I read recently in the Paulick Report about how tracks launched in the 1980s fared, especially finding it of interest that Canterbury Park had a formula that focused more on hopefully creating a lifelong interest in racing among attendees, rather than primarily or solely attracting bettors.
According to the article, the track was “one of the first to innovate now-common approaches to bringing young people and families to the races – petting zoos, pony rides, fireworks, concerts…”
I believe that can be key to drawing people in, particularly those who may never have thought that they were interested in racing. Get them in the door, and then let them see the sport and be drawn in by the beauty of the horses, their athleticism, the pageantry of a day at the races, and an all-around fun day that includes but is not strictly limited to racing.
I also read this article with interest because it reminded me of the day of racing the Curragh provided on day 2 of Irish Champions Weekend on Sept. 11 this year.
Admittedly, the Curragh has a greater history of racing than Canterbury Park. But its premise to Canterbury’s formula that day was similar.
As much as I attended for the racing, making sure my visit to Ireland coincided with that weekend of championship racing and the beach racing at Laytown a few days later, I also greatly enjoyed the Curragh’s partnership with Moyglare Stud.
Moyglare Stud provided free chocolates, ice cream, cotton candy, drinks – soda, water, espressos- and popcorn. They also set up kids’ activities – a carousel, ponies to pet, equicizers and jockey silks to dress in. All of this greatly enhanced the day’s experience and made the day feel extra special. It gave it a bit of a carnival feel and made it an even more memorable occasion. I especially appreciate when horse farms take time to reach out to the next generation or make visitors feel especially welcome. The reception received lingers in the mind, as Moyglare Stud’s generosity that day lingers in mine. And a favorable impression can not only bring people back to the track again and again, it just may mean that one child or young adult there that day remembers Moyglare Stud if they are ever drawn to work in the racing industry, and feel it would be a welcome and inviting place to launch a career.
In Ireland, racing is a much bigger entity and part of life than in the U.S.. Bookmakers’ shops are in most towns and racing is on the front pages of newspapers quite often. There are also several newspapers devoted just to horse racing. Yet even in a country where the racing is a bigger part of life than here, especially when you consider how many racetracks are in a country of its size, I would think Moyglare Stud being involved at Irish Champions Weekend as they were went a long way to making that day a must on the calendars of families whose kids will probably grow up to bring their own kids years down the line.
And speaking of hospitality, I began the second day of Irish Champions Weekend on the Thoroughbred Trail, visiting Dermot Weld on the Curragh as his horses trained, and then branching out around the Curragh to visit two steeplechase trainers’ yards as their horses trained. Every Thoroughbred Trail attendee was given a gift bag, coffee and pastries, but best of all was of course the access to the training hours and seeing some excellent horses and being as welcomed as we were. Training, even on the Curragh and especially not at trainers’ yards, is not open to the public like it is in the U.S. so it feels like a privilege each time to be present. But even beyond that was how gracious the trainers were about letting us walk through their barns, leading their horses out for photos, and letting us get acquainted with them. It’s a hospitality I have greatly grown to appreciate throughout the country, both times I have visited. It is a hospitality that I know will keep me coming back.
And naturally, the racing was top notch too. I got to see Harzand, Found, Minding, and Hawkbill run in the Irish Champions Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 10. I got to see the very unique beach racing, held one day a year, at Laytown.
This was also my first time traveling overseas by myself. Ireland has become a part of me, indelibly imprinted in my mind. I know I’ll be back.
Below are a few photos from the racing I attended.