Freshers enrol for the course
Greg Wood on an initiative to enlight students on the ways of the Turf
Thursday 16 November 1995
Much is said about the need to attract new racegoers if the sport is to flourish. The large number of families attending this year's Sunday meetings has been encouraging, yet many courses fail to see beyond creches and clowns as a way of introducing young people to the racing experience, which should, almost by definition, involve an occasional bet. The average five-year-old may enjoy an afternoon at the track, but then they are also likely to enjoy scribbling with felt-tip pens or playing hide-and-seek. Neither will necessarily become lifelong passions.
Students, by contrast, "can take part in the sport as a betting event, it's the real thing" as Simon Marcantonio, Kempton's public relations officer, pointed out yesterday. Just as importantly, they are also "the opinion-formers of the future". Almost 100 students were attracted by yesterday's concessions, which included admission for just pounds 5, exclusive use of the Thames Suite with a bar at student-union prices and, in many cases, free travel to the course from as far away as Norwich.
Cynics will point out that most students would walk barefoot to the North Pole if there was the promise of cheap beer when they arrived. Others might wonder how the sight of fivers being fed into the Thames Suite Tote can be squared with claims of widespread student poverty. John Holmes, the president of the turf club at the University of East Anglia, which brought a 35-strong party yesterday, sees no contradiction.
"A week tomorrow I'm going on a demonstration about student hardship," Holmes said, "and many students experience serious hardship. But the expansion of higher education has involved people for whom money is not such a problem, and we're not just talking about hooray Henrys."
Holmes, who used to appear in Grange Hill, cheerfully admits that the acting fees soon found their way to his local betting shop, and the repeat fees from the current re-runs are going the same way. Many others in his party, though, are relative newcomers to racing. "Probably about two-thirds of them hadn't been racing before a similar student day at Newmarket a few weeks ago," he said. "But they enjoyed that and they've come along again today."
Yesterday's action was just as infectious. After the battle between Can Can Charlie and Captain Marmalade - in which the former regained the lead in the final stride - one student from Brunel University who had backed the runner-up reported that he had still enjoyed the run he had had for his money. He had been racing before only once, but had already learned that "races like that really get you going, shouting and screaming".
There was something to cheer in the novice chase, too, in which Jamie Osborne produced one of the best rides even of his distinguished career. Myland, a faller on his only previous start over fences, did his best to unseat Osborne at the ninth, and then blundered so badly at the 13th that his rider was left clinging, stirrupless, to his neck.
Myland lost at least 25 lengths, and when Miracle Man, the odds-on favourite, approached the penultimate fence well clear, his backers were counting their money. Another miracle man, though, was about to have his say. Osborne brought Myland with an irresistible run to catch the leader at the last and win going away.
If his performance did not convert at least a few of the students to the pleasures of the turf, it might be wise to check their vital signs.
Latest in Sport
- 1 Bad cattitude: Family call police after crazed and 'hostile cat with a history of violence' attacks baby before attempting to 'flee custody'
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...