When horse racing is no longer seen as being a gamble...
There’s no doubt that Jamie Kah truly cares about her horses. It’s not all about riding for the prize money, becoming more and more Oliver Twisted in the process and losing sight of life’s priorities.
She seems very real in a world where many are living a lie, which is something weird to say about someone I have never met and a pastime that I see as a challenging marketing puzzle these days.
I watched Lightning Stakes Day at Flemington from Hong Kong last Saturday when the 27-year old rider went about her business with a natural nonchalant charm including taking out the main race for the second time in her career.
What one saw was her become one with the gallopers she partnered and the love and respect she imparts to her four legged friends after the race has been run and won.
She’s pretty much the Horse Whisperer and Xena for a new generation of racing fans.
Jamie Kah provides those who follow horse racing with the type of emotional attachment that all too often goes missing in the marketing and advertising promise of the pastime when the ill winds of gambling are allowed to blow in and trump everything else.
This happens when the “preordained” narrative returns to showcasing turnover numbers with the usual standard bearers from the old boys club engaging in the tedious exercise of once again talking to themselves.
None of this hardly makes horse racing likeable to consumers, advertisers or the mainstream media.
It’s not seen as something worth engaging in, especially as those who believe they are somebody in the inner circle of the game don’t have a voice.
Their voices are drowned out by a tsunami of odds, sods, betting options, numbers and superfluous things where too many have no ownership and emotional Rights to anything in the game except for donating time to end results where the house always wins.
It’s beguiling marketing not unlike all the advertising from bookmakers offering different betting choices- but having to follow government laws of reminding people to “Gamble Responsibly”.
Why does gambling need Help lines? Think about it.
It’s taken me around five years to see this level of hypocrisy at work from a very close range and its not something that’s appealing, at least not appealing to me nor those around me who matter.
With many leaders in horse racing in their final years before retiring, maybe there’s a need to wonder where future fans might come from.
They’re actually there right in front of them- if they care enough to look and listen and engage.
If horse racing today has a fan base other than that old captive audience that can be considered loyal, it’s young females, many with a genuine love of horses and not because of anything to do with the “punt”. They’re not on Facebook.
This is where someone like Jamie Kah is a perfect fit for a pastime that often forgets why nothing lasts forever and how “hobbyists” are very fickle and always looking to immerse themselves in new interests.
Horse racing and anything selling the lure of gambling will always find those wanting to have a slice of the money pie.
Greed always sells.
It’s something I really didn’t understand about the recent international Asian Racing Conference in Melbourne- all those questions about how helping to open Pandora’s Box and letting the illegal gambling genie out, and racing executives
making a song and dance for almost two decades about how to close that box shut.
It’s reminiscent of those days in the early 2000s when the major global music companies succeeded in suing online platform Napster for the illegal file sharing of music.
That small “success” for the majors only helped launch more and more new online players with other ways of taking and sharing music- for free- which was embraced by music fans.
Today, music is streamed 24/7 through online subscription based services or for free on Spotify, Tidal etc and illegal music sites.
It begs this question:
Where we’re at is not exactly a perfect situation, but just maybe we’re at the tail end of something that no longer has the legs to continue the way it has been able to legally march through the marshes with too many duped into thinking that this is the only way things must be.
Consumers have always dictated what they want, and how and when they want it.
We lost our way and were led astray for around two decades.
Today, there are new entrepreneurs who are busy changing online landscapes through new business models that have a bearing on life in the real world.
It’s not some confusing metaverse that needs a new learning process when, other than needing love, what the world needs now is to simplify things.
Though not everything being presented has been thought through enough and which is why the crypto world and NFTs are still buzzwords and juicy carrots to dangle in front of those easily impressed, it’s food for thought and knowing that some are breaking down into building blocks.
Other than being careful of Strangers Bearing Gifts, there are some very savvy young entrepreneurs working at bringing new gifts to the negotiating table.
For something like the pastime of horse racing, which will always take its lead from somewhere else, it’s not only about whip rules, and fighting off animal activists or anti gambling lobbyists.
It’s about all of that and more including fair play through the introduction of new Rights issues- especially online laws- and bringing fun to the table along with being smart enough to delete words like gambling, betting and punting from horse racing’s lexicon.
These words sound cheap and tacky. And very unattractive.
This is where, as a first very small step, someone like Jamie Kah offers the horse racing industry a sliver of an opportunity to change, especially change its perception of being seen by the mainstream audience as something male dominated and ultimately unsavoury.
What might follow from here could be creative driven strategies by independent thinkers in bringing new racing fans uninterested in the pursuit of racing horses for money, but instead, enjoying what they see, having fun in the process and THEM rewriting the rules and framework for the game- a new game and new business model.
More and more, what still remains traditional thoroughbred racing is seeing the emergence of good young female riders like Holly Watson, below, Carleen Heffel, Celine Gaudray, Alana Kelly, Melissa Julius, Lucy Warwick etc.
The success of Michelle Payne winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup came and went without enhancing the image of horse racing the way that it could have.
It fell by the wayside as a curiosity piece.
Today, especially as the world comes out of the darkness of lockdown days and nights and the pandemic years, someone like Annabel Neasham is paving the way for the next generation of lady trainers.
What’s mind boggling is that it’s taken this long for there to be a legitimate heir to the throne of the great Lady Gai Gai.
Where could all this be leading?
How long is a ball of string?
With racing’s Old Boys Club looking and sounding more and more like empty vessels and a relic from the past, a very different version of Girl Power is appearing in every industry in the world today.
Does one really believe that old school horse racing is immune to change?
Today, women- smart and well educated ladies in their Thirties, Forties and early Fifties with style and vision and great big balls of fire run some of the biggest businesses in the world.
Maybe this is one reason why Peter V’Landys, the supremo of Racing New South Wales, stayed away from attending the corporate love fest in Melbourne with his homies in the hood?
Maybe he’s heard the bells clanging very loudly and realises that everything is changing.
He’s not stupid and must know what he and every racing club has to do to keep going for at least the next couple of years.
It’s investing in what’s going to happen next and ensure that even if the power isn’t taken from him, he’s left with no bananas.
What’s next for horse racing to continue?
It’s not going to be easy, but there will be an alternative to racing clubs and with strong partnerships with consumer friendly businesses who don’t see horse racing as the enemy or a pariah.
There will be global sponsors not afraid to be associated with a pastime that might have once tarnished their brand image.
There will also be new leaders with the right balance of teams who are fearless and in sync with their current generation and who identify the wants and needs of the next one.
Like everything else in the world today, things are changing.
It might be Pollyanna type thinking, but there’s a need for Change to arrive at a point where we’re happy and having fun in a business making others happy in the real world in what still remains the one dimensional world of horse racing.
It’s time to leave algorithms and hashtags and numbers and followers and mute that “Like” button and so-called KOLs.
The only “algorithm” that works for me is the sound of Motown, the backbeat of James Brown and Chuck Berry, the Good Times of Chic and, of course, always, always, always, the honesty in the words of Bob Dylan and those Visions Of Joanna.
Not to sound cryptic, but the tail is wagging the dog barking loudly in every industry, but with very few wanting to admit hearing it, let alone even trying to understand what it’s saying.
Like Ol’ Yeller, that dog needs to be put down.
It’s now about new pups who have seen their parents’ generation screw up very badly by taking their eye off the ball and being distracted far too easily by those selling empty dreams in fluffy coatings of candy floss.
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