Racecourse in Focus- Thirsk
With racing dating as far back as 1855, Thirsk Racecourse has long been embedded within the local community as the place to go for an enjoyable day out at the races, be it with friends, families or pirates as demonstrated by this summer’s themed family days.
Thirsk takes a unique place in history as the only ‘small’ racecourse to stage the world’s oldest classic – The St Leger when it was transferred from its Doncaster home in 1940. Aside from crowning classic winners, Thirsk has also played a part in the journey of more recent champions—both Starborough and Farhh of the famous Godolphin stable took in a winning trip to Thirsk en route to Group One glory.
The whole team at Thirsk are acutely aware of the need to provide racegoers with a great day out off the track, too; whatever their reason for attending. This is signified by the latest in a series of investments at the racecourse and arguably now the jewel in Thirsk’s crown, the new Owners & Trainers stand.
“The new Owners & Trainers stand is an incredibly exciting project and one that we can’t wait to share with horsemen and racegoers alike” explained Marketing Manager, Sheralyn Wade.
“Plenty of work has gone into making this building the ideal destination for owners. We’ve thought of their requirements and what they want from a raceday, hence the ideal location between the pre-parade ring, paddock and track so that at all times you can see your horse and be walking distance from any one of the three key areas.”
What are the elements that really make this new development stand out from the rest? “The rooftop deck will be the place to be on the racecourse with breath-taking views” said Wade.
“Inside, we’ve themed the main space as The Chestnut Room. The beautiful horse chestnut trees which line our pre-parade ring were all the inspiration we needed—inside we’ve got plenty of stylish, contemporary furniture accompanied by a bronze-lined centrepiece bar which I am sure will wow guests when they see it for the first time.”
The new Owners & Trainers stand will open for non-racing business during the closed season and be fully operational for racing from 2019