The recent news of the Kempton Park proposed closure has sparked a reaction within much of the racing community, with calls of the game, ‘dying,’ and Nicky Henderson saying he, ‘fears it will be the nail in the coffin for National Hunt.’
Kempton Park has been part of the National Hunt racing scene since 1878 and is famously home to the King George VI Chase held on St Stephen’s day each year, a much-loved race and a real highlight in the calendar – so why would top of the range housing take priority, and what can we do to prevent this becoming a more frequent loss?
For me, the answer is simple. Make racing more accessible to newcomers. We live in an age where anybody can be, ‘in the know,’ on social media, a time where the majority of jockeys and trainers are contactable at the push of a button, so you might argue racing is there for anybody who wants it, but I disagree.
Let’s look at the recent production of ITV Racing. They have taken it upon themselves to include educational and somewhat elementary segments throughout the show, answering questions like, ‘what does a noseband do?’ or even the live breakdown of how a horse is running in a race. This attention to detail may frustrate the more seasoned campaigners of racing, however they are pivotal in the upbringing of the new generation of race goers.
Strangely we must incorporate change to preserve the history of the sport. No longer can the racing industry have its cake and eat it, in this day and age of entertainment the traditionalism of racing will struggle to attract those outside the circle when compared to the bright lights of others, and racing must adapt.
I write this, as a call to arms, no longer should we be poking holes in the industry, be that presenters or mucky camera lenses, lets stop the bickering on the addictive cesspit that is Twitter about who ‘Napped,’ a horse before who. We need a return to the humble days of racing if we’re ever to attract others to the game, stop this elitism, and stop the narrow mindedness. Let’s be more broad minded with one another and supportive of each others views, this is a game of opinions after all, and without new blood coming up we’re all going to get very old, very, very quickly.