to off-the-wall marketing

I'll stick with excerpts from Roger Mortimer's 'The Jockey Club', as it remains the case that one has less chance of upsetting people if one writes only about people who are dead.  On which subject, I was probably unduly harsh on 'Lupin', who published his father's letters, which publication still strikes me as not a good idea.  However, I probably ought to point out that Lupin comes across very badly in the book, while his long-suffering father comes across as the tolerant and kind man who he was.  On that basis, Lupin has portrayed himself in a bad (probably unfairly bad) light and his father in a very good light - and for that modesty he should be saluted.  So I'll salute him for it now.

Anyway, although I'm again theoretically sticking to the past, I'll again touch the present.  And not only because the present is divine: yesterday and today have been arguably the two most special days of a very special summer, as conditions have been glorious.  Thick fog early on this morning, but - but most of it had been burnt off by around 9am, which left us with a really, really lovely day.  So I'll put up a few more photographs of Newmarket, yesterday and today, the first yesterday and the rest today - which is good as it is Newmarket about which I write.

Anyway, here are a few ideas, prompted by an extract from 'The Jockey Club', of how we can promote our local racecourse.  Racing For Change / Great British Racing / Whatever has done its bit to help Newmarket's racecourse(s) to thrive.  The main weapons have been to take Newmarket's principal weight-for-age race (the Champion Stakes) to Ascot and to run Newmarket's (ie Britain's) two best two-year-old races (the Middle Park Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes) on the same day.

(And if you are reading this overseas and can't quite grasp how off-the-wall this latter one is, think of the STC Golden Slipper and the AJC Sires' Produce Stakes being run on the same day in Sydney; or the Phoenix Stakes and the National Stakes being run on the same day in Ireland; or the Prix Morny and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere being run on the same day in France; or the Champagne Stakes at Belmont and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile being run on the same day).

Anyway, those great ideas are helping our racecourse(s) to thrive, as is the decision to move the July Meeting towards the end of the week, thus ensuring that July Cup Day is no longer July Cup Day in everyone's minds, because plenty of people will think of that day as Magnet Cup Day.  This masterstroke has achieved the impossible of making July Cup Day, the principal day of the July Meeting, no longer the most popular day of the meeting, as was shown this year when the Thursday's card - which featured significantly less interesting racing (and that's written by someone who isn't generally very interested in sprints) than July Cup Day - attracted a crowd getting on for 5,000 higher than that which showed up for the meeting's feature.

Anyway, here's a thought of how we can make things even better.  You'll recall that Newmarket used to have a reputation (almost certainly justly deserved) for discouraging spectators.  In 'The Jockey Club', Roger Mortimer touches upon this by quoting a piece which appeared in "a sporting magazine" in the latter part of the 19th century, describing how things would have been a few decades previously in Admiral Rous' day (but, obviously as you shall see, after the railway had reached the town - and this would have been when the Cambridge to Newmarket line terminated at the old station on the south side of town):

"Occasionally an unwary stranger would pay a chance visit to a Newmarket meeting and this was the sort of experience that awaited him.  On consulting his card he would discover the first race finished at the Rowley Mile Post and this involved a walk of nearly two miles, a considerable portion of it uphill, from the railway station.  The second would end at the top of the town which meant that he must retrace his steps for nearly a mile.  The third took him back again to the T. Y. C. winning-post, another mile tramp; then another general scurry to the top of the town and so on through the card.

"If the visitor's pedestrian powers were only of average quality, he probably remained quietly at one particular spot and resigned himself with more or less calmness to missing about half the day's sport.  If, on the other hand, he happened to be an athlete he would settle down to his work with the grim determination of seeing everything and would accomplish it by putting in about ten miles at a nice useful pace.  In either case the stranger's first visit to Newmarket was almost invariably his last, and the Admiral's little scheme to keep his beloved Heath free from invasion by the multitude proved completely successful."

So that's that - and when GBR implements the idea of going back to the days of several far-apart winning posts at Newmarket as an extension of the policy which began with the relocation of the Champion Stakes, I hope that it gives the late, great Admiral Rous, the late, great Roger Mortimer, and me, some of the credit.   (And, by the way, if you don't know what or where the T. Y. C. winning-post was, then you're no worse off than I am; while if you do know what/where it was, please share your knowledge with me).

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