Fifteen of Britain’s 61 racecourses including Bangor on Dee were today named as the best in the country for racehorse owners, and awarded Gold Standard status for the next 12 months.
The accolade, given in a competitive way for the fourth year, comes from the Racehorse Owners Association, the body that has represented racehorse owners for over 70 years and currently has in excess of 8,000 members.
ROA representatives visited every track in Britain at least once to assess all aspects of the raceday experience for owners. In addition, feedback was provided by hundreds of ROA members following their racecourse visits.
Racecourses are divided into two categories – large and small – with their classification decided by a range of factors, including the quality of racing and attendance figures. The top tracks in each category that were considered to provide owners with the best raceday experience will hold the Award for the next 12 months.
The 2018 Gold Standard Award holders will now be in contention for their respective category’s ‘Racecourse of the Year’ at the annual ROA Horseracing Awards to be held in London on Thursday, 6th December.
Those awarded the Gold Standard are:
Large racecourses: Ascot; Ayr; Cheltenham; Chester; Haydock Park; and York.
The six repeated their successes of 2016 and 2017, while it is the fourth year in a row that Ascot, Ayr, Chester, Haydock Park and York have been among the top group.
Small racecourses: Bangor-on-Dee; Carlisle; Fakenham; Hamilton Park; Market Rasen; Musselburgh; Perth; Sedgefield; and Uttoxeter.
Hamilton Park, Market Rasen and Musselburgh are listed for the fourth year in a row. Carlisle, Perth and Uttoxeter receive the award for the first time, while it is the second time for Bangor-on-Dee, Fakenham and Sedgefield.
Last year there were two new awards, the ‘Most Improved Large Racecourse’ and ‘Most Improved Small Racecourse’. The award is designed to shine the light on two racecourses, one from each category which, whilst falling short of a Gold Standard award at present, have made significant changes to the owners’ experience. The ROA extends its sincere thanks and congratulations in 2018 to Newbury and Wetherby respectively, for continuing to enhance the raceday experience.
Alan Pickering, Chairman of the ROA’s Raceday Committee, said: “Chairing the Raceday Committee is a wonderful opportunity to supplement my own ad hoc racecourse experience with the more systematic input received from ROA members and committee members who visit all 61 tracks. It is a real eye-opener to see how the efforts of racecourse management and staff respond to the needs of owners. While capital investment is an important part of this response, it is only money well spent if it is leveraged by staff training and the right customer care spirit.
“There is a wide variety of ways in which racecourses and owners interact. Variety is the spice of life but variety of quality is no longer acceptable if minimum standards are not being fulfilled. Good racecourses use multimedia to keep owners informed on both a timely and timeless basis. Examples of the latter are easy to navigate websites containing basic information while the former is again typified by innovative variety. Some racecourses write to owners early in the year highlighting raceday features and particular fixtures. This helps us calibrate horse fitness, our own work commitments and opportunities to run our favourite horses on our favourite racecourses. In other instances, the communication starts at the entry stage and can continue after the raceday with a ‘how was it for you?’ email.
“Interaction around the raceday experience is what makes ownership worthwhile. Knowing that we will – win or lose – have a good day makes a real difference. Help with getting to the station after the race meeting is just as important as getting us there on time. Bad journeys home can either take the icing off the cake or add insult to injury. Every day at the races as an owner is a special day for friends and family alike.
“When deciding upon the Gold Standard Award winners we almost needed the photo finish equipment. Decisions were difficult as there has been a wonderful enhancement to the owners’ experience at so many of our racecourses.
“At the heart of the Gold Standard scheme is continuous improvement. It is heartening, therefore, to see that Newbury and Wetherby have both been identified as those racecourses which have made most improvement in their respective categories during 2018. Let’s hope that it will be onwards and upward in the years to come.”
Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the ROA, said: “The 2016 Racehorse Owners Survey highlighted the raceday experience as one of the most important aspects affecting the enjoyment of racehorse ownership and, in order to retain owners, it is more important than ever that racecourses continue to understand the role they play.
“Whilst the unveiling of new or improved owners’ facilities is always something to applaud, it is often the little things, the personal touches, that make the difference between a good and a great raceday experience. Racecourses that offer a welcome drink, which provide race recordings to owners other than the winners, which use social media to highlight and engage with owners, as well as those that look after the horses and stable staff, are often to be found out-performing those with bigger budgets. Of course, we can never forget the importance of prize-money, and we are delighted that all of our Award recipients have unlocked all of their Appearance Money Scheme races.
“The number of racecourses - particularly in the Small category - rising to the challenge of the competitive Gold Standard Award process has continued to impress the Committee, although more work is still to be done in ensuring a minimum standard across all racecourses. This is something we will be looking to address into 2019 and look forward to announcing some exciting developments in due course.”
Richard Thomas, CEO of Chester Race Company, said:
“We are thrilled to be awarded the annual Gold Standard Award for Chester Racecourse for the 11thtime and Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse for a second consecutive year. Owners experience at both tracks remains paramount and we are committed to investing in our Owners facilities to ensure the Chester and Bangor experiences are the best they can be.
"The Gold Standard Award is a direct reflection of the positive feedback we continually receive from visiting Owners, Trainers and their guests and to be continually recognised is a fantastic achievement and testament to the teams involved. We now hope to be in the running for the Large and Small Racecourse of the Year at the awards ceremony in December.”