By Jenny Bridle
Three things come to mind when thinking of the Gai Waterhouse brand: The First Lady of Australian Racing; women who reach for and achieve the heights of success in male-dominated arenas; and, absolute passion for the sport of horse racing. And, what comes to mind when thinking of a Gai Waterhouse TV show?
A perfect celebration of the sport of horse racing and all that it has to offer.
It would be an understatement to say that Gai is positive about her horses but in watching GaiTV, it’s clear that her positive attitude is not a costume she puts on for the cameras; it is just her natural way of going and, from any point of view such as here in Canada where so much of what we see and hear about racing is doom and gloom, it is beyond refreshing. Watching and listening to Gai makes you feel – dare I say it — “Fabulous!” about horses, horse racing and, well, just about everything.
Indeed, GaiTV is an experience. These are not your average shaky and ill-focussed videos captured on a friend’s phone at the last minute when something momentous is happening. Instead, they appear to be created and produced by a professional production team with superb editing and sound quality.
Included in the mix are recap videos featuring the animated and very colourful former jockey, Neil Paine, conducting short interviews and having some fun with owners, spectators, and others. If Gai comes across as positive, Neil is more so (if that’s even possible). Even his clothes are lighthearted, his yellow trousers a welcome contrast to the current presentation of Australian racing as one big blue downer.
All of the videos are educational but some offer specific “lessons” in racing.
The general aim seems to be to show every aspect of racing from the viewer’s perspective. One video, for example, offers a helmet cam view of Vancouver’s barrier trial. This is very well done and it’s great to get that bird’s-eye-view from such a world class horse.
Being a woman, I completely appreciated Gai’s openness in allowing the cameras to film her in an unvarnished way, getting ready for race day, eating a bowl of pasta, proving she is a “real” woman after all, not just a glamorous queen for the camera. I truly loved it that she showed herself to be as human as the rest of us. And, comes away looking amazing and truly having a joie de vivre aura about her.
Much of the GaiTV footage documents the ownership experience. Both the highs and the lows are shown but there is no dwelling on losing or any negativity. Everyone wants to win of course but Gai shows how ownership is about managing expectations, celebrating “wins” of many kinds and, really, about having fun and being pleased that your horse made a good effort and comes out of each race, ready (after all the required care and down time) to happily race again.
These videos are surely great vehicles for Gai to sell horses and keep her owners happy but the footage is also a showcase for how exhilarating horse racing can be. From this perspective, one would think GaiTV would have huge numbers of viewers. Sadly it does not appear to and, frankly, it’s a waste of great web content. The question is, “Why isn’t the audience larger?”
For me, coming at this question from the point of view of social media, web content, and online marketing, the answer may be a common one. Perhaps the team believe in the mantra, “If you build it they will come,” which has a great ring to it. However, it only “actually” worked in that one Hollywood movie.
The short version of the story is that these videos do not have huge audience numbers — And, they should! – and there are several things that could be done to help change this. From a site navigation point of view, they are not easily found on gaiwaterhouse.com. Second, more needs to be done so that GaiTV videos could turn up in the general search results of potential site visitors who are looking into horse racing online. Making such changes would be great for the Gai Waterhouse brand, of course, but it could also help to market horse racing in a fun yet professional way to outsiders, some of whom could possibly be converted into new owners and new fans.
Experience suggests that many people in racing would love to have more new owners signing up for even a small fraction of a horse and more new fans coming out to watch the races and bet on them. However, when it comes to accomplishing these goals in any practical way and, often in spite of the very best intentions, their efforts fall short. When nothing happens or they don’t get the result they wanted or hoped for, they throw in the towel. For these people, you wish they would emulate some of their horses, those great stayers, who keep on keepin’ on until the finish.
This is not a problem for GaiTV, which has been up and running for more than 2 years. The sheer number of videos demonstrates that there’s a tenacious spirit there who keeps on believing and keeps on trying to build up the sport in positive ways. Such efforts are exactly what horse racing needs. More please!
In a perfect world, Gai Waterhouse would read this blog and decide to come to Hong Kong for International Week in December. In that perfect world her excellent production team would film her in an episode (or, yes please, more than one episode) at Happy Wednesday on December 9th and the whole world would be lucky enough to be there with her, watching, celebrating, and enjoying the United Nations of Racing. Now, wouldn’t that be fabulous!