The Sun Met Sets The Standard

The View From the Couch with Martin Locke

Martin Locke (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Martin Locke (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

With the departure of Brandhouse and J&B and the arrival of Sun International, Martin Locke had high hopes for the Tellytrack programme for the inaugural 2017 Sun Met. He shares his thoughts on the day’s offering.

It was with great excitement that I woke up very early on Saturday, not only because I am still high on the amazing “New look” L’Ormarins Queens Plate, but because of the brand new Sun sponsor for a race that I have had a close affinity with for many years. I had barely settled in South Africa when the SABC appointed my company, MLEnterprises, as their representative and advisor to the Horse Racing Industry, thus the J&B Met has been a significant part of my life – and more particularly, my life in South Africa – since 1978.

My experience with Sun International as a company has been electrifying. I was lucky enough to establish a great relationship with Sol Kerzner and his dynamic marketing and promotional team when SABC appointed me as their advisor to Sol and Gary Player when they transformed an extinct volcano in the Pilanesberg Mountain range into their Sun City dream.

Given the wonderful history of the race and the great vision and success of which I know the Sun International group are capable, there is no company more suited and capable of taking over the reins and taking the event to new heights than the Sun Group.

So how did it measure up?

The build up was outstanding and the Decades of Glamour theme was the perfect choice, lending itself to any number of classical, daring, sophisticated, modern fashion, without being too outrageous.

Tellytrack can take a bow and say a big thank you to the boys from Betting World for a fantastic Sun Met build up from Kenilworth mid week. Grant Knowles led the way with a superb handling of the day’s racing with the help of guest star, Felix Coetzee. I loved his unique input on Wednesday afternoon and by the end of it, I couldn’t wait for Saturday, knowing the racing was going to be mouth watering and the Sun was back and shining!

Race day impressions

Firstly, it was clear a big effort had been made all round. There were new cameras and interesting camera angles, all our best presenters were there and all the ingredients were in place to produce something really good. Unfortunately, as before, there appeared to be no cohesive plan for the day’s programme which sadly compromised the entire production. Interviews with key sponsors were alternately missed – or overran – presenters were either rushed in or cut off mid-sentence, or – cardinal sin – viewers were simply left in silence. While someone has woken up and we did see more footage of the horses than normal, it was badly coordinated and it was particularly soul destroying when one heard presenters saying things like ‘I can’t wait to see these horses and how they go down’ only for the viewer at home to be denied the footage.

At the other extreme, the sponsors got huge credits and long interviews. Of course one appreciates the role of the sponsors who are essential for the success of horse racing and in view of Sun International being a new sponsor, a little extra fuss is certainly warranted. However, while they are certainly deserving of mentions, in no other sport do sponsors get this sort of focus. Surely the sponsor brand attachment is the big thing (as we see in sports like soccer, cricket and rugby) and if that’s displayed properly, just an acknowledgement at some stage should be enough. Racing seems to place a heavy emphasis on making absolutely certain that sponsors get long interviews to make major statements and it’s getting to a stage where they run over and take up time that is badly needed to focus on the real stars of the show.

The racing

The viewer and punter at home is interested in being informed about the horses and the racing and time and again this point still seems to get missed. Looking at BettingWorld’s Cape Flying Championship worth R1 million, sadly we saw nothing of these flying Thoroughbreds. However, we did get lots of time with the very professional BettingWorld team comprising Nico Kritsiotis, Vee Moodley and Neil Pretorius. These three racing gentleman really love their racing and punting and were obviously keen to get as much mileage as possible, but fortunately with their knowledge of the game it was well worth including.

Also good was Fiona at last getting a mike that works and her many interviews went down particularly well, but I was surprised that she was used to look for fashion, when this highly knowledgeable lady should, in my humble opinion, have been in the parade ring for most of the day. As in all of the feature races of the season we came up against this continual problem that we are not getting to the real heroes and it’s essential. Piere Strydom / Anthony Delpech / Anton Marcus – we’ve got amazing talent and Fiona should be right in there saying ‘what’s it like riding for $500K?’ and getting the nerves and excitement. We want to see the horses and the action.

Timing

On that point, of major annoyance was that each time we crossed to the parade ring, there were 2 or 3 mins where the anchor wasn’t there and then they’d suddenly arrive as if they’d been pulled from somewhere else.

It is essential that the executive producer has a running order that needs to be kept to because with all the hype and winning the huge money etc, people were getting carried away. Things like Julie Alexander calling Klawervlei’s John Koster over to talk about the Majorca Stakes, only to then be cut away when he reached her is inexplicable and just unacceptable. It’s embarrassing for him and leaves viewers wondering what on earth the team was doing? What they were doing is getting behind schedule. I decided to record the rest of it and switch to Supersport who do a totally different job like we used to do at the SABC.

Derby

When I picked up my Met review, I was handed a prime example of why it’s vital to set – and stick – to a schedule in the lead up to the Investec Derby. The build up clashed with a race from KZN, which clearly caused some problems. Firstly, the coverage switched to Greyville, which might be understandable, but with the Derby being a massive attraction, the betting ought to have been on screen for a start. In the end, viewers never saw the Derby runners and we didn’t visit the parade ring once. Eventually a split screen was used to see the Greyville race as the Derby runners were cantering down and with 7 mins before the off, we got an interview with sponsors Mumm and a number of pre-recorded interviews from earlier in the week were quickly squeezed in.

After that magnificent Derby win – by Frankie Dettori no less (what a coup for the organisers) – we were again let down by cutting from Fiona’s live interview with Frankie to commentary on a race from Meydan. Then viewers were treated to two international jump races on a split screen (with commentary on one of them) before the footage cut away halfway through to re-join an interview with Frankie. And before his interview had finished, it cut back to one of the jump races and cut Frankie off and then jumped to the next race from Turffontein. A complete and frustrating mish-mash. The day’s racing programme was available in advance and proper management should have avoided some of these clashes.

The Met

At last the Sun Met and here’s where Tellytrack showed that they can do it. There was actually an announcement that we were going to stay with the Met coverage. Great! Andrew Bon conducted interviews with two Sun International executives and we got some commentary from Glen Hatt and Julie Alexander and all this was fine, but with all that time in the ring, what a shame not to use it to get a real feel for what was happening on the ground. Again, sadly no interaction with jockeys or trainers and before we knew it, the horses were on their way to the start. On the up side, there was a good interview with our winning jockey and for once the microphone worked perfectly.

Overview

There has been a big reaction to some of my comments and I think it’s vital to point out two things. New boss Rob Scott has commitments on his end that he has to fulfil. Things are changing and hopefully with him at the helm, the process will speed up. He has informed me that they have taken on board many of my points and it is gratifying that my input is being taken in the spirit it is intended, which is simply to try and improve the coverage of racing for the people at home, for racing lovers, for punters and for those who want to tune in to see our magnificent horses.

One thing is for sure, as I recline in the Fat Sak and reflect on the past season, the racing was magnificent. The Cape season to me has been most rewarding. Our wonderful Thoroughbreds continue to improve thanks to our superb breeders. Our trainers and jockeys keep raising the bar and instead of 2 or 3 trainers and jockeys, you can really do a top 10 of both that would do us proud internationally. But the real excitement which has given the Cape the sort of season they deserve, was the stunning first edition of the two day L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate festival and the return of the Sun Group to our racing ‘stable’. Sun International can be very proud of taking over the reins from the J&B ‘Whisky Baron’ and for turning this race day into a blazing success that will see the Sun shine even brighter next year in the glorious Cape!

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