After winning ‘Event of the Year’ at the prestigious Hollard Sport Industry Awards following the first GTH Live Series held at Greyville last year, we at Global Team Horse Racing (GTH) secured a next round of funding which takes us a step closer to a second series in 2023.
The first series proved that we have something that captures public attention and imagination, breaking through a few long-standing barriers. Now, we’re aiming at improving all facets of our product and taking the next steps to reach our goal of introducing many new fans to the sport.
Before we explain anew what GTH offers, let us remind you that racing in South Africa remains at sensitive crossroads in numerous respects, including operations, financial security and stability, sustainability and, importantly, the commercial marketability of what is generally accepted to be an outdated product offering.
Betting turnovers are down. Many trainers and breeders are battling to make ends meet. Jockeys are leaving the country in numbers. Racehorse ownership, defined in terms of individual colour-holders, has dwindled from near 10,000 at the turn of the century to under 1,000 today. The ‘small owner’ is on the endangered list.
With our model pointing decisively towards introducing additional sources of income, we’ve had margins of resistance from racing’s older generations and a few traditionalists. But we’ve managed to bring the authorities around to consider and support ours, and the popular worldwide view, that racing must embrace novelty and renewal as a matter of urgency to prevent further haemorrhaging of funds. We have to reach and include potentially massive new audiences.
Below, the pillars of our plan for the injection of new money, new fans, and new racehorse owners to racing:
1. Significant innovations of the GTH racing format, includes;
- Short intervals between races
A common complaint among first-time racegoers is the length of time between races. They simply get bored, quick. In our first series this issue was successfully addressed and welcomed by most. Fast-paced racing keeps the crowds interested and on their feet. We’re marketing a power-package of high-adrenaline entertainment!
- Team-based, or sponsor-based racing, in different colours
Hugely popular in other sports, team-based racing lends itself to a variety of options including different colours or branding for each team. When provinces or regions come into play, things get more exciting and avenues to sponsorships open up. In the GTH format, nothing stops us from having teams sponsored by individuals, breeders, or corporates. The sky is the limit.
- The no-whip ruleRacing’s die-hards have made the no-whip rule a serious point of contention but, in the modern world of sport, all comes down to ‘adapt or die’. Animal activists wield an enormous amount of sentimental support, and hence, whether we like it or not, have the power to bring thoroughbred racing to its knees.
2. A drive to source new revenue streams for racing
Significant changes had to be made to reinvigorate numerous other sports, including cricket, football, tennis, basketball, boxing, Formula One motor-racing and others. Sports authorities had to challenge themselves and change their mindsets, but thinking out of the box gave them fresh, widespread support, brought hordes of new fans, and gave them access to major sponsorships.
Example: In 2022, the domestic SA20 cricket competition in South Africa secured a huge financial boost from local and international brands. The league signed a new five-year broadcast and sponsorship deal worth R1.5bn (approximately $103m). There are many other examples in many other sports, from many other countries. Even minor proportions of these volumes of sponsorship income can save our industry, reward its players handsomely and remove the reliance on gambling as the principal source of revenue.
3. Rewarding racing’s ‘small owner’
In staging high-stakes, low-rated handicaps with certain conditions, we set the stage for more participation by the so-called ‘smaller owner’. Racing has its fairy tales involving moderate-income owners, a shot of sheer luck and a top horse that changes their lives. But those are few and far between.
Overall, the best horses generally go to wealthy owners due to their prolific buying, in numbers, at the top end of the bloodstock market. The small owner, or minority shareholders in a single, moderate horse, are left to campaign in low-stakes races with little or no return. They soon disappear from the scene.
GTH aims for balancing the playing fields by staging our series using the low-level plate races and handicaps and raising their prize monies to levels never seen before. For the new, youthful market looking for an exciting day out, the quality of a race has little or no meaning. When a handful of low-class runners go hammer-and-tongs to the line in a close finish, the surge of excitement is the same.
For the small-time owner, huge financial returns become a reality rather than a dream. They’ll be back for more, with extra purchasing power, in so doing propping up the needed reserves at racing’s base camp.