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Met – Bring Back The Ordinary People

SP reader suggests a rethink

The Met has lost quite a lot of its fun and energy since it changed to the SunMet, but truth be told it has been on a downward spiral for a good few years.

Michael Jacobs of Southfield writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that, in his opinion, the event has become over commercialised and exclusive, and the huge crowds of yesteryear are staying away.

Cape Derby connections celebrate (Chase Liebenberg Photography)

I have attended the Met for decades and remember the glorious days of bringing your own umbrella, blanket and picnic snacks and sitting on the lawns in front of the grandstand. Thousands of people attended and the course was packed.

Saturday’s was probably the worst Met I’ve attended in terms of small crowd, lack of atmosphere and a long, boring day.

There were very few food outlets, the bars had limited drinks on offer at exorbitant prices, and there was a soulless air about the racecourse.

The halcyon days when J & B sponsored the event are sadly over forever!

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the arrival of Usain Bolt and the gutsy win of Rainbow Bridge in the main race.

Other than that the day was  quite forgettable. The Met used to be the “people’s race”, but it has quite clearly become  “the rich and the celebrities race”. Both the Queen’s Plate and now the SunMet have become elitist, exclusionary and exclusive, and people are staying away.

The organisers should have a rethink and return the Met to its former glory and the fun element lacking for ordinary people who used to attend the event in their thousands.

Let the racegoers bring their umbrellas and picnic snacks and let them have fun! The marquees and hospitality enclosures can exist quite comfortably alongside the general public enjoying themselves on the lawns!

The event is going to continue to decline in popularity if the ordinary people are sidelined at the Met.


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33 comments on “Met – Bring Back The Ordinary People

  1. Willie Kleyn says:

    I cannot agree more it was dull boring no atmosphere no locals because in typical CT way they have made this a celeb and an event for rich and famous we have attended Summercup July now MET and to be honest was dissapointing and dead atmosphere in my opinioun from the pleps poinr of view July best

  2. Erica Beck says:

    What fun was had at the picnic sites, people site hopped and old friends would meet up, the excitement of setting up the site the day before was a big occasion.

  3. jc lee ching says:

    I agree with the writer but must add that racing all over the country suffers the same ailment. The magic is missing. The major races used to be handicaps and the fields were varied and interesting, trainers could engineer horses into a major handicap under a low weight. Great horses like Sea Cottage could give other horses lumps of weight and still win. He was a star and people flocked in their thousands to the course just to see him. I know the norm nowadays here and overseas is for these boring weight for age contests but I hanker for the good all days when the race course was full of ordinary punters coming to see a champion like Sea Cottage giving 28 lbs to a top horse like Magic Mirror and still beat him 5 lengths on the bit.

  4. Bronson says:

    Absouletely magnificent day , the horse racing was out of the top draw! The day as a whole was a complete success in my eyes.

    The after party was fantastic, well done to the organizers and to the sponsors SUN and GH MUMM –

    The problem is that everybody thinks they can do a better job than what has already been done.

  5. Trev says:

    Totally agree.We even used to leave our vehicle outside the night before so the next morning as gates opened to get that favourable picnic spot.Today everything comes at huge price even if you are a Club member.Miss the Old Met

  6. Paulo Do Carmo says:

    and yet…Kirstenbosch sold out a bring your own picnic concert with James Morrison at R650 a ticket. No freebies, no free flights. In fact some celebs paying their own way. Sounds like the PGL marketing people need to get in touch with the ‘real” people.

  7. Thurlo says:

    I have to agree that far too many punters real racegoers are being excluded and too much emphasis placed is on glitz, glamour, after parties and celebrities than the true heroes on the day, the jockeys, horses, trainers grooms and the owners.. Frankly its turning out to be a boring spectacle… how can it be good for the horses when helicopters are flying in, loud music playing and you make it impossible for Joe public to see the magnificent animals go down to the post or seeing them finish as you have a stage opposite the winners post… theres many places to.put up these things and ways of making it spectacular instead of turning a great event into a spectacle and taking it away from the true celebrities on.the day horses and horse racing… sun met you can keep all that crap for your casino’s as it doesn’t work and isn’t good for racing…. Saturdays event was a PATHETIC ATTEMPT to grow a sport that’s already dying a slow death when it comes racegoers… Time to change your STRATEGY…

  8. Godfrey.G says:

    I could walk freely before the Grand Stand,that never happened @ the Met before….we need better marketing for these events.

