Ed Chamberlin column: Where now after York

Our columnist is full of praise for York on and off the track after the Sky Bet Ebor Festival and now wants racing to come together and move forward.

It felt like racing reality was suspended for four days. After weeks of lawsuits, debates, arguments, disagreements and standoffs, the Sky Bet Ebor Festival in York showcased all that is still great about British racing. We enjoyed some of the world’s finest horses, big fields, competitive handicaps, fashion, family fun and a wonderful celebration of God’s own country, Yorkshire.

I am often asked: What is York’s secret? why is it so good My answer is that they “get it”.

You understand what the consumer wants. My moderator and interview training revolves around the importance of listening. William Derby and his team are brilliant listeners. They listen to everyone from owners, trainers and jockeys to stable staff, bettors and broadcasters. They share the same ethos as ITV: racing should be for everyone. York responded to the challenges of the cost of living crisis and the rail strikes. There seemed to be something for every budget and taste, and I particularly enjoyed seeing families picnicking in the Clocktower enclosure and having a great time.

World Pool Days continues to offer real hope for the future and William Derby told me in his interview that the York Race Committees have invested 100 per cent of their projected media rights monies in the racing program this year. Even owners and trainers seemed mollified by the size of the prize money.

But pretty much everything went wrong, you still depend on your product. The product has to deliver and the true stars of the show deliver in spades.

Baaeed came to York having won nine out of nine but failed to really capture the imagination of earthly audiences. His stunning performance at the Juddmonte International was a giant leap in public awareness. William Haggas was also wonderfully engaged throughout the week.

More stories followed that should help excite sports fans. Alpinista and her connections warmed hearts in the Yorkshire Oaks, with Sir Mark Prescott as charismatic as ever. Some successes in his 53rd year of training.

However, the practice performance of the week went to David O’Meara with a remarkable 1.2.4 in the Clipper Logistics Competitive Handicap.

Highfield Princess then “fairley” stormed into the Friday edition of Nunthorpe. John Fairley’s mare has gone from a grade of 57 in a Class 6 handicap at Redcar to an “overachiever”. two Group Ones in 12 days. This is one of the greatest racing stories of all time that will truly resonate with our audience.

I had two disappointments during the week. First, Stradivarius’ unfortunate withdrawal from the Lonsdale Cup. The sport’s popularity on terrestrial television depends on good stories and its big, popular players. ITV viewership was good on Wednesday and Thursday but disappointing on day three. You can imagine why.

Secondly, the extremely valuable Sky Bet Ebor needs a fairytale winner to really capture the public’s imagination. It came within a hair’s breadth of Alfred Boucher from Robert Allcock. Instead, the grand prize went to powerhouses Gosden and Godolphin.

I love the concept of the Sky Bet Ebor Festival Sweepstakes which supports 22 local charities who each have a horse in the big race. Trawlerman has won £20,000 for Sporting Memories, which will help change the lives of a number of people. Another clever York initiative.

This country is so good at hosting major sporting events like the recent Commonwealth Games. Likewise, horse racing is great for hosting our big festivals, as we saw this summer.

Now it’s back to reality and attempts to cure the ills of racing. One good thing is that I can feel a sea change. We seem to have stopped endlessly pointing out and complaining about the problems and now seem to be looking for solutions.

Whining is useless. We all know the problems with small fields, sold horses and low prize money. We need answers. I have no idea what the details of Peter Savill’s plan are, but at least he’s getting things moving.

Let’s hope they continue to do so.

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