One of the biggest challenges for any racing club anywhere in the world is ensuring that wagering keeps ticking over as holding race meetings is an expensive business- something too many racing tragics forget.
It’s not some little Teddy Bears picnic for a rabid few to have a tuppence bet when one thinks about all the costs involved- staff, catering, sponsorship costs, merchandising etc- in staging one of these events.
Thinking of how much the cancellation of the race meeting at Sales must have cost the racing club involved- and riding fees for the jockeys, the pressures placed on trainers who would have had their charges prepped for this day, well, it must be a dark afternoon in hell for many over there.
The bigger challenge is ensuring that the sport constantly evolves and is seen as relevant and attractive to the new and next generation of race-goers.
This challenge also includes persuading Members who are interested and also cashed up enough to invest and partake in what once was the “Sport Of Kings” through the ownership of horses, either on their own or by forming syndicates with friends or like-minded racing fans.
In very simplistic terms, someone has to purchase horses for there to be horse racing. And the better the equine talent, the better the racing and the more attractive sport.
If the usual suspects purchase the best horses, is there a reason to cry foul and talk about “elitism” or how there’s a “monopoly situation”?
Why? How? They’ve succeeded where others have failed.
If Gai Waterhouse and Chris Waller in Australia, Mike De Kock in South Africa and in Dubai and John Moore, Tony Millard and Richard Gibson in Hong Kong manage to attract those owners who are prepared to purchase potential Group 1 winners, well, racing clubs need to re-look at their business strategies and find ways to work with these trainers- and owners- as it’s all good for the business of racing.
Money talks in any industry- even in relationships and marriages- just ask Hugh Hefner- and jockeys, trainers, racing clubs follow the money trail as it’s called survival and results in a healthy ongoing business.
After all, like the demise of Kings and the decline of the Roman, Greek and Ottoman Empires, racing clubs can’t move forward by clinging to the past and dependent on that loyal group of race-goers who stopped being spring chickens when, like sands in an hourglass, those Days Of Their Lives started to blow an ill-wind their way.
Nothing stays the same and one has to wonder what horse racing will look like in 2266 and if we’ll see flying iron horses ridden by space cowboys.
But, looking into the Now, how can racing clubs attract this new generation other than stop being known as a “racing club”- and the negative connotations and baggage that this term brings to many outside the inner circle of galloping horse hooves.
Holding get-togethers and slowly easing in those new to the horse racing is fine, but what’s nagging is if these people- business people investing in an expensive hobby that can be lucrative as they do when opening a restaurant or club, or property, the entertainment industry, or playing the stock market- understand the business side of racing and what it takes to keep a racing club solvent?
And if not, surely this is Strategic Marketing 101- this need to understand, appreciate and support a business they’re jumping into without eyes wide shut?
Being in Hong Kong, we recently gathered around that hole in the ground at Happy Valley Racecourse past the winning post, which is quickly being re-filled and turning into the spanking- ouch!- new course it will be in October, and wrote down these ideas with input from those who wouldn’t know a Six Up from a 7-Up, and would prefer a good rack to racing on a good and fair track.
* Change those seemingly endless presentation ceremonies that haven’t changed since the days when Methuselah went racing and which no one watches as they’re so boring and irrelevant to everyone except the winning owners.
Give the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and all those other quasi celebrities something useful to do by having them present a few Cups other that than their D-Cups on the ubiquitous “leaked” sex tapes.
If “The Rich Kids Of Beverley Hills” could have recently filmed a few episodes of their stupid reality series in Beijing, bring Kim Kardashian and her huge posterior to Shatin Racecourse and give the swarm of photographers REALLY something worth photographing- with a special wide lens.
Sex sells. Always has, always will. Racing is still not sexy enough.
* Remind potential horse owners that owning a horse is cheaper than keeping a mistress though not as flash as driving the latest Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
Having said this, riding your horse downtown- buck naked- and parking it outside the Four Seasons Hotel is sure to turn heads.
Listen up, if one-dimensional local actor, horse owner and Canto-warbler Aaron Kwok, who shows up for the opening of an envelope, can bring his horse onstage during his concerts, you can ride your horse down Queen’s Road Central like Lady- or Monsieur Godiva.
* Have first-time Champion jockey Zac Purton, and tremendous ambassador for Hong Kong racing, perform “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Hey, Big Spender” at the Beer Garden before every Happy Wednesday race meeting and repeat, as he recently rapped to the Sydney media, just how rich Hong Kong racing has made him- and how much even richer it will make him in four years time.
Gauche or aspirational? You decide.
* As a horse owner, you can give orders to trainers and jockeys PLUS design your own silks and, perhaps, even change silks from looking like pajama tops by including logos, tassels and a cloak.
Sure, try and have your jockey wear a mask and look like Batman or have your silks inspired by your favourite super hero and bring a certain
* As a horse owner, you get to name your horse. Have fun with the name. Forget names most of the older owners choose that always have words like “golden”, “fortune”, “king dragon” or “fishking” in them.
Name your horse something weird like “A Horse With No Name” after the song, or, if a gelding, “Mr No Balls” or “Nutcracker Sweet”.
* Let’s get serious here.
At least in Hong Kong- and in Mainland China- let’s not kid ourselves when we say that many women wear the pants in the family.
In racing, the very attractive and super savvy Canny Leung is not the token co-horse owner of an equine star like Military Attack.
With husband Steven Lo, no more and No Lo a member of the HKJC as he waits to appeal various corruption charges emanating from Macau, wife Canny has taken over his racing interests- and one of her first moves has been having the horse switch stables.
Female Racing Power is very much alive and very well and becoming more and more powerful as can be seen by all those in Australia and Hong Kong running after Desiree Chang, a key Executive with the powerful Eliza Park setup.
Why? Desiree Chang has the decision-making power to purchase some of the very best equine talent around and decide which jockeys will ride them for which trainers.
The female horse owner, new and young female-driven ownership syndicates is part of a business strategy that can still be enhanced. It has to as, at least in Hong Kong, it can be the future before one can blink and which is where venues like The Chalk and Hay Market and their private rooms come into play as these ladies play to win and don’t suffer fools gladly.
Add to this the star appeal of this very important customer group meeting a George Clooney, a David or Victoria Beckham or a Faye Wong, and there’ll be a sure winner and ensuring great ambassadors for the sport.