Catterick and Redcar inspired by Showcase

Being nominated for an RCA Showcase Award last November was the next best thing to winning, according to Catterick and Redcar racecourses, fellow members of the IRM group but, to date, infrequent nominators to the annual event.

“Showcase is very important for the industry and the seminars during the day are very good,” says Emma Binnian, sales and marketing manager at Catterick. “You can pick up some very useful ideas, and I’ve got a notepad full for this year!”

From Redcar, general manager Amy Fair adds: “We were over the moon to be nominated in the Owners’ Experience category, voted by members of the ROA. We make no bones about the fact that Redcar doesn’t have the finances to build big new facilities for owners and trainers, so we were delighted to be recognised after being quite creative on what we’ve done for them.”

For York-born Binnian in her first job in racing and only her second year at Catterick, the nomination in the Events category for Racing Recruitment Day was a notable achievement.

“Fiona Needham, the general manager, and I were aware from news stories that there was a shortage of people coming into the industry,” she explains, “so we came up with the idea of trying to encourage younger people and build awareness of the different jobs available in racing.

“Before I went to do a degree at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, I used to go racing but more from a social aspect than knowing a lot about the sport. If I’d been more involved at the beginning, I might have been aware of what was available, but then not able to relate to people who don’t know about the variety of jobs available in the racing industry.”

Catterick’s first call for the event was to local schools and the Pony Club, whose children and members were given a behind-the-scenes tour by Racing to School’s Carrie Ford.

Binnian says: “Carrie has so much knowledge and she took the group round the weighing-room and the stables, explaining all the things that go on there, before Andrew Lacey, an apprentice on our groundstaff team, spoke about his work.

“After that, half an hour before racing, when the general public had arrived, we did a Q&A session, which Robert Hogarth, our raceday presenter hosted, with Ann Duffield, Rupert Arnold, members of Andrea O’Keeffe’s team, Fiona Needham and our grounds manager Ed Fenwicke-Clennell. We also spoke to Sarah Beattie of the Northern Racing College about their work.

“We had some great feedback, and I filmed snippets that we put up quickly on our social media. We’ll use those videos again this year, to increase awareness before we repeat the day on Friday 1 June. We’ll keep the structure the same, with the tour and the Q&A session, but we may alter one or two things.

“The hope is that now it’s happened once, people will come back or tell their friends, so that we encourage younger people to think about racing as a career option.”

Redcar’s focus was on a different racegoer segment, the owners, driven by a Showcase seminar presentation by Pip Kirkby of the ROA in 2016.

Amy Fair explains: “I was so struck by what Pip said that we decided we needed to be doing much more for owners. I’m not an owner and don’t go racing as an owner, and sometimes you can go off at completely the wrong tangent. So, I approached Sarah Holton of the ROA and picked her brains.

“She gave me really good examples of what other small courses were doing. Ideas such as what people wanted to eat for lunch, making it appropriate to the racecourse, not a la carte but tasty and well presented.

“As a result, our caterers came up with a fresh offer, and a really good coffee machine, and we now have a dedicated owners’ dining room, next door to the owners’ bar and conservatory, with a balcony overlooking the winner’s enclosure and parade ring, and a viewing box.

“We used to use the facility for hospitality packages, but the racecourse board were fully supportive of the change of use because they completely understand the need to entertain owners and make them feel special. In fact, it became a pet project of our chairman Lord Zetland.”

Redcar’s hit list of what was important for owners also included inviting placed connections, as well as the winners, for a drink after each race, allocated parking, introducing the PASS system and expansion of the owners’ and trainers’ entrance.

Fair adds: “Then we thought about our race trophies, and realised that people want to win something they can use. A big hit last year was champagne in an ice bucket, all Redcar branded.

“We also found a fabulous artist who does a range of hand painted china, so for the feature race each day we provide a lovely big china bowl. In addition we give sets of mugs, and jewellery dressing table trays, which are personal to Redcar with a different design every year.”

“We had one owner last year who was desperate to win a set of mugs because he’d got one from the two previous years and wanted to keep the series going.

“It’s the little things like this that add up.”