Last week we saw Racing Victoria leak their ideas around a racing version of cricket’s Big Bash to News Limited press.
No, it wasn’t April Fools Day. Yes, it was an embarrassing new low for an organization that has tried and failed to match wits with Peter V’landys and Racing NSW.
The proposal is based on a teams format, where a select group of trainers pick two horses per race and pick the jockeys they want to ride for them.
As always, these “big ideas” are focussed on capturing the 18-35 set, those that aren’t engaged in racing, and as always, the point is missed entirely. They think people that have never heard of Ciaron Maher or Peter Moody are all of a sudden going to go bananas over Ciaron Maher vs Peter Moody.
The problem with big marketing ideas is that most of them fail. And most of them fail badly. For every Big Bash or Everest that works, there are a hundred initiatives that don’t.
Other sports have tried their hand at a T20 equivalent.
Who remembers AFLX, which is what the AFL attempted, as anything other than tiddlywinks embarrassment. It was so forced and inauthentic, people were never going to connect.
Tennis Australia tried their hand at Fast4, which was essentially just… tennis.
The VRC has even already tried Rapid Racing, which was just…normal racing.
None of these attracted a single eyeball that wasn’t already interested in the sport.
The key to The Everest is that it takes what is great about racing, and elevates it. It was created in a way that all but ensured the best 1200m horses in the country had an incentive to run in it.
The slot format was new and exciting, and thanks to a compliant Sydney racing media initially, it gave months of publicity to the make-up of the field. There’s no doubt V’landys captured something in the zeitgeist right at the time the Melbourne Cup, which is and always will be Australia’s biggest race, was being overrun by international horses that no-one had heard of.
T20 and The Everest both captured lightning in a bottle. And yes, all great things have to start somewhere. But they start from a place of originality and authenticity, and grow organically.
They are not cooked up by suits with no previous interest or investment in racing, as is the case with Andrew Jones and Ben Amarfio, who have both parachuted in from cricket.
Racing Victoria have always cowered to the vocal minority rather than standing up for a sport that is important to millions of Australians, and has a richer heritage in this country than cricket, Australian rules football and rugby league.
Let’s get back to celebrating what is magnificent and great about horse racing, and doubling down on what we have, rather than inventing something destined for failure.