  9. Sue Botha says:

    I agree. We used to have an absolute ball on the side of the track with our picnic spots under umbrellas. Ordinary people need to feel welcome. I watched on TV and remarked how empty the course looked. Even the parade ring was empty.

  10. Goldflame45 says:

    Kenilworth Racing chooses to ignore their faithful when it comes to the Met. Those who attend racing whenever a meeting is held are virtually told to stay away rather than being treated as the VIPs they are to racing. Even the parking used by the punters at the off-course tote is taken from them in order to put up marquees and stand the DSTV trucks. But worse still to come. Owners (RA badge holders) could not get into the downstairs part of the Grandstand. Wake up KR and smell the roses before you kill them!!!

  11. Andrew says:

    Yes it true the Sun Met & Queens Plate cater for the rich and famous .The ordinary punter who support the races during the year are not considered . I urge the ordinary punter to stay away from the races because when the rich have their fun during the above mentioned race days , the ordinary punter is good enough to fill the race course . Let’s stay away and
    make Kenilworth a ghost/richman’s course .

  12. Ian says:

    We need to get a Punters Organisation started. Elect a committee to represent us . The needs of the Punter should be addressed. This game cannot exist without the Punter. Simple issues like service at Tote outlets and on course could be addressed. Certain issues which would relate to racegoers could be addressed and others which relate specifically to the offcourse tote Punter could also be addressed in an organised manner.
    Kenilworth Racing know exactly who the racegoers are. Loyalty Programs should be put in place for the Punter. This would not only encourage more Punters to attend meetings but also attract the younger generation to the course.
    Promoting of Punter syndicates could then possibly uplift the smaller trainers as well. Something needs to be done

  13. Seelan Chetty says:

    July will always be the best and most exciting and hype

  14. Shane says:

    Yes I agree with everything that’s been said, however all 3 events namely (Met, July and Queen’s Plate) have always had that glitz and glamour/celebrity status about it and that ain’t gonna change anytime soon and 1 has to accept it, the only sad part is that the racing has been lost in all the hype and glamour and that’s where not only Cpt but Jhb and Kzn racing have lost. If Gold Circle and Phumelela are listening, you always speak about trying to get the people back to the races, well the people have spoken, do something …

  15. Michael Jacobs says:

    Dear Mr Editor

    We the punters would appreciate it greatly if you would forward this article and the comments to Messrs Currie and Bloomberg of KR for their response. We would be happy to meet with them and discuss racing from an ordinary punters viewpoint. I am prepared to meet with them and I know a number of others (including some of the above resoibdents).



    1. Editor says:

      Hi Michael
      KR Co Chair Robert Bloomberg and WPRRA Chairman Jono Snaith have indicated that they are happy to meet with you.
      Would you kindly contact us via [email protected] / [email protected]

  16. Wensley says:

    Everthing that is been said here is true the met has come down to the rich and famous yearly visitors the crowds the real supporters of the sport are been over looked .

    How can they charge R100.00 for public parking plus 150.00 entance fee expensive sponsered drinks expensive food stalls .

    I was at the July and Summer Cup last year the vibe the atmosphere was so much better .

    The people in charge need a shake up pretty soon Kenilworth racecourse will be a ghost town.

    Start showing interest in the real punters .

  17. Ian Jayes says:

    Horseracing should be about people having fun and hopefully winning some money in the process, not about so-called celebrities arriving in helicopters.

  18. Vivian says:

    Ian, not sure what Province you are in, but try the Turffontein Tab Branch and then you will really experience what a tab is like. I am not sure how old this branch is but I do not think in all the years they never serviced the machines. The employers have to punch in more bet than go through the machines! As for the Roulette bet…. that was a total disaster. Rob Scott never answered my email and customer service could not assist as to why the bet was not going through and it was definitely filled in correctly.

    Summer Handicap is the only people friendly meeting and can one ever forget the meeting held at Turffontein when LEGAL EAGLE won and all TARRYS staff sang leading him in. It was a moment every punter should of experienced. Not a dry eye.
    Turffontein do not seem to have the most magical Marketing Managers but International Day, Prawn Festival and a few others are defintely punter friendly. Hope the Summer Handicap can keep the vibe. Vivian

  19. Wayne Fouche says:

    Agree with most comments – specially those by JC Lee Ching as Sea Cottage is my favourite South African horse of all time. Also think Paulo Do Carmo hit the bull’s eye!!

