Weblog: A personal view from the William Hill Sponsorship & PR Manager
Accepting that this Derby takes over all of our lives!
It’s getting to that time of year again when I orientate myself according to William Hill Derby dates. “That’s the day before the Third Round” I say automatically, when a friend suggests a night out on the 12th June. ”The week of the Lunch” correlates to anything from the 22nd June onwards. The Spring Bank Holiday weekend is no longer such, it is, for 2015, the ‘Weekend of the Draw’. My non-racing friends already know the 27th of June is a no-go area.
Of course, my diary scheduling has been brought forwards this year with the introduction of the Win and You’re In Heats, which are proving tasty little starters before the main feast itself. We began at Sheffield a week or so ago with a race that you might have dreamed of as a worthy quarter or semi-final from this year’s contenders, with Viking Jack an impressive winner. Turns out owner Carl Harris used to work with my boss at William Hill, many years ago. It’s a small world.
Belle Vue and Perry Barr have hosted the next two, with Baliff Hubert winning the Manchester heat for Ian Aylward and Ballymac Vickson victorious for Barrie Draper. Despite no doubt causing a few headaches for the racing managers who have to decide the final make-up, the idea of the heats, and the prize money, has been well received and it’s been good to reach all across the country and over to Ireland with the events.
The next one is in Ireland, at Shelbourne on Saturday 25th. Then we’re off to Hove on the 30th (much appreciated to Coral for accommodating a William Hill Derby heat!), Cork on the 2nd May, Newcastle for their Sky night on the 5th (again thanks to Alan Findlay and Pinpoint for including us in their card) and finally Towcester on the 9th May.
Once the 'WAYI' heats are over, all attention will then obviously turn to the draw and the much debated issue of entries. I know this is something that has provoked a lot of discussion on RPGTV in recent days and I can assure everyone it’s not something we’ve been ignoring, there is a list of ‘what ifs’ as long as your arm of potential scenarios and a lot of maths going on! Until we get the entries, though, we are just second guessing ourselves, so the best we can do is be prepared for what the outcomes might be. It’s a pay off between having that truly open race that any dog can enter, which I firmly believe in, in return for having to manage the first round format as fairly as possible according to the numbers entered.
It’s exciting, though, that the draw will be televised for the first time, courtesy of RPGTV, although the new format might make it slightly less exciting! There is demand every year for the draw to be broadcast somehow and with the new procedure it would have been harder to follow on Twitter and the Racing Post website as has been the way the last couple of years. Clive and the team at the channel, along with Paul Illingworth from the GBGB, have put a lot of thought in to how the programme will go and hopefully it will be an engaging show, with plenty of interviews from connections, input from viewers and footage of recent runs to accompany the draw process itself.
Also on the radar, but nothing finalised yet, are plans for the Lunch and Finals night itself. The lunch will be on Monday the 22nd June and at the moment I have the pleasure of touring round various lovely potential venues as site visits for the event. The lunch is one of my favourite events of the year, the camaraderie and goodwill between the fellow finalists always creates a fantastic atmosphere, but I do always feel a pressure to put on a really enjoyable day for everyone - even more so this year with the monster prize up for grabs! Just for a minute imagine yourself as the owner – or even part owner - of one of those six dogs. Exciting, huh!?
Finals night obviously needs to be special too – for those just attending as well as anyone with a runner at the meeting. I did a site visit to Wimbledon this week, to have a look at some new branding options and to think about how the venue will look and feel. The end of June date means the Final will be run when it’s still light, so we have lots of scope to dress the place up a bit!
So, lots still to do in the run up to the competition starting, but it’s a good place to be. Just make sure you keep your diaries free.