My reservations about Africa’s richest sand race, the Gr2 Emerald Cup, being run on the 22nd day of the month, might have been allayed somewhat by the Brits, who showed that it is not the timing but the horse that swings things. 30 163 people turned up to watch Frankel make history on the opening day of the Ebor Festival at York. And that in midweek.
I believe my colleague Robyn Louw has been labelled the Prophetress of all things doom and gloom. Must be all these racing indabas that she is attending. But after this week’s ridiculous petrol price increase I don’t know anybody, other than those with company petrol cards, that will be able to afford the drive to Vereeniging anymore, anyway. There is a rumour following Wednesday’s side-swipe at the pumps, that the Emerald Cup may be moved closer to Johannesburg – like Turffontein.
It probably isn’t entirely just and fair comparing a meeting at York, 200 odd miles from London, with our own attendance dilemma when it comes to glueing bums to seats at the races. But the gigantic Frankel’s presence proved that the market wants to associate and identify with heroes.
One can hardly argue that and surely all we need is our own Frankel. The only problem is that if we managed to produce him, he’d probably be racing in Dubai or Hong Kong by now. So we really are a little stuffed, whichever way we swing it, aren’t we?
For those of you who have been on the Moon for the past year, Frankel has won 13 from 13, ten of those by four lengths plus. He was bred by Juddmonte Farms and is a son of Galileo out of the Danehill mare Kind. He is trained by Sir Henry Cecil and is owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla . He has been the world’s highest rated horse since May last year. Frankel has started odds on favourite in his last twelve starts and has won his last four races this year by an average seven lengths. Frankel was named after the late great American trainer, Bobby Frankel.
Also run on the 22nd day of the month, the York crowd that turned up to watch him win the Gr1 Juddmonte International by seven lengths was up 55% on 2011, with more than 10 000 additional people turning up to see the world’s highest rated racehorse.
This beat the previous best daily attendance for the festival, which was achieved in 1989 when 23 000 turned up.The 2012 official attendance does not include those who watched the start or lined the route. My research into admission prices shows that entrance costs anything from five to fifty pounds.
In what is thought to be a first, British Champions Series and Racing For Change also put their hands in their pockets and together with York Racecourse, paid for a 20 second long television advertisement. The commercial promoted the significance of the race and encouraged viewers to visit the track to enjoy the thrill of racing and to become a part of history. With some minor exceptions, we all want to say that ‘I was there,’ surely?
The advertisement went a long way to attaining one of the stated goals of the Qipco British Champions Series. That was to take the best of the sport to new audiences. And when it comes to growth and competiting with other entertainment rand options, surely this is a major consideration? Sadly, it is exactly the reverse of the mainstream media’s role in this country. It takes a horse tragically breaking down on July Day for racing to hit the headlines. But whose fault is that?
Frankel goes out in what is expected to be a blaze of glory in the Gr1 QIPCO Champion Stakes over 2000m in front of an expected record modern day non Royal Ascot crowd of 40 000 on 20 October. And access to Ascot’s Premier enclosure has already sold out. The remaining tickets were apparently snapped up on Monday morning following a surge in sales, leaving only Grandstand admission tickets at £26 each available.
Six of the world’s top ten horses are scheduled to run on the day and the sponsors are already in discussions with Ascot Racecourse management to look at the possibilities of increasing the Grandstand capacity beyond a total crowd of 30 000. That’s initiative.
The Frankel factor looks to have done wonders for racing in the UK – even the world over. Writing a few days after the race, Marcus Armytage, a journalist and former National Hunt jockey who won the Grand National as an amateur in 1990, riding Mr Frisk, said: “Forget ratings, handicappers’ assessments or any other method by which you measure one racehorse against another, it is unlikely that the world in either this or any previous generation has ever seen a better racehorse than Frankel… What makes him unique is his ability to go a top class sprinter’s pace over distance… he is a lightning strike of genetics which may not be repeated for 100 years.”
So we have made the point about Frankel and how cloning him could well be the answer to racing’s woes everywhere.
In the meanwhile we will have to settle for the return of the 2011 Emerald Cup winner, The Mousketeer, Mike Bass’ Captain’s Secret and Joey Ramsden’s most intriguing supplementary entry, the former champion juvenile from PE, In A Rush. It may not be be worth 750 000 pounds. There are no Frankels. But it should still be a helluva race.
Then let’s not forget the Heuwels Fantasties – I must side with the Tellytrack presenter who suggested during the week that he had never heard of them or Toya Delazy. I must say that I didn’t even know whether the latter person (termed a ‘star’ by the advertising blurb) was a male or female. But I won’t say that too loudly.
But who cares? Phumelela already have the decades long attention of us decrepit old tarts and one can hardly blame them for catering for the new generation of techno savvy with- it racegoer.
If we can’t make it York, then let’s make it work. Either which way.
No Work, No Pay.
Interesting reading a quote attributed to a jockey who explained the willingness of the men in the saddle to get through that miracle meeting in the wet and slush at Kenilworth a few weeks ago. He said something on the lines of: “ If we don’t race, everybody else still gets paid. The grooms get paid and the administrators get paid. We have to ride to earn…”
That makes sense but let’s not forget that jockeys can still jump on a plane to Kimberley or PE.
No mention was made of the minority, but they just may be starting to develop some empathy for the hard-pressed owner.
Who Dares Wins?
Port Elizabeth race-caller Bumpy Schoeman’s classic line ‘Ag, who cares anyway?’ must go down as one of the season’s early pearls. And it wasn’t even a Tweet.
Schoeman was calling a race in Port Elizabeth on Friday, when he ran through the places but stumbled on the fifth horse’s name. In exasperation and with a huge sigh, he uttered the leading question…” Ag who cares who ran fifth…?”
A local legend, one hopes that Schoeman’s down-to-earth approach encourages others in racing to openly speak their minds and emotions.