5th September 2017
I can assure that my praise of Chelmsford’s prize-money in the Kingsley Klarion was written before I attended on Saturday evening and won the two richest (£80,000 and £50,000) races. In fact, when I arrived direct from Germany where I had been at the Baden Baden sale, early, in the hope of watching my runners from other tracks, and discovered that there was a Boyzone concert after racing, I was planning to retract everything good I had said about the place.
I had been at Windsor the previous Saturday for their biggest race-day of the year and they also had Boyzone playing. It was a shambles and it confirmed everything I have come to believe about the folly of combining racing and concerts. The place was packed with people who had come to watch Boyzone and get drunk. The vast majority were showing no interest whatsoever in the racing and, as they had their bottles and glasses perched on every inch of the stands that their bodies weren’t occupying, there was no possibility of watching a race live. I had come from Goodwood and the car which had dropped me off could not get back in to pick me up as the security personnel are so obsessed with the idea that people are trying to gate-crash their concert. As with every other racecourse concert I have had the misfortune to attend, I could not see that this was doing anything for racing at all.
So, when I arrived at Chelmsford I thought I was in for a dose of the same and I wasn’t best pleased but, as concerts combined with racing go, this was the best organised that I have seen. The owners and trainers had been moved to a non-viewing tent but, at Chelmsford, that isn’t a great hardship as most places are non-viewing and every member of staff I came into contact with, from the time I arrived until I left, apologised for the inconvenience. The main stand was out of bounds to those that had come principally for the music and it was easy to move back and forward between it and the parade ring. There was no shortage of space in front of the big screen at the winning post.
It certainly helped that they have Derek Thompson. He can entertain any crowd and get them involved. They don’t just sit around, drink, and wait for the music to start when Tommo’s on the mike. He introduced the ‘kiss cam’, where couples are expected to kiss if the camera is focused on them. I have only previously seen that at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where there is non-stop entertainment throughout the night, and it drew a few funny looks when I tried to suggest it to the Hamilton Park board. It worked at Chelmsford and, in between kissing and being interviewed by Tommo about their reasons for being at Chelmsford that night, the crowd were fed horseracing and Tommo’s commentary on trainers, jockeys, horses and all things racing. I would like to have seen them fed even more horseracing, from other tracks, but, as I’ve said, as these events go, this was the best.
To cap it all, they had the band come out to present the trophy for the big race and, of course, the crowd were five deep round the winners enclosure to see them rather than sitting on a step somewhere drinking. It is something that I have been saying for years. Any artist employed to play on a racecourse, in an event combined with racing, should be obliged to take part in the proceedings of the race meeting. If they won’t do that, their concert should stand alone. Don’t tell us that concerts bring a new audience to racing when the vast majority don’t see a horse and those that came to see racing are charged extra and denied the opportunity to watch racing in comfort.
There is much, much more that could be done, beyond what I saw at Chelmsford, but at least they were making an effort. I haven’t seen that on any other course.