Mixed views on horseracing’s revamp

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  • Trial initiatives to broaden horseracing’s appeal — including the decimalisation of betting odds — have been met with mixed reactions following their launch on 5 January.

    Racing for Change — a project to attract a wider audience — announced that 10 trial ideas will be implemented by June.

    “Racing requires a clearer structure and better presentation of its strengths — its drama and spectacle — as well as its equine and human stars,” said Chris McFadden, Racing for Change chairman.

    And the racing world agrees, but some are not impressed.

    Racing needs some transplant surgery, new kidneys and fresh heart. What we are being offered here is Botox and a nose job,” Alastair Down commented in the Racing Post.

    Trainer Mark Johnston said: “I’m disappointed that nothing more fundamental has been come up with to justify the effort.

    “Decimalisation is something the betting industry should address, not something racing should have spent time on.”

    Trials of decimal odds will be held at several race meetings during one weekend this spring to assess reactions.

    Another idea aims to make jockeys and trainers more accessible to the audience, by listing both Christian and surnames in the racecard and by funding media training.

    “It’s a start and it’s good that the ideas will go on trial first,” said H&H racing correspondent Marcus Armytage.

    “But there’s nothing too radical in there. I don’t think decimalisation is going to
    bring another million people into racing.”

    Other changes include a new website promoting racing, an assessment scheme to improve the raceday experience — including food provision and entry prices — and a new membership club for young racegoers that will offer a discounted admission to many racecourses and a share in racehorses.

    The project is also looking at displaying the outcome of photo finishes on the big screen, at the same time as the stewards’ result is announced.

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (14 January, ’10)

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