Global reach never been stronger due to enhanced TV coverage
Ascot will seek to extend the global reach of the royal meeting even further next year after a boost in international participation on and off the course.
While US trainer Wesley Ward led the way with another two wins, it was the increase in betting turnover from abroad and the enhanced television coverage– including ITV’s debut at the royal meeting – that most pleased Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and communications.
He said: “We believe there was a ten per cent uplift in betting in Hong Kong and close to 100 per cent betting uplift in the States, due to NBC broadcasting live from the course.
“One of the key elements this year was the coverage provided. ITV were exceptional and working with them for the first time was a pleasure. From what we’ve seen the editorial and production values were unprecedented for any race meeting I can remember; to have two wirecams in operation was a wonderful addition.”
American interest in the meeting is expected to increase and Smith said several trainers had used last week as a scouting mission for future runners.
Smith also believes participants from other parts of the globe, particularly Australia, will be back next year, with superstar Winx remaining high on the target list.
“We never get many Asian runners and if we get one or two a year that’s fantastic,” he said. “The Americans rolled the dice more, and people like Bill Mott used the week to scout out what they need to strike at the meeting.
“We didn’t do anything different this year with the Australians, the horses simply weren’t there. The key thing is we promote the racing around the world 365 days a year, we speak to the right people who are interested and act upon that to bring the best to Ascot.”
Overall attendance this year was down by approximately 1,500 against 2016. However, Smith was buoyed by the robustness of the crowds and the positive impact of the new Village enclosure.
He said: “The Village went fantastically from our point of view, better than we could have expected in year one. It served its purpose in providing something a little different between the price points of the two other enclosures while also delivering much reduced crowds in the regular enclosures so everyone could move easier.”
Two high-profile incidents of crowd misbehaviour, one involving a drunken man stripping to his waist and challenging others to a fight and the other of a pint of beer being thrown at jockey Andrea Atzeni, were unfortunate, Smith said, but would not necessarily mean alcohol restrictions being brought in.
He said: “Everything gets reviewed but my initial reaction is you have to take the two incidents as unusual, unfortunate and unrepresentative. The meeting was conducted in extremely good spirits and we don’t have any immediate plans to limit the amount of alcohol you can buy at any single visit.
“Arguably that can cause ill will and frustration by itself and we feel it’s better to have good customer service and good stewarding and policing. The Andrea Atzeni incident was a one-off piece of madness from a person I wish we could identify but we can’t.”