It’s always exciting when there’s a new take on sport that grabs the public’s attention. Of course nowadays even what classifies as a sport is broadening, with the likes of drone racing and eSports becoming the stuff of stadiums. Conversely, sport is also branching out from stadiums and into the centre of our cities. I recall being in awe of a City Games athletics event that I stumbled upon in Manchester city centre a few years back. Competitive high level racing happening right before my eyes, with cheering crowds and captivating coverage of the event for those at home.
It would appear that the emergence of city racing events has not only captured the attention of the public, but also sports execs eager to to bring Horse racing to the city and attract new audiences in the process. Horse racing makes for an intriguing sport to lend to a city games format, because it already has an extensive history on courses around the country and indeed the world. The regular racing viewer though, is likely to be distinct from the broad audience that would be watching on the day, so there’s potential for fresh appeal. That’s much needed for any sport at a time where there’s countless TV channels, betting and sporting options available to us.
According to horse racing betting site www.HorseRacingBetting.co.uk , the brainchild behind this bold venture is Peter Phillips, the Queen’s eldest grandson, and he recently took the time to lay out his plan for City Racing, covering areas such as setting up the track and numerous betting considerations. Safety too, of both the public and the horses, is a paramount consideration. This has been no overnight whim either, the plan took root back in 2014 as result of a successful Champions Tour show jumping event on Horse Guards Parade in London. Peter Phillips approach to investment in the project was novel, as he stood before a crowd to announce that City Racing was “a bloody good idea”.
His plans are ambitious to say the least. After trialing the surface on a road at Aintree racecourse late last year, the plan is now to stage five furlong races on temporary synthetic surfaces layered with sand at prominent landmarks around the world. The cream of the racing crop would take part and crowds, separated by a railing and able to bet, would be allowed within metres of the action. The venture is partnership with jockey club and others.
Paul Fisher, chief executive of the Jockey Club – and owner of courses countywide, has designs on using this exciting format as way of breathing new life into racing and bringing in a “a younger, urban audience”.
So where will we be able to see City Racing, you’re likely asking yourself? Well, ticking every box isn’t easy for such a new and ambitious venture, but Collins Street in Melbourne is said be already be under consideration, as well locations in Asia, the Middle East and the United States. Beyond that, the mouthwatering prospect of London city racing could become a reality within the next two years, according to The Standard. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan is said to be a keen supporter of the idea. It’s hoped that many thousands of people would attend to watch horse racing in such a setting, with entertainment accompanying the spectacle. Eight runners would take part with world renowned jockeys riding horses at the venues in a points based system.
Peter Phillips threw a 10,000 person 90th birthday party for the Queen back in 2016, so is not easily intimidated by big ideas. The City Racing chief executive clearly has stellar contacts and a passion for horse racing, so exciting times lie ahead for the sport.