Home' Greymouth Star : July 22nd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 9
he jargon these days for going to
the races and having a good time
seems to be “customer experience”.
It is a concept that has been
analysed within an inch of its life
by the NZ Racing Board and
the research is still going on, but
defined very simply, try experiencing and comparing
the second Saturday in January at Kumara, and the
second Saturday in July at Ascot, near London.
For mine, there is hardly the thickness of a Zig Zag
cigarette paper between them. The first thing they have
in common is (normally) warm weather, the second, an
impressive single grandstand at both courses.
You might say they cater for very different categories
of the chattering classes and then there is the small
matter of on-course facilities.
True, but the ability to have a good yarn with fellow
travellers, experience local character in spades, taste the
finest local delicacies and beverages, dress up as you
please, get close to the horse flesh and mix with the
friendliest people, then they weigh in on par.
But Ascot? Give me the choice of, say, a Bruce
Springsteen concert ticket and a flirt with the
corporate bookies, the William Hill boys in their box
on level four of the gigantic Ascot stand with its 500-
plus corporate boxes, then Hill, Bill, wins every time.
Two weeks ago, Ascot featured the G2 Summer Mile
run in a straight line for $NZ200,000 and won by
Guest of Honour, a Cape Cross five-year-old trained
by Marco Botti at Newmarket. The day comprised
seven races, the first at 1.30pm and the last at 4.50pm.
About 16,000 attended this summer mile meeting
compared with 69,000 at the Q ueen’s meeting a few
weeks ago. Ascot has 26 race days each year with more
than $NZ20m in stakes on offer and its impressive
stand was part of a $NZ400 million-plus course
revamp finished in 2006.
Customer experience is also a big racing topic in
the UK. L eading UK trainer, John Gosden, says that
“racing has to make every effort to promote itself —
we are an entertainment industry and for everyone
involved in the industry, it is essential to realise this.
We can’t sit back and say people will always come
Like commentators on the industry in New Zealand,
Gosden says that anything to make racing more
interesting is crucial, “the days when we were the only
game in town are long gone”.
Ascot certainly has plenty in the “interesting”
category. The 64-page full gloss racebook has to be
the benchmark for racing clubs worldwide, with full
details of activities and race-day events laid out in
an easy-read style similar to, but smaller than, Vogue
Technology plays a full role at Ascot with race
day apps easily up-loadable to your phone for quick
reference, something hard to implement at Kumara
because of fleeting cellphone reception and wi-fi
The revamp eight years ago at Ascot has left a facility
fit for a Q ueen, literally. Windsor Castle is just a few
miles down the road and when the Windsors turn up
for a day at the races, the place overflows.
It is the most quintessentially British event in the
racing calendar, the Q ueen riding in her carriage
during the procession at Royal Ascot.
Reports in the papers there discussed the
longstanding tradition of the Q ueen and her guests
arriving by horse-drawn landaus, travelling down the
straight mile before circling the Ascot parade ring on
each of the summer meeting’s five days.
For the Qatari royal family the event has added
significance and caused a big stir. Not only do they
sponsor Royal Ascot through their holding company
Qipco, but the Emir of Qatar accompanied the Q ueen
during one of the processions last month. That seems
to be where the problems began.
In his story, Charles Moore said in his column in
The Spectator, the Emir’s cousin Sheikh Hamad bin
Abdullah Al-Thani, chief executive of Qipco, and his
mother Sheikha Amna bin Mohammed Al-Thani,
mistakenly expected to be riding with the Q ueen in
The apparent misunderstanding is reported to
have emerged at a lunch held at Windsor Castle by
the Q ueen during Royal Ascot, when the sheikha
discovered that instead of sitting alongside the Q ueen,
she and her son would be in the third carriage. Wow,
send the organisers to the Tower, by jove.
You do get the odd show pony down the straight at
Kumara, not normally a sheik but streakers after the
last race, looking for towels to put over their thighs
rather than their heads. L ocals say they are visitors
The only “royalty” confirmed at Kumara is regular
attendee and All Black coach, Steve Hansen.
But customer experiences are only what we make
them and governing bodies can only create the
occasion for us mug punters to enhance.
Whether it is the back of the gravel car park beside
the swamp at Kumara drinking bourbon and coke
with has-been leaguies, or in the snazzy corporate
boxes at Ascot on the French champagne and Scottish
smoked salmon, it is each to their own.
Let ’s hope it is a good whitebait season on the Coast
this year. Those whitebait patties and a sly Monteith’s
at Kumara is up there.
Gerry Morris, a former West Coaster now of
Wellington, is a faithful punter at Kumara, and a
one-off visitor to Royal Ascot.
Kumara or Ascot
PICTURE: Getty Images
A general view of the grandstand with the riders in the Wokingham Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse, in England.
Race day at Kumara.
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