Ascot and ITV look to bring celebrity captains back into the fold
Ascot is set to explore with ITV the possibility of bringing back celebrity team captains by using some of the network's best known personalities to help raise the profile of the Shergar Cup.
TV hosts Ant and Dec are among the big names the racecourse could seek to involve as it strives to broaden the appeal of the international jockeys' team event.
Early versions of the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored contest involved the likes of Vinnie Jones, Pat Cash, Kevin Keegan and Shane Warne as team captains and Ascot believe there is scope to develop the meeting as a light entertainment event with ITV now on board.
"We are very keen to work with ITV to develop the day by potentially bringing in ITV personalities to be part of it," said Ascot's director of racing and communications Nick Smith.
"The appeal of this day is very much light entertainment as well as a sporting one. We used to have team captains in the past. They are not universally popular with the racing fraternity but the racing fraternity could quite happily ignore them. It wouldn't have to be just showbiz people it could be sporting ones.
"The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup is one of racing's open days where something different happens, an opportunity for new people to come. Racing finds it hard enough to attract repeat audiences especially outside of the festivals. If this serves in some small way we would be more than happy."
The format of the Shergar Cup is regularly reviewed but Smith said any changes would not involve transferring it to a Sunday, as suggested by Josephine Gordon when she had to pull out of the Girls team.
"As Ryan Moore correctly pointed out there is Group 1 racing in Ireland and in France this Sunday and anyone going to the Arlington Million would not have enough time to get back to Ascot for a Sunday," Smith said.
"The key to these things is a huge crowd, television coverage and sponsorship and unfortunately it is unlikely any of those will be sustainable on a Sunday although TV may be possible. To draw a crowd the concert plays a big part and you can't run a concert on a Sunday night."
He also defended the recruitment of Hayley Turner as Gordon's replacement in a team completed by Emma-Jayne Wilson and Michelle Payne.
Smith said: "The fact Hayley has a spot doesn't say anything about what we think of other female riders other than there is so much strength now that the question is being asked."
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