It puts excitement and energy at the forefront of the spectacle of horse racing and brings a potentially huge new audience within reach for a unique and playful experience!
Super-charged team-based racing, supported by increased stakes for the best stable participation, and brief, entertainment-filled intervals are at the centre of this innovation. Add to this DJs, music, food and dancers and the stage is set for a young, new crowd and, importantly, corporate sponsors backed by wide media coverage.
With original thinking in the social media sphere, GTH gave life to ‘Speedbreaker’, the horse that broke the speed limit on a Johannesburg Road and ran away from the traffic cops in a stunt video that captured attention, and imagination, on various platforms. Angus Campbell, marketing director of GTH, explained: “We can call Speedbreaker a ‘horsefluencer’. He is the face of this innovative and inclusionary event, designed for racing to thrive in a world of tech and online attractions for adults and children.”
Speedbreaker caught the attention of some high-profile racing personalities, too, including multiple champion trainer Sean Tarry, who commented: “I like out-of-the box thinking. GTH is a work in progress, I liked what I saw from them in their launch series last year. There is no doubt they will find the right formula and I am happy to support them.”
The legendary Michael Roberts, champion jockey-turned trainer, said he appreciated the frank and open approach followed by the GTH leadership. “I enjoyed the first series, I think it’s a good concept and when they came to see us recently I was able to put forward some suggestions I believe will make the next one even better. They engaged with us, I like that, and I was impressed by their forward-thinking and innovation. I think they have a good concept here.”
Mike de Kock, a group-winning trainer in seven countries, said he found the GTH Series most refreshing. He said: “What we know is that racing urgently needs a new generation of fans. What we don’t know is how many fans there would be who’d enjoy the game as a sport without the focus on the betting aspects. This is where GTH is on the right target. There is a potentially huge global market and this concept warrants industry support. Historically, in countless businesses and sporting disciplines, innovations refreshed and changed their core foundations for great progress. We have nothing to lose, much to gain!”
Colin Gordon, COO of 4Racing, said that he, as a ‘traditionalist’, watched the first series with some guarded scepticism, but that he was most impressed with what the GTH team managed to achieve. “Any initiatives aimed at attracting a new fan base and interest in our fantastic sport should be applauded. I think what is good is that they are taking elements that work for other sports and incorporating it in their racing product.”
Top jockey Gavin Lerena, who rode two winners for the Gauteng Gijimaz last year, said he enjoyed the team-based competition and that the short intervals resulted in “action, all round!”
Champion apprentice Rachel Venniker, herself among the winners last August, said that the difference in atmosphere was refreshing. “Things are normally very quiet, but with the GTH Series we could hear the crowd cheering us on as we entered the straight. There was a noticeable difference, definitely a great vibe and I loved it. When is the next one, do we have a date yet?”
Muzi Yeni, who captained the winning KZN Royals last year, said that he was impressed by the marketing around the event. “We saw the promotions everywhere and the fans came out in support. It was awesome and actually tested our riding skills because riding without whips brings the ‘mind’ element into it.”
Fans who attended meetings during the first series last year have been actively commenting on social media since.
Nicole April commented on Twitter: “I attended one of the live events and had the time of my life. My favourite moment is how excited everyone gets when the horses come in and how they all cheer them on until they cross the finish line. It’s been a while since we’ve seen people out, so happy and cheerful. We really had a blast!”
Jaco de Beer noted on Facebook: “Can't wait for this year’s series. Loved it last year!”
Janita Edwards wrote: “What an epic championship. It certainly changes the face of horse racing. I am a forever fan!”