Horse racing in the post pandemic era
It was a very different time in the world when brought in by The Big Poohbah himself to take a look and see if the Beer Garden at Happy Valley racecourse could be more than what it was- kinda Mad Max empty and dull.
This was about ten years ago after ten years with EMI Music.
Seems like an eternity. Maybe it was...
What there was at Happy Valley was something called “Sassy Wednesday” with advertising that looked like something for an escort club or upmarket sauna in Macau that provided Happy Endings.
Enter what was christened Happy Wednesday with themed nights, ‘live’ music, a venue called Adrenaline, and most of the missing pieces were in place.
It was something that didn’t exactly need the genius of Cosmo Kramer.
Happy Wednesday became a game changing brand recognised by TripAdvisor as one of the most popular Hong Kong attractions.
It also regularly attracted a younger- 19-26- demographic of international partygoers from what was then a fun city and which actually had fun, young people instead of what often looks like today as a retirement home for the aged.
Happy Wednesday had a few Kool And The Gang celebratory nights that lasted maybe 3-4 years before the juju dropped like an amoeba in heat, a kinda Groundhog Day vibe took over and where one often felt like Rocket Man singing how it’s lonely out in space.
Those whom I inherited from the Club had practically zero marketing experience and no understanding of Cool or just how far out I wanted to take thing.
It was often like revealing the ending to “The Sixth Sense” without explaining the first part of the movie.
Happy Wednesday was nice, but it wasn’t exactly cool. It was cool by Hong Kong Jockey Club standards of cool...which is like saying that Rick Astley is cool.
Anything really different would have been killed off at the pass as there was and still is a culture within the Club that always first sees what might not work.
With this as the starting point to an avalanche of various stumbling blocks, Rocket Man was often left grounded, and eventually this year, a new team leader brought in.
Before this came the protests in Hong Kong of 2019 which morphed into the itsy bitsy spider of a pandemic that changed everything forever and with the world in a holding pattern.
Hong Kong racing was force fed into the weird horse racing isolation bubble nicknamed “Gabriel” by some.
This lasted for 3-4 years with there now being a post pandemic malaise along with the world of horse racing going through various challenges and changes its leaders probably never saw coming.
They were blindsided by not making contingency plans when the going was good.
This begs the question: How good are those leading horse racing in 2023?
Is this the best executive talent the racing industry can attract?
If there’s an answer, one guesses it really depends on where exactly the bar is currently set and maybe what the fairly recent Asian Racing Conference held in Melbourne covered and uncovered and mission accomplished.
Apart from discussions about “dress codes” and watching the Octopussy Dance, the general consensus is that, like always, nothing much happened.
The Don King of Australian horse racing- Emperor Petrus of Racing New South Wales- was a no-show as he was busy taking every other state in Australia to court for what sounded like something theatrical to do with “collusion”.
Petrus wages war on everyone. He can’t help himself.
Sometimes he’s said to enjoy self flagellation.
You always hurt the one you love.
If some of the leaders in horse racing have hissy fits and act like Faye Dunaway did as Actress Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest” and march around like a cross dresser holding nasty clothes hangars, why on earth should their “participants” listen to them?
Was there any time spent on the impact that, let’s say, the ‘live’ streaming of horse racing might be having on, just for starters, attendance figures?
How effective is what passes off as the “racing media” comprising the same old names, except now twenty odd years older, and singing the same old song that’s now also a few decades older?
Why do popular brands and so very many celebrities, except maybe for Snoop Dogg who’ll show up for the opening of an envelope, Just Do It and stay far far away from being associated with horse racing?
During these post pandemic times and where every industry is trying to get back with Jo Jo to where they think they belong, was there any thought given to introducing new “rules” to accommodate post pandemic stress, and how this might affect those who need to be “mentally agile” enough to ride at maximum performance levels?
Aren’t rules meant to be broken for there to be progress?
Who were the Speakers at the Melbourne gabfest?
Mark Zuckerberg? Tim Cook from Apple? Twittering Elon Musk? Christophe Lemaire? Famous Hong Kong fung shui man Blind Man Chan? George Clooney? Stormy Daniels? Donald Trump? Rupert Murdoch? Nicholas Cage?
Let’s say that all these questions were asked and answered.
What about all the new ways ‘live’ streaming, original content and a variety of on course entertainment other than something like a Cher tribute act could be used to interest and attract a new generation of potential racegoers?
Maybe all this was discussed, but after listening recently to one of those racing and sports radio stations in Australia sponsored by a funeral home and where the same old things were discussed, nothing has changed.
There might be new slogans from the government to warn listeners about the dangers of gambling, but normal transmission is resumed immediately.
This is when that captive audience is offered a buffet of different betting options, all of which shows crippling hypocrisy at work and an industry asleep at the wheel while coasting on borrowed time.
Don’t these industry leaders see what might be heading their way?
Just saying...and just asking. Maybe.
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