By Hans Ebert
As we all should know by now, in this technology driven world, once the backend doesn’t work, it’s cause for alarm when running any business.
Of course, there is a need for a good “backend” to every aspect of life- marriage, those providing the backbeat to music, and all those background memories that makeup the soundtrack to one’s time in this particular world.
Horse racing is an industry. It’s not about having some fairy godmother who sprinkles horse racing with fairy dust and creates a hobbyist pastime out of the goodness of her heart. It’s not where everyone is welcome for free to watch modern day warriors on their magnificent steeds do battle with there being victors and the vanquished throughout the day. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s no such thing as a free race meeting.
It’s something we often forget, and which might have to do with some of the truly mediocre hires employed and kept on despite everyone who knows something about what does and doesn’t work mentioning that these people are a waste of space. And some take up a great deal of space with their flatulence.
Yes, it’s something that happens in every industry, but way too often, racing clubs end up with the also-rans. And every racing club is guilty of this. And these are people who are meant to be ambassadors for the sport?Please.
The reason for pointing this out was a thread on Twitter that was recently sent to me by someone who thought I might find the comments regarding the turnover of one racing jurisdiction compared to another to be entertaining. Many of the responses were not only baffling, they were on the goonish side of buffoonery.
Believe it or not, I don’t go searching for anyone’s Twitter accounts who are in horse racing as most are either geographically challenged or as interesting as listening to a group of Sherpas singing Celine Dion songs around a campfire after dining out on beans.
At least for myself, Twitter is a quick, easy source for finding news and stories from Rolling Stone, The Economist, The Financial Times, gaming companies and just making sure that we’re still alive. But having one foot in the horse racing industry, there’s the need to be fairly well informed about the industry- not the petty sniping, jockey bashing and tipsters a-go-go- but the state of the industry- globally.
It’s always interesting- and not to sound facetious- to read that Ryan Moore had won a two horse race somewhere in the UK which had paid $1.30. Or check on the latest updates on The Everest buffet and whether a town crier has been hired to walk the length and breadth of Australia calling out, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye, step right up and watch the $10 million circus! Yes, sir, $10 million big ones!”
Though I personally can’t see how this constantly evolving concept which started life as a copy of the Pegasus race in the US benefits the little people in horse racing, it has, somehow, given racing in Australia an injection of some form of pride- a break from the norm and something resembling international interest- albeit by horse racing standards.
That backend mentioned earlier has been working overtime on The Everest to ensure that this race is a financial and public relations success, especially for Racing NSW and its supreme leader who, pretty much, has his entire credibility riding on this one event. And, right now, Peter V’landys is a hero. The $10 Million Dollar Man and good for him. Seriously. He has stolen the thunder from those South of the border who were resting on their Spring Carnival laurels and having a siesta. It’s now the job of Lord Petrus and that of his Sherpas to ensure that the backend doesn’t blow a gasket and that The Everest slots machine turns to Barney Rubble two years down the road. Then again, much can happen in two years, so why worry about it now?
Will any of this take horse racing to new heights and help all those falling attendances that too many racing clubs seem to ignore?What? Me? Worry? There’s one racing jurisdiction whose fearless (?) leader (?) actually believes that less people attending races could be a good thing. Really.
Getting back to the aforementioned Twitter thread, what was revealing is how little so many who claim to know it all and work in the horse racing industry understand the inner workings and business side of horse racing- everything that goes into running a racing club, no matter how big or small, and ensuring that it is financially successful. But when sycophants come together what you get is toast and loud sucking noises.
Then again, if not employed by a racing club, who cares? Senior executives are being paid the big bucks to make sure everything works. To those who support horse racing with their hard earned money, their investment just better not go walkies. But here’s where both sides need to come together. No one needs to read what’s wrong over and over again. It’s time for those with real power to make the changes that will make a difference. If not, it reads like another meaningless Letter To The Editor from A.Non.
It might look easy to stage races, but there’s a helluva lot that goes into making something damn complicated look easy. It’s all about the backend. Perhaps the more that those who see themselves as “racing experts”, and can only criticise what they don’t understand realise that horse racing is no different to any other business, and with the need to show positive financial results, will there be more of a mutual admiration society.
Right now, at least in some racing jurisdictions, there exists a huge chasm between Them and Us. Those big racing clubs that are constantly seen as coming apart at the seams are not working because their backend hasn’t been working for years. But with band aids to stop the haemorrhaging and a few Willie Wonkas and Oompah Loompahs working on smoke and mirrors, they will continue to plod along until that entire backend falls off and its inner workings will finally be revealed. It won’t be pretty viewing.
For myself, I am constantly amazed at everything that goes into the HKJC giving customers a Happy Wednesday- everything from creating and producing the POS, weather contingencies, sound checks, the rundown for the evening to catering, briefing all staff by the various managers and probably most of all managing everyone’s expectations.
This is a full scale operation starting around noon, but really having had the wheels put into motion weeks in advance, and with everything on the day having to be executed with military-like precision.
Again, the racing might look easy, but it never is. There’s always some drama behind the scenes to every race that’s run and won and lost. It’s the backend. And though certain things cannot be revealed and must remain behind the velvet rope, if perhaps those “racing fans” so “knowledgeable” about racing in other racing jurisdictions, but often blinded by The Tall Poppy Syndrome and clueless that one size doesn’t fit all, they just might be able to see where they can actually help by- everybody now- UNDERSTANDING HOW THE BACKEND WORKS.
If and once they understood this, plus the huge reliance on attendance, effective marketing needed to help perception of any product, sponsorship and the money this brings to help put on the main show and always needing solutions to problems, we just might also be identifying the next generation of racing executives- younger and business savvy racing executives in sync with the next generation of true racing fans- racing fans who wish to build something new together instead of tearing down the basic structures that are already in place.
What’s not needed are token appointments and fancy titles that often end up embarrassing everyone and bringing about a loss of credibility despite the press releases and rehearsed sound bites that suddenly sound hollow. Helloooooo, and here’s to Whoop Whoop.
The same goes to who and what today is described as the traditional racing media. Are they true racing fans with the knowledge and passion to change the horse racing landscape and promote it positively, but without hiding the truth? But constantly drinking from that half empty glass, offering no solutions, changing sides, and desperately trying to be seen as The Voice of The Under Trodden starts to wear thin. There’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy.
If only there were a healthy exchange of mutually beneficial ideas from leaders of racing clubs instead of old wounds that refuse to heal, and a small team from almost every racing jurisdiction working together, those leading the charge of the horse racing industry might just be able to come to the same table and create something approaching harmony. What’s not needed is racing’s version of Game Of Thrones and the War Of The Roses.
Why? Because working in isolation only exposes horse racing’s internal problems. And, like a chain, any global industry is only as strong as its weakest link. To those who see this, well, it’s a turn off. It might even be the signal to bail.
Bottom line: I’ll show you my backend if you show me your’s.
#horseracing #TheEverest #PeterVlandy #RacingNSW #HKJC #HappyWednesday