    And while we are on the subject of drawn out boring meetings when oh when will the race organisers start racing at 30 minute intervals??? Look how quickly they concluded Vaal last week when they had to beat the storm?

  20. Riaan says:

    Empty Racecourse, because only 13 Runners, and Public not interested in the Met anymore.
    Nothing can ever compete with the JULY. It is simply the Greatest Race!!

  21. Tony Mincione says:

    Sorry ladies and gents, but I can’t agree. Many enterprises have a showcase day, a day when you get to put your thing into the public mind, and if that happens once or twice a year only, then so be it.

    Growing up I was taken to the Airforce Base for the annual show to see helicopters and jets and fly-by’s up close. So I thought I would be a pilot. I never was, but perhaps others did.

    We get to put horse racing into the public domain for a few hours in the July and Met, and we should be grateful that it has the pulling power that it does. Politicians, companies, TV get to be reminded for a moment that we are still here. That single opportunity gives the whole country it’s gut feel for the whole sport. Is it alive or dead? Is it growing or shrinking, is it something to aspire to…or not. So if glitz makes the impression… lay it on.

    The thing about racing is that the ordinary punter is anything but ordinary. To function as a punter you need historic understanding, and current smarts. It’s why horse racing people gravitate to each other, because it’s a special, hard won, clique.

    So the ordinary punter, ordinary racegoer, ordinary owner, trainer, jockey, all have an obligation of sorts, to help spread the game or at least not stand in it’s way that one day. That is if you still want it here next year, next decade.

    I know people who go the the Derby, or the Breeders’ Cup, or the Arc. They are the same one-off crowd there that you might get at the Met or July. How is that not a good thing for racing?

  22. Michael Jacobs says:

    Tony Mincione’s response is exactly the kind of elitist and narrow-minded attitude that has taken racing to the crisis it finds itself.

    Nobody is saying that there shouldn’t be showcase days. Everybody looks forward to these big days, but it can be inclusive and enjoyable for all. Ordinary punters don’t want to be in the marquees and hospitality suites, we want to enjoy ourselves on the lawn with our picnic baskets and fellow punters. I couldn’t care two hoots about the celebrities and politicians, I didn’t come to see them, I came to see the horses. Also, none of those celebrities and socialites will be back at the racecourse again until next year. None of the young socialites I saw on Met day ( and at previous Mets) ever come back the following week! I want to bring my own snacks because I don’t want to be ripped off. I want to enjoy the day without the irritating celebrity brouhaha and loud music! Tony and his clique can have their social get-together but don’t involve us, we can have a great time without them!

    The operators want to suck up to the celebrities and socialites, but they are getting absolutely no bang for their buck, those celebrities move on to the next freebie! But we’ll be there next week!

  23. A1201 says:

    Just a suggestion to the who’s who (as a young adult and racing fan in my 20s)….if you want crowds, you need to bring back the trainers and owners pick nick sites under the commentary tower on the rail (your base line support). You need to rent these out cheaply to stud farms, trainers and interested owners (as you did in the 1990s and early 2000s). And (although I accept liquor laws have changed and they may be required to buy alcohol through the club these days) you need to supply liquor at cost price. Additionally each site should come with X amount of entrance tickets free. I accept the operators need to make the Met profitable for them, but trust me undoubtedly many of those extra people associated to the industry will be betting, many will be walking around and buying drinks from your other bars and food vendors as they do so…and most importantly crowds draw crowds so the event will get bigger year on year! I don’t want to go to an event with 50 people, I want to go to an event with 50 000 people! I want to go to say I was THERE and people know about it, I want to have fun, party and enjoy racing (don’t mistake your young racing fan for the guy that only goes for the horses…he also goes to have fun, be noticed, dress up, and not break the bank – pick nick sites offer this as they get people to mingle on the ground and still enjoy comfort at not a corporate price). I don’t want to pay R150 (maybe more) to stand on the grass the whole day in the heat or wind in my suit and then still have to pay lots of money for food and drink ….it’s uncomfortable. And I don’t want to have to pay R2500+ to have a little basic comfort and fun (then I would rather go to the cricket or Kirstenbosch – better value for money). I honestly believe pick nick sites for the guys in the industry is the way to go. If you do this, you will kill a number of birds with one stone; 1) you will be giving back to the guys that keep your industry going, 2) you will draw more people which will make corporates happy as it will mean more exposure for their brands (maybe you will even be able to get bigger sponsorships in future?), 3) more people will draw more celebrated personality’s which will draw even more crowds and this should yield even more revenue for you and 4) YOU WILL GROW RACING! So give Snaith, Bass, Ramsden, Kannemeyer, Sands, Marshall, Crawford etc sites to host their owners, friends, friends of friends if they wish…suport your baseline and everything will grow.

