Whether you religiously follow the latest daily racing NAP, or just enjoy a casual flutter, it’s no secret that horse racing has undergone a shake-up in recent times. Indeed, the shock sale of Kempton Park, south west of the city, is one such example, but it’s possible we’ve seen nothing yet.
In the not too distant future, we may just see horseracing come to the streets of London as part of ambitious plans to bring the much-loved sport to major capital cities around the globe.
There are said to be two parties interested in bringing the event to London’s streets; City Racing and GAG 403 Ltd, though they face a tough task in convincing the British Horseracing Authority who will have the final say.
Similar plans have arisen several times in the past so it’s no surprise that detailed discussions have already taken place. Those who are backing the plans are keen to reiterate that any city centre racing will be a world apart from some of the more widely known and controversial events, such as the Palio street races of Siena where bareback riders race around a piazza.
City Racing have held talks with the British Horseracing Authority and have suggested that we may see horses, and their riders, take to the London streets as soon as September, whilst GAG 403 Ltd hope to announce the first venue later this year ahead of the first event taking place in 2018.
Several people may be asking why this is happening and Olly Neil of GAG 403 was keen to explain. He told the Racing Post earlier this month: “We’re going to do for horseracing what Twenty20 has done for cricket and 3×3 for basketball – reinterpreting the Sport of Kings for a young urban audience and dialling up on technology, entertainment, excitement and energy.”
Attracting a young audience would undoubtedly be a great move for the sport. The industry has, for some time, alienated the key millennial market with it’s inherent ‘unbeatable’ format. The benefit of bringing the event to the big city provides a golden opportunity for organisers and bookies to experiment with the kind of bets they respond to – namely fixed odds and rich data delivery systems.
The temporary racecourse would involve the laying of a synthetic track on the roads; a surface that would be similar to the all-weather kind seen at Kempton Park and Southwell currently.
Whilst this may sound like a great amount of disruption to Londoners, don’t forget roads have closed across London many times in the past. Buckingham Palace itself has acted as a backdrop to several prestigious sporting events including the Tour de France, Olympic Marathon and annual London Marathon. One venue in particular that is under consideration is the Mall – a setting that would offer the best seat in the house to UK’s racing’s biggest fan, Queen Elizabeth II.