A suggestion by Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato that the ‘ordinary’ people be brought into the Sun Met day audience equation is a possible starting point for the big race organisers to drop the perceived elitist tag – and the crazy prices – and give the race back to the people.
In other words, revert to the basics of what we remember as a wonderful affordable racing and social day out, with a foundation of genuine racing folk and casual visitors.
The media and punting public won’t be a part of the debriefing that will hopefully happen this week, but it’s clear that the great race, for all the thrills, excitement, tradition and long history, has lost an essential connection with the racing man on the ground.
Chatting to Julie Alexander during the course of the afternoon, the Cape Town Mayor pointed out that it was wonderful day but asked why the people from the townships weren’t there.
While no official turnover or attendance figures are ever published these days, the general consensus was that there were more people on course on L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate day and that the public areas were ‘relatively empty’.
“They have turned the best raceday in SA into a non event,” said a lifetime punter.
The Tellytrack coverage had its chinks too – like cutting abruptly into the highly anticipated Andrew Fortune post-race entertainment.
Another staunch racing man bucked the negativity saying ‘it was better than last year’.
One leading owner suggested it was ‘not racing – it was more like going out for an expensive lunch’.
Another racing fan bemoaned the ‘greedy monetisation’ of the picnic sites and asked why they took away the days of cooler bags, shorts and slip slops, and self-catering options. That made it an affordable day out – whether you live in Bonteheuwel, Bergvliet or Bishopscourt.
The fact that Tellytrack presenter Fee Ramsden had to urge the assembled gathering to clap during the jockey introductions shows that atmosphere can’t be manufactured – it flows naturally from the soul of the masses, who just don’t go anymore.
Fair enough, the Met was competing with the infinitely more appealing to the younger set of the Cape Town 10’s and the Stormers were playing the Hurricanes at Newlands.
But the fact is that those organisers now have the confidence to put on their shows.
The Met urgently needs to regain its magnetism and top ranking.
And that starts with identifying the market and going out to fetch them.
And accepting that the PC approach of pulling in the glam new age set is almost self destructive. Even the Mayor thinks so.
There was plenty to be positive about.
- The day’s racing was exciting.
- The Met field was high-class.
- The race itself produced a thrilling finish.
- The Pick 6 exceeded projections and reached a pool of over R21 million.
- The weather played ball.
Thank heavens for the horses and our jockeys with their long suffering owners, trainers and their teams.