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Oh, What An Atmosphere!

I’ve recently heard a couple of podcasts that have touched upon the subject of atmosphere at racecourses, the subject brought about after the boisterous New Years Eve crowd at Uttoxeter could be heard if you were watching on Sky Sports Racing. We’re frequently told that interaction between racegoers and racecourses is improving, and crowds are still strong, but is this really the case? As someone that goes racing, probably too much for his own good if last month’s petrol bill is anything to go by, I thought I’d offer you my opinions.

Uttoxeter on December 31st last year saw a crowd of just shy of eight and a half thousand pour in to watch seven races before their New Year celebrations began later that evening. The racing wasn’t that classy, and it took place on very slow ground; none of this bothered those attending, who clearly had a good time.

Football singing broke out a couple of times during the day. “Please Don’t Take Me Home” was the cry – ironically, a Welsh football chant, since the poor Welsh racing fans couldn’t chant anything over Christmas at their tracks – and indeed, “drinking all your beer” seemed to be the main purpose of those attending.

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This isn’t an overnight thing at Uttoxeter, it’s been heading that way for some years. What was once a great track for a visit has, in the words of a couple of the bookmakers, become “a drinker’s track.” One of those bookmakers has since sold his pitch there, his business falling off badly before COVID became an issue. One bookmaker estimated 75% of that NYE crowd didn’t have a bet, stating “I take more on a weekday meeting”, which not only suggests the crowd weren’t a racing crowd, it put those that would have normally been there off.

It was a similar tale that day at Warwick, who had capped their crowd to 5,500 (4,000 in Tatts, 1,500 in the centre of the course). Whilst the lower crowd meant a bit more breathing space for all (it gets very stuffy there when they get the full 8,000) business was well down, with most of the crowd there for the social. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – racing needs to compete with all other attractions as a day out for the family – but we ought not be kidding ourselves that these crowds won’t be returning until the concerts start in the summer.

Southwell isn’t used to the sound of glasses smashing, but it’s what we had at their final meeting before Christmas. It had a few of the regulars complaining, as would be expected, but thankfully the post-Christmas meetings have been more family-friendly. It’s a tricky balance – the family crowds do tend to spend a bit of money on their food and drink, but when it comes to having a bet, we’ll be accepting a quid each-way as the minimum that day. So whilst the attendance figures will look good, and the course benefits, the business for the books isn’t there.

I’ve mentioned the concert nights. It will be interesting to see how well they perform this year. Some old favourites are doing the rounds again – Chic are strutting their stuff throughout the summer, as is Paloma Faith and remarkably Madness, who are presumably using their bus passes to get from track to track. Again, even before COVID, business had dropped off on those nights, with many only turning up for the final couple of races before the concert. They are entitled to do that, but again, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves the crowd is there for anything other than a drink and the music rather than engaging with the racing.

I realise that to have the weekday meetings, that will draw a lesser, more “racing” crowd we have to have the big event days with a non-racing crowd, but racing is rather deluding itself if it thinks it is drawing crowds because of the sport, rather than the sideshows. We can and do get the public involved with the sport on some racedays – I often see the equicizer draw a crowd to have a go on when it’s there – but I don’t think we do it enough. And as for atmosphere, I don’t think anyone that enjoys their racing would have been rushing to join in with that Uttoxeter crowd on NYE. Would you?

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Assuming Huntingdon passes theor inspection this morning, then I'll be having a small each-way bet on Adhereance in their opener at 1.00. Dai Burchell is retiring from the game in the next few weeks, and I’m sure he’d love to go out with a winner somewhere. Adherence has his first start for him after leaving Tim Vaughan today, and connections similarly moved Akkapenko last year, with Dai almost winning with him first time out, the horse being well supported and going off favourite. Adherence’s issue has been his jumping, but that’s less of a worry back over hurdles and the booking of Ellis Collier is an interesting one. He doesn’t win many but one of his four wins came after a year off, so the 280-day absence becomes less of an issue, and he’s now very well handicapped. Dai’s also got one entered up at Fakenham on Monday, his first runner there since 2016, as far as we can tell, so he’s travelling far and wide in search of a winner to go out on a high note. 

Today's selection – Adherence (e/w 5 places) 1.00 Huntingdon

Good luck with all your bets today,


7 thoughts on “Oh, What An Atmosphere!”

  1. I haven’t been racing since synchronised betting came in. I asked a leading bookmaker for a 100 pounds to 8, and was told I could have 96 pounds to eight or nothing. Never been back since.

  2. Do you really wonder why racing crowds don’t bet with the bookmakers?!! I am of an age when it was better to go racing and you could ‘shop around’ among the bookmakers trying to ‘get a price’. That was the fun part of it and bookmakers were prepared to lay a price and run a book which differed somewhat to their neighbours prices. Sadly nowadays EVERY bookmaskewr just offers the same price as everyone else according to what is on Betfair. If bookmakers would only offer something to attract punters on course then they could increase their business buit they don’t!!
    I went to Cheltenham recently and stayed inside and placed ALL my bets online because the prices were exactly the same as those on course? Why bother going to bet on course…on course bookmakers have lost the plot and really don’t even try to offer incentives for punters to have a bet….They just hope people will come to them but why would they leave the fun and social side of what they are enjoying when you offer NOTHING….
    It is time on course bookmakers grew some and ran a book like the old days and laid a bet at a price, That may then attract punters to come a look for a price. In the old days I went up and down the line trying to eke out a bit of value…now its EVERY one having the same odds…so what’s the point and you wonder why business is not as it used to be.

  3. Agree with your comments regarding Uttoxeter all they wanted to do was drink.Age of most people there appeared to be 18-30 we actually stood there for 10 minutes without taking a bet and that was from a front row pitch!As if that wasn’t enough a scuffle broke out behind the joint,something really serious is going to happen there before long and I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.Still the racecourse couldn’t care less as long as they keep selling booze to these people.

  4. I have tended to go to the midweek fixtures and not the busy drunken weekend crowds.
    Also I go to three day eventing mainly at weekends and find it a better experience and cheaper.

  5. I agree with the comments about trying to get 100/8, 100/7 and so on, and the uniformity of prices. It’s actually quite disheartening to fancy something at, say, 7/1, move in to bet and see your intended bookie go 13/2 or sixes, and within half a second every pitch has done the same. And don’t try the “I was in the one-person queue when it changed, please can I have the sevens”, you’ll get short shrift, even for a fiver. I also think that the rails bookies, as a group, tend to be shorter than the main part of the ring, deliberately short-changing the (less-experienced?) punters who don’t leave the sanctuary of the members’ enclosure!
    True story to illustrate how bad it’s become: I asked for a small bet at Plumpton not so long ago, and the electronic price changed BETWEEN me asking and the bloke looking at the ‘board’ (I hesitate to call it that these days). I got my price, but only after a prolonged (but polite) discussion.

  6. This is probably the best article on Daily Punt in recent times as Dave’s piece is both good and informative which is then enhanced with interesting comments. It results in a balanced read with plenty of food for thought.
    Thank you.

  7. A great piece of journalism. I hope David you forwarded this on to some rags as this is such a great read and so true to form…pardon the puns.

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