  24. dobrin says:

    racing on course especially kenilworth has become a disaster.how can they charge anyone R100 to park their car,it should be free,they not coming to the course to park for nothing so that they can go shopping somewhere else they coming to spend their money on course.food and drink is a total rip off ,get rid of the company that has the concession,they are just ripping people off.why charge people to come to course are they not spending enough on the tote?
    As has been written before most of the people that have been invited to tents etc(free)never ever spend anything on the tote etc only there for free food and drinks and then wait till following year to do same .these are not the people that will grow the sport.
    its like the prawn festival lots and lots people (more than met) but what they doing there,buying prawns,again these people with children will never come to the course till next prawn festival.
    varsity day the same can go on and on and on

  25. Sumeshen says:

    Totally agree with the writer. The punters are the fans of the sport and look up to the trainers and jockeys,imagining 1 day they could to own a champion and have it trained by their favorite trainer and ridden by their favorite jockey. But by excluding the people and making it about the who’s who, you chase the support you need, the game needs. Because you now become inaccessible by wanting to stand out in this elite persona. If it seems like racing is segregated and a rich kids luck then it’s going to make people further despondent. We have seen the decline in domestic cricket, horse racing will follow if there isn’t a change in attitude

  26. Steve Reid says:

    I have one question to ask the Michael Jacobs and those advocatingfor the formation of a punters union and the like. Where are you guys the rest of the year? There were less than 200 people on course for the Green Point.

    In my opinion, events like the Met and QP justify entrance fees. Attending a few meetings a year should not justify any freebies on the big days.

  27. Michael Jacobs says:

    Steven, for your information my friends and I don’t miss a meeting. Where were you? I am in the Pocket Power room every Saturday afternoon. Maybe you haven’t seen us because we you aren’t there!

  28. Rian says:

    My Dad spent every Saturday at either Kenilworth and Milnerton and in the holidays Wednesdays as well
    At 66 he had a brain tumor operation and even after that wanted me to take him one last time to Kenilworth
    It was a July handicap meeting and still a huge crowd was on course and even parked under the grandstand in disabled parking
    In the wheelchair and up to the public restaurant he went , great lunch and excellent service, the ladies even gave him a marked plate with an extra meal for his Sunday lunch( Still have the plate )
    Tote machines and TVs near most tables
    We even had a public bar and the prices must have been good as it was mostly always gone
    Going Sat to check if still there

  29. Rian says:

    Sorry Ed, bar mostly always full

  30. Steve Reid says:

    Michael over the years I have spent an afternoon or two at the track. I have never in my 30 odd years of racing asked for nor received anything for free. You either want to or you don’t. There’s no one forcing you to attend race meetings, nor are noddy badges handed out because you choose to race at the track – you either want to or you don’t.

  31. Michael Jacobs says:

    Steven please tell me where in my post I asked for anything free? Also, what am i getting, free entry to lose my own money?! But besides that, you obviously haven’t heard of loyalty programs to retain and attract new customers? Have you heard of Voyager miles, ebucks, payback vouchers? Those are all benefits for regular, frequent customers in other industries and businesses. Do you know that casinos offer benefits for their regulars? You need to go out more or do some regular shopping!

    The celebs who dont spend a cent on the horses and have no clue how to even place a bet (and probably aren’t even interested) are wined and dined and how does that build the industry. The Met was a rip-off for the ordinary punter, leave it at that!

  32. Neil van Vuuren says:

    I posted a comment on 15th December 2018 in response to an article titled Rush Of Blood To The Head where I addressed many of the issues raised in this forum, Editor kindly referred this matter to to WPRRA and KR for a comment.

    Having a somewhat perverse desire to see what excuses would be offered, I drew attention to the fact that to date (2nd January), no correspondence of any nature had be forthcoming, again Editor kindly resubmitted the matter for response and suprise suprise, despite well publicised self back slapping, and high fives, gushing reviews and praising, the issues raised concerning the average, everyday punter have been deemed inconsequential. The only pleasure I get from this lack of response, is that at least they had to do some work reading and deleting the emails regarding this.

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