By Hans Ebert
He kept mentioning how he’s lucky to get the rides he does, but there was no ignoring the fact that The Wizard aka William Pike rode a brilliant six timer yesterday at the final race meeting at the historic Belmont track in Western Australia.
To many in racing outside of Australia, “Pikey” remains an unknown. He seems to like it this way.
Some might remember his short riding stint in Hong Kong, where apart from not getting good rides, he was missing his partner and their kids.
Still, he rode three consecutive winners at Shatin. This was for John Size and when deputising for Douglas Whyte.
This of course was long before William Pike reached Wizard status and became somewhat related to Potterland.
Though a longtime follower of Pike, Paul Harvey, CJP etc and WA racing, after listening to legendary trainer Fred Kersley open up recently with two smoking barrels on the present and future of horse racing down there, aptly enough on the “Unhinged” podcast, things don’t seem to be looking good. Right, Charlotte?
Perth is one of my favourite cities and one still remembers everything expected of the OneMovement Music Festival that was once hosted there before having to fold a couple of years later.
It begs the question now as it did then about Western Australia: Who’s driving the bus and why does this city’s potential rarely amount to much?
Maybe it’s on Remote and those who live there prefer things to stay low-key and without those from other parts of the world coming in to turn, especially Perth, into a dodgy mini Macau? Hasn’t this been tried?
We’ve seen how Macau has come to a screeching halt and the “foreign infidels” driven out of the land.
Away from WA and its racing, yesterday at Sandown, the Annabel Neasham trained Zaaki had a good little gallop when easily taking out the Underwood Stakes.
Of course the win was expected, and jockey Craig Williams was happy to test the gears and make sure the motor was running. There was nothing else to prove.
Twitter being Twitter and not exactly a place for a meeting of the minds, someone just had to tweet how they would liked to have seen Zaaki win by a bigger margin.
There was also someone else who tried to be too clever by half suggesting that there would be more and louder protests in Melbourne if Zaaki were to lose.
It’s thinking like this that has made horse racing look one dimensional to those that the pastime desperately needs on their side- global sponsors, business partners and Gen X.
Other than a handful of the name brand races, most haven’t even heard of horse racing’s biggest races, let alone those pop-up races that are starting to multiply like gremlins along with those slots and sloths.
In Hong Kong, meanwhile, exciting young sprinters Naboo Attack and Killer Bee with the Zac Attack and the Brazilian Magic Man aboard, respectively, will clash this afternoon in the last race at Shatin.
The race should provide a couple of minutes worth of an adrenaline rush. But this just isn’t enough.
With horse racing very much a television or mobile phone ENTERTAINMENT product these days, the interest level for audiences to “stay tuned” must be heightened.
This is where content is king- creative and relevant content.
Carrying on as if these are the Nineties and that the grandstands are shaking and the world is shaking with the sound of thousands of cheering racing fans is kinda naive.
Heard this before? What about the changing of the guard?
If 30 years old in the Nineties, that consumer is today around 60. Their lives have completely changed. So have their priorities.
As for the 30 year old in 2021, they’re still trying to figure things out for themselves. Right?
Ageism is tough to face. That’s why, instead of only having Facebook, there’s Instagram and Twitch and TikTok.
It’s also why those running horse racing need to realise that one size doesn’t fit all.
There’s certainly the technology to keep the die-hards happy with content relevant to them and everything they have come to expect. Fine.
What’s also needed is content for those who wouldn’t know a totaliser from a tote bag.
This audience just MIGHT enjoy watching horse racing IF it’s sandwiched between entertainment related content- interactive content with sponsorship appeal and comprising everything buzz worthy...and presented in creative ways. No wobble heads needed.
Think this will ever get through to the decision makers?