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The biggest problem for any industry is when the customer becomes smarter with, especially, technology than those managing and marketing the product. It’s like the music industry where music companies are now constantly forced to play catch-up as video killed the recording star, and technology wiped out that one-time quaint practice of music fans actually paying for music. It’s been devalued through decades of neglect and thinking the wheel wasn’t only broke, when it had actually fallen off.

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Today, even an someone as powerful Jay-Z is feeling the wrath of the customer. In an era of streaming music, Jay-Z and eighteen of the biggest- and wealthiest- names in music, launched the streaming service called Tidal with a subscription price of US$240 a year. In this day and age of rocking in the free world, that’s $240 too much.

Tidal Launch Event NYC #TIDALforALL

When jockey Craig Williams returned aboard Criterion after winning the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick, he captured everything happening around him with a GoPro. In many ways, Williams, who is extremely savvy at promoting and marketing himself- someone has to do it- was doing the work of that event’s bona fide broadcaster.

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In a nutshell, the jockey was being creative in a constantly-evolving technology-driven landscape. Though experience has often come to mean old-fashioned, in the need to make horse racing progress, there is, sometimes, the need to err on the side of caution, and manage this “experience”. Replacing it with few options will be too tough a learning curve for those new to the industry.

Having said this, however, one can’t be held to ransom by those who think that because they’ve been occupying the same power bases for decades that they’re irreplaceable. There is a need to build ammunition for the future- and the future is now- by carefully bringing in those who can present the sport to a new generation of viewers in ways that are yet to be thought about, let alone produced as programming.

Bringing this experience and creativity together is a delicate juggling act and needed to ensure that all consumer bases are catered for with choices when it comes to content. One size doesn’t fit all, and for racing, Old School must meet New School with everything inbetween.

As for that win of Criterion, whoever was commentating that day referred to Williams using his “JockeyCam”. Not correct. Jockeycam or HelmetCam is something else, and the stop-start and Maybe use of this amazing camera is worth revisiting. Watch how the JockeyCam was used during the running of this year’s Grand National and be amazed.

gnt 1a

Don’t ask and you don’t know, but is the use of HelmetCam banned? If not, as Richard Hughes showed a few years ago, it gives customers a completely new perspective- literally- on watching horse racing. But, perhaps, capturing everything that a GoPro or a HelmetCam might pick up in the paddock area just might constitute an “invasion of privacy” and make known too many secrets during the course of a race that can undo the best laid plans.

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What remains a mystery, however, is why JockeyCam/HelmetCam can’t, or isn’t being utilised during the course of a race as done during the Grand National. Why it isn’t a permanent part of racing’s arsenal of products to bring the sport closer to racing fans when the reaction to it have been so overwhelmingly positive is puzzling.

Could red tape and over-thinking keeping it off tracks and outta reach of consumers?

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gnt 3b

Meanwhile, if, as so many parrot, “content is king,” what exactly IS this content when it comes to horse racing other than the same old, same old- the races shown through the usual three camera setups, the paddock parade, and the pre and post-race interviews that will always be needed, and has always been provided to that captive market.

paddock

What about the others, however- the cash-rich customer base who are new to the sport, who are very likely, the next generation of owners, and, as technology-savvy viewers of the sport on their iPhones, iPads and SmartPhones, wishing to see more “edutainment” in-between those twentysomething minutes that move far too slowly for this customer segment living life in the fast lane?

iphone generation

“Edutainment”? Let’s get real here: This new generation of racing fans that’s needed to give the sport a future, can’t even read a totalisator board, let alone form guides. It’s an area of marketing and very basic strategic planning that is rarely factored in. That blank page must be filled in. The starting point must be that these newbies know nothing about the sport.

blank page

In this DIY world, present them with the tools for learning how to “play the sport” as attractively as possible, and let them find and work out how to use these. They might even surprise the most hardened punter with some new-fashioned thinking where the odds of winning are shortened.

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Try and force-feed all that’s come before with what, to them, is gobbledygook, and it becomes a huge turn off. It means marching with Dad’s Army as opposed to the beat of their own drum. Remember how music fans- and many new racing fans are also music fans- don’t even march to Jay-Z or Timbaland’s “beatz” anymore.

marching to the beat of your own drum

Apart from some unnecessary drone shots which, to any viewer, look like The Revenge Of The Rampaging Ants, and the now-obligatory slo-mo footage to show the agony and ecstasy of winning and losing, nothing has changed in two to three decades of broadcasting races. Why?

It’s down to either not understanding customer wants and needs, and realising that with the buffet of choices available, especially in the online gaming world, just how much technology has changed the viewing habits of other sports, or else, walking around with blinkers on and not wishing to see what’s right in front of them.

No one is a passive viewer these days. They wish to connect and interact and have their 15 minutes of fame made available to them through different delivery platforms, and content that engage them- the customer.

online platform

Watching talking wobble heads on something as archaic as television doesn’t engage this particular group of viewers- and viewers are customers and eyeballs are data bases and its what still keeps these television stations afloat.

Every television channel today- online, cable and terrestrial- needs new programming aka content to keep monotony and repeats setting in and them losing viewership in the process.

Here’s where horse racing can and must work with new media partners to reach a greater audience. But with what type of programming? Four hours of racing with its endless paddock parades and few minutes of the main attractions- the races- on prime time television?

Yes, this is needed to that captive and ageing market set in their ways and not interested in anyone teaching old dogs new tricks. But there must be more.

Around three years ago, a key executive with the biggest terrestrial television station in Hong Kong with a growing footprint in the region and, of course, Mainland China, was explaining what they were looking for from the racing world as far as programming was concerned- programming relevant to their audience- and their advertisers.

This all fell under what’s called “lifestyle content”- a look at the more consumer-friendly and aspirational aspects of the sport- the fashions, not those on the field, but in a racing club’s different venues and private boxes, the latest model Ferrari or Lamborghini or Mercedes Benz or BMW driven by owners, jockeys and trainers, and everything to do with the more glamorous side to the sport.

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Recently, Google introduced an outstanding app where one can take a virtual tour through the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded all their great music. It’s, as they once said, a trip.

abbey road tour

This is what the racing industry, and all those who are part of it, need to watch and think how, perhaps, an app like this can provide racing fans- new and experienced racing fans- with a new way to see the sport, understand how all the pieces fit, and how it can become of “edutainment” value.

No one ever stops learning and there is so much to learn from consumer habits and trends.

All this becomes the content currently missing from a sport that’s way too often speaking to itself in a language few will one day soon not bother to understand.

It won’t be worth their time, not when there are far more accessible leisure activities at their fingertips.

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Hans Ebert©

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THE INSIDE TRACK‏

inside track 1

They’ve simply put their heads down and got on with it and it’s paying off in spades. Last weekend, Nash Rawiller rode three winners, two in Macau including winning the Group 1 Macau Derby aboard the former Chris Waller-trained The Alfonso, and Pablofsky for John Moore at Shatin.

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After a slow start and labelled “Fried Rice” by the local racing media for his riding style replete with heavily undulating shoulder movements, The Wok Man of Hong Kong racing has now ridden 19 winners and is averaging a winner a meeting.

While “Gnasher” has taken on a tortoise and hare approach towards a long-term career in Hong Kong with Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry being strong candidates to join the riding ranks here further on up the road, Damian Lane has hit the ground running.

inside track 3

The very likeable young gun jockey, who got the call up to ride in Hong Kong over Nick Hall and Blake Shinn, has already ridden two winners whereas many before him have gone winless for so long that they were sent by superstitious local owners to have their heads shaved to get rid of any bad fung shui.

On Sunday at Shatin, life in the fast Lane continued when he won on Dual Happy for local “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” trainer Manfred KL Man. It was Lane spreading his net and riding for a variety of trainers- and owners.

inside track 4

One wonders how many racing fans overseas really understand how incredibly tough it is for those that can be termed “The Others” to compete on the track and before this can happen, off the track for rides against the very much in-demand Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte.

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Lest one forgets, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it took the Zac Attack a number of years of putting in the hard yards before winning over the support he now has on his side through riding horses with winning chances.

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There was even a time when he was considered “unlucky” every time he was legged aboard a Caspar Fownes-trained runner. Purton played second fiddle to the Prebble-Fownes Happy Meal combo. Look how all that’s changed today.

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BRETT PREBBLE CATCHES THEM NAPPING- THEN GIVES THEM A SPANKING!

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On the subject of Brett Prebble, it was an inspired ride on Sunday that saw him seize the initiative on the John Size-trained Thunder Fantasy and play catch-me-if-you-can with his rivals over the 2400m race.

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He not only caught them napping, he spanked them- “them” being some very experienced jockeys who showed an embarrassing lack of judgement and almost terminal brain freeze. What on earth were they thinking? Wait: they weren’t thinking.

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PAUL LALLY DOESN’T DILLY DALLY AS HE BECOMES THE NEW AMIGO.

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Is it just us, or is it a little strange to hear former Hong Kong race caller Darren Flindell’s voice- it’s an old sound bite- on the rather film noire television commercial promoting the Audemars Piguet QE 11 Cup race this weekend? And isn’t that Amigo Darren still featured in the Trackside promo spot?

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It’s all a little bit as spooky as being able to win a Bluetooth Selfie Stick by playing some Able Friend “game” on the HKJC website. But what do we know?

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We do know that now Jerry Greene has vanished from television screens, and Paul Lally, below, has settled in very well with Amigo Clint and Amigo Brett on the Racing To Win graveyard shift spectacular.

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With a far more animated and vociferous- and goofy- Amigo Brett these days, who seems to have taken over the leadership role, Lally, who we’ve been big fans of since popping up on various simulcasts, brings a certain sense of authority to the show along with a knack for consistently tipping winners. Good stuff.

We might finally be watching the new Three Amigos to actually win at the races.

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THE FAST TRACKER RIDES INTO THE UNKNOWN TONIGHT

FAST TRACKER 1

The Magic Man returns after three meetings on the sidelines through suspensions, and though not having a strong book of rides, should at least ride the winner to give him a new record for riding the fastest hundred winners for one Hong Kong racing season.

FAST TRACKER 2

As for tonight’s card, it looks misleadingly easy to find winners, which always sets off alarm bells as nothing in life is easy, especially in horse racing.

Alarm Bell over white

With racing on the C Course, and two races over 1000m, tread warily and even wearily as some of the better chances are drawn out wide and might need to be ridden off the pace- and come up short.

The jockeys to follow? Probably a rejuvenated Douglas Whyte and the very competitive Neil Callan, who’ll be keen to get amongst the winners.

FAST TRACKER 4

It’s a night to really play the Quartets and a small throw at the stumps at the Triple Trio where there’s a small jackpot.

Other than that, if heading to Happy Valley, see you up at Adrenaline, which, apart from the enormously popular Beer Garden where something is always happening- tonight is the second of three Digital Nights- has quickly become THE place to sit back, take in the buffet, the ‘live’ music and watch the races from the terrific view out on the balcony and cheer your good things home.

It’s a bit silly to try and tip winners when the gorilla’s armpit strong humidity might signalling the war dogs raining down on our parade, but below are choices early on in the innings based on barrier draws, jockey engagements, Valley specialists, and recent form.

It’s not exactly an exacting science, especially when going with often-misleading overnight odds, so take everything with a pinch of salt.

RACE 1 – (2-8)-3-7-11

RACE 2 – (3-4)-2-5-8-10-11

RACE 3 – (5-7)-1-2-3

RACE 4 – (8-10)-4-5-1

RACE 5 – (8-11)-2-6-9-10

RACE 6 – 5-1-7-8

RACE 7 – 4-5-2-9

RACE 8 – (4-10)- 1-3-5-7-12

BEST BET: R5 UNIQUE HAPPIEST (8)
NEXT BEST: R8 HARBOUR PUNK (4)
LONGSHOT: R6 RUBY COAST (5)

SIX UPS FROM ADRENALINE’S RESIDENT DRUMMER-PERCUSSIONIST DAVIDE, GUITARZAN JAY AND SINGER JENNIFER PALOR.

(WARNING: None of them know a thing about horse racing, but believe they can out-tip the professional tipsters!)

FAST TRACKER 5

DAVIDE’S SIX UP

FAST TRACKER 6

R3: 1-2-3-5-7
R4: 4-8-10
R5: 8
R6: 1-5
R7: 4
R8: 4

JAY’S SIX UP

FAST TRACKER 7

R3: 5
R4: 4-6-8-10-12
R5: 2-8-11
R6: 8
R7: 4
R8: 4-12

JENNIFER’S SIX UP

FAST TRACKER 8

R3: 2-3-5-7
R4: 2-4-8-10-12
R5: 8
R6: 4-5
R7: 4
R8: 4-10-12

PARTING SHOT

FAST TRACKER 9