I must say that when I looked at the fields for Flemington last Saturday and in typical male fashion I was confused. We had nine races on the program and eight of the nine races carried names of two individuals, such that Race 1 was the “Dean Palmby and Scott Millson Handicap”, Race 2 was the “Betty Moran and Gregory Nugent Handicap” and so on and so forth. All terrific stuff as we all understand that racing needs sponsors, but the only name that meant anything to myself, or I’d imagine 99.99% of racing followers, was that we’d heard of the racehorse Auries Star, after which the Group 3 race on the day (Race 7 won by Tiger Tees) was named. Another race, Race 6 was called the “Jacinta Nugent and Lesley Millson Handicap”. Is Jacinta Nugent who has her name on Race 6 related to Gregory Nugent who had his name on Race 2, or is it just coincidence that two people with the surname Nugent had races named after them on the day?

You see, in essence, the public has not got one solitary idea as to why those races had those names on them, yet most races run on the day were $80,000 total prizemoney races, so surely sponsorship of them would have cost a pretty penny? Why don’t TVN – who tell everyone how great they are – interview a sponsor after a race, the same as they interview a trainer or owner? Wouldn’t that be astute business acumen if we were trying to reward the sponsor by trying to get the racing fraternity to possibly buy their goods and services? It seems to me that the only racing sponsor we ever hear from is on a commercial television channel during a major Carnival, when say the company that for instance sponsors the Melbourne Cup will get to make a presentation to the owner/s of the winner or whatever.

The only other way to approach and overcome the obvious sad industry ineptness with which sponsors are treated, is to get the racecaller to tell us when they cross to his call? As I’ve written here for a decade, every time prior to a race, the racecaller should be required to advise why the race is named the way it is – and if it’s named after a business, then he should advise what that business does. For instance, the names of some races are easy to work out. Race 1 at Eagle Farm last Saturday was the Gouldson Injury Law Handicap. One doesn’t need an abnormally high amount of grey matter to work that one out. But Race 8 was the “Savills Handicap”. Who the hell are Savills? Do you know off the top of your head? No me neither – even four days after the meeting is over I’m still none the wiser. So doesn’t that tell us that as an industry we are pathetic and totally useless at trying to create any sales for the business or individual that is putting up the valuable sponsorship dollars? If we continue to treat alleged “valued sponsors” as expendable and moronic entities, why would they come back for more? But if the racecaller told the audience what line of business the sponsor was in, maybe racing people would say “oh they do such-and-such, they support racing, so I’ll support them”.

At the moment it’s all done so pathetically that no one knows if you are up them unless you cough. That racing needs sponsors is a no-brainer, yet it does precious little to look after them and treat them as special entities, as their potential clients (punters, owners and trainers) have no idea who the hell they are. In fact, again, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but it will make too much sense for racing officials, the racecaller, prior to the meeting, should be given a professionally typed sheet by the race club that is staging the meeting he is calling, with what each business does, where they are located and so on, to appropriately introduce the sponsor before a race. You might say “the racecallers don’t have time”. That’s garbage, as in thoroughbred racing something will play up like a navy bloke on shore leave behind the barrier, or be hard to load, or need replating, so they can spare 10 seconds to say “this race is brought to you by which is the flagbearer of the biggest stable of racing websites in Australia”. And don’t laugh – they do it internationally. I sponsor the 390-metre boxes at the Ascot Park greyhound track in New Zealand. As the bunny rolls to the boxes for Race 12 at each meeting racecaller Dave McDonald generally says “the bunny is approaching the boxes for the last”, or similar wording. I don’t know Dave McDonald from Adam and have never spoken to the man, or sent him an email, but that’s what I get for my sponsorship dollars internationally, so I keep supporting the greyhound club as they at least try to make people aware of their sponsors. Yet that greyhound race prizemoney at Ascot Park is worth but a pittance compared to the $80,000 total prizemoney race at Flemington called the “Jacinta Nugent and Lesley Millson Handicap” or the $50,000 “Savills Handicap” at Eagle Farm, but no one has a clue who or what those entities do.

Race clubs sell race names on the basis of “people Australia-wide will see your name up on the big screen” and all this allied warm and fuzzy advice, but in reality the entity that is doing the sponsorship has little or no hope of getting any recognition, or any business, the way things are done currently.

Justracing is a long standing sponsor at Marburg Harness Racing Club. That club is just a bunch of battlers getting off their backsides and having a go – the sort of people I like mixing with. They have volunteer people doing all sorts of wonderful work in the name of the club. What do I get for my sponsorship dollars? A full page in the Marburg race book every time there is a race meeting – telling patrons all about the justracing website. Plus during the meeting the racecaller reads it out to on-course patrons. Ditto their other sponsors also, so that every sponsor gets treated the same. I’ve never asked them ever to put an ad in their racebook, or read anything out about Justracing – they asked me to provide the information so they could do it. I don’t expect to get any business out of it, but at least they are having what I’d call “a red hot go” at trying for me. And as a sponsor – that’s all I can ask.

Sponsors in greyhound racing get treated like kings at places like the Ipswich Greyhound Club. In fact the man who is in charge of that aspect used to be the President of the club. He’s now full time in marketing and getting sponsors – and he does a wonderful job to the point where the Ipswich Greyhound Club is in a wonderful financial position. The sponsors are made to feel special so they just keep coming up with the goods. Fancy having a bank as your major sponsor at a greyhound club? How good is that?

However where sponsorship of Australian greyhound racing falls down is that in newspapers they merely put the grade of the race, not the name of the sponsor. That’s bad – as in harness racing and thoroughbred racing the name of the company or individual sponsoring the race is in the newspaper.

So the industry as a whole – starting with racecallers and race club administrators – need to get with the program and do much more to try to alert awareness of what business the sponsor is involved in. Then the public would know who Jacinta Nugent and Lesley Millson and crew all were and I’d also know what Savills do. I mean isn’t it logical that if I need a product or service that Savills sell – that I would be more likely to give them the business than a competitor or theirs, if that competitor couldn’t care less about racing?

Today on the first of two montages of photos from Eagle Farm is perused and in that montage is a special young woman who I didn’t even know was still in the industry, but she was working for trainer Rob Heathcote last Saturday. Over eight years ago I penned her story when she was a young 16YO apprentice jockey. The wonderful man I photographed her with is now gone, but the memory lives on in the photo that I took one day in February 2006 at a lowly non-TAB meeting at Beaudesert. On there’s the story on five well bred standardbred mares that have just come on the market last night, along with the story of the son of Artsplace that is a new standardbred stallion in the Maitland area for the upcoming breeding season, whilst on Victorian racing is perused.

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