RSA chairman calls on industry to improve off-course experience for owners

Dan Abraham says Covid-19 should be catalyst for change and new mindset

Dan Abraham (right): believes the coronavirus era should help usher in a better experience for owners off-course
Dan Abraham (right): believes the coronavirus era should help usher in a better experience for owners off-courseCredit: Racehorse Syndicates Association

The coronavirus ordeal should focus minds on how to improve the experience in the longer-term for stay-away owners, according to Dan Abraham, chairman of the Racehorse Syndicates Association and manager of Foxtrot Racing.

While the BHA is keen to see owners back on the racecourse as soon as possible, they are unable to attend meetings for the time being and Abraham suspects that keeping tabs on your horse remotely is, in any case, becoming an increasing habit.

“Racing needs to do two things in 2020 and beyond,” he said, “one of which is to accept that the at-home ownership experience needs to be developed.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the ownership experience on-course – and we all know there is plenty of opportunity to improve that – but now racing needs to think about how to enhance the ownership experience at home.

“Covid-19 needs to be the catalyst for change that is needed anyway, because now owners are younger, more likely to be working or have family commitments. I've not seen any stats on this but I also suspect trainers are sending horses to travel further away to run than before as they seek winning opportunities.

“Covid-19 has brought this issue forward, but it has increasingly been one that needed to be addressed.”

He continued: “The ownership experience at home might include virtual racecards, prizes sent in the post to winning and placed connections, access to a day pass to watch racing on TV or a mobile, and access to listen to jockeys and trainers talking on camera before and after the race, plus footage of your horses after the race.

“Last year Foxtrot Racing got a telling off from Racing UK after a member filmed a view from the parade ring at Cheltenham. Considerable change is needed from many of racing's stakeholders if the ownership experience at home is going to become a selling point to staying, or becoming, an owner.”

Members of the Foxtrot Racing Partnership celebrate big-race success
Members of the Foxtrot Racing Partnership celebrate big-race successCredit: Lewis Porteous

Abraham also feels the sport needs to better recognise what he regards as a new breed of owner.

He explained: “The other thing that racing needs to do in 2020 and beyond is to understand that owners are no longer involved for the status and dinner party chit-chat about their racehorse. Racegoers and knowledgeable racing enthusiasts are increasingly taking over owners' rooms.

“This means the sport’s owners are choosing to spend money on racing instead of other leisure activities. We’re in competition for their money with other sports and pursuits. If owners aren't looked after they’re likely to find something else to spend their money on.”

Golfing lessons?

Abraham, who has kept Foxtrot members entertained during the lockdown with webinars, a virtual party and online quiz, has seen first-hand the huge impact the coronavirus has had on golf and wonders whether there might be a lesson or two for racing.

He said: “Golf was the first major sport to resume and in that one week golf has potentially changed forever. It’s become a much quicker sport to play and less stuffy about its rules and regulation. It can now be played by people who work long hours and have young families. Membership has never been so popular.

“Golf needs to decide if the way they do things now is better than pre-Covid-19, or if it reverts to the way it was once restrictions are lifted.

“I wonder if racing will improve for any Covid-19 measures, and if any changes stay beyond the time when they were used out of necessity.

“Like racehorse ownership, membership at golf courses was dropping. Covid-19 might have forced golf into the changes it needed to save itself.”

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Andrew ScuttsBloodstock editor