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THE SAME OLD SAME OLDER OR TRAVELLING WITH BOUTIQUE RACING?



“Taylor Swift owns and becomes Global Chairperson of new billion dollar business entity named Horsies and Swifties!”



The above was my flippant reply to a writer-friend for a financial publication in the UK who called over the weekend asking my opinion on the state of the horse racing industry, and what it needed to bring in a new and younger customer base.


It’s really not something I agonise thinking about these days as interest in horse racing has somewhat waned.


Anyway…


This bit of interest in the pastime by my friend followed news that Racing Victoria Executive General Manager-Customer Ben Armafio, below, had quit.  



Racing Victoria is a racing club in Australia with the unfortunate image of tripping over itself and being seen as somewhat of a blinkered flunky.


The resignation of Mr Armafio was something expected after the resignation a couple of days earlier of VRC CEO Andrew Jones.


Both had worked together at Cricket Australia, and who, one guesses, walked into their new gigs with Bazball and IPL type cricketing ideas that, apparently didn’t go down well and with especially the CEO seen as the wrong hire who didn’t understand horse racing.


Huh?


Surely, someone must have brought Andrew Jones into the racing tribe at the price of AUS$800,000 per annum knowing what the man could and couldn’t produce?


He couldn’t have just walked in like George Costanza and taken over the reins of this racing club?


Maybe he did…



Apparently, Jonesy presented something a little off kilter to the board- an idea that didn’t fly with the big boys of racing who are used to seeing things their way.


It’s their way or the highway. Or good old Twitter or whatever the Musky man is trying to figure out.


In this Woke world of walking on eggshells, I had dinner last night with a group of people from very diverse business backgrounds about today’s creative and media landscapes being so drab and which has created a world that’s, well, confusing and businesses simply not working.


As for horse racing, which good friends who have owned and raced horses for decades have walked away from recently to travel and see the world while they still can, it needs to take a damn good look at itself in the mirror.


It needs to start by understanding that not everyone in the world cares about racing or its quaint terminology and stories from the days of yore.


It doesn’t need sponsors asking how you would like to be buried because this is a bit of a bummer.


It might not be Ascot or Longchamp, but with more and more of us starting to travel again and to very different parts of the world and discovering a new lifestyle, how many know about horse racing in places Sri Lanka and Thailand?


They might not have the greatest racing in the world, but those interested enough to see what it’s all about aren’t purists.


They don’t care to be purists putting on the ritz and waving at the Royal carriage.


Something died with the quite wonderful Queen Elizabeth II: Tradition and this includes the likability of horse racing.



Today, it’s about quietly opening the door to understanding horse racing by making use of what’s already there in places like Spain, Greece, Thailand, Sri Lanka..not X/Twitter.


Maybe dropping in on boutique racing while taking in the sun and beaches and resorts in places like Newra Elya is the future for a pastime few can afford and a generation wanting some new package offering when travelling?



The pastime needs to admit to itself that racing horses for profit and entertainment pleasure while needing to also pay taxes on betting to governments doesn’t work anymore as a business in many racing jurisdictions.


The customers have no bananas.


Why? Duh.

 

There’s the current downturn in the global economy, the convenience of streaming that has an affect on many businesses, there are more and more consumer choices available online and there are the same reasons why circuses have closed down and “sports” like bullfighting are as pretty as Rosemary’s baby. 



Apart from doing the maths and current leaders looking at unselfishly building solid succession plans for the next few generations, there must be those brought in with the vision to make changes that won’t be more mistakes.



It’s also time to look around at the world beyond the filters and flutters of social media.


Anyone understand anything about what was going on at this year’s Met Gala and whether it’s music that audiences are interested in or the fashions and celebrities and the neediness to be different?



If it has to, how does horse racing cater to this customer group?



What’s more, the faster the years go by and the world becomes someplace else, the customer generated machinery ages and needs to be replaced leaving us to question our relevance and own roles in life.


At least to me, the world is a very big jigsaw puzzle made up of bits and pieces, some necessary and others not and which change with time.


For a pastime like horse racing, it’s about making what might be considered the unnecessary, necessary.


It’s not exactly going to be easy.


Those with the experience of working on popular consumer products and brands understand why it’s difficult to attract young consumers to almost anything during these post pandemic times.


Horse racing is not immune from everything else going on and is no longer Hollywood Park.


Despite it droning on about attracting more and more of the “younger people”, horse racing drips in old fashioned superficiality as opposed to genuine style.



It’s quite an unmovable object because of perfunctory hires who play it safer than the most nervous punter because Moses is looking over them and KPIs cannot even be bought.



Horse racing is also not likeable to very many people who don’t see its value.


Is the below value?



I look at how horse racing sometimes behaves in that toxic place known as social media and see Nora Desmond on acid.


Does horse racing actually have any value, and if it does, is it holistically embraced, promoted and understood?


Value. It’s what we’re all looking for in life and searching to see where we, let alone horse racing, might fit in and how.


If we don’t?


Well, we must search harder because life is all about discovery, especially self discovery and leaving all the clutter behind before parting the curtains and seeing what lies ahead…



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