For many racehorse owners, the dream begins on a racecourse, as they gaze longingly into a winner’s enclosure alive with jubilant celebrations. In the middle is the hero of the hour, receiving a well-deserved pat down on the neck from adoring connections.
Alongside adrenaline-fuelled excitement, Britain’s premier race meetings, such as Royal Ascot and the ‘Glorious’ Qatar Goodwood Festival, offer incomparable social occasions. Meanwhile, out on the racecourse, the sport’s thoroughbred stars are establishing their credentials as the stallions and broodmares of the future.
So it was with considerable trepidation that Britain’s world-famous racecourses closed their gates in March; there was no racing for 11 weeks. For Great British Racing International (GBRI), an immediate rethink was required while all plans for hosting and entertaining international owners were suspended. It was clear that the sport would take a financial knock, but worries abounded that racehorse ownership might also be badly affected by the pandemic.
Yet, by the autumn of 2020, there were welcome signs that the commitment and resilience of racing’s owners and breeders had held up unexpectedly well. At the world’s most prestigious annual auction of yearlings, Newmarket’s Tattersalls sales in October, nervous breeders were rewarded for their courage and patience with a competitive market, which exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic onlookers. Things were far from perfect, but the losses were not as damaging as anticipated.
In such a challenging year, how can this be explained? GBRI recognised that those who weather 2020’s political and economic storms will have the opportunity to buy the world’s best-bred bloodstock at more reasonable prices than ever before. This is a world of supply and demand, in which the price of a horse is determined not by the vendor, but by the buyers standing – socially distanced, of course – around the ring. In 2020, more than ever, there was value to be found at the sales.
What’s more, at a time when our leisure options are severely limited, is it possible that racehorse ownership might represent an exciting new entertainment opportunity, one in keeping with the new normality?
Social distancing measures are easily observed when going behind the scenes for a magical morning on the gallops or during stable visits. Britain’s talented and colourful coterie of racehorse trainers work hard to keep its owners fully informed and entertained. Regular coverage on ITV Racing, the industry’s terrestrial broadcasting partner, and the distribution of British racing’s flagship festivals to over 125 countries, brings all the excitement of the races to you at home.
As GBRI prepares to welcome international owners back to Britain’s racecourses and recommence its year-round hospitality and concierge service, it will be refocusing its attention on novel ways to reward these owners from afar. These might include individual portraits of their horses or improved online communications.
Meanwhile, as the world recovers from the pandemic, GBRI will continue to publicise the worldwide importance of British racing and its vital place in the social and economic fabric of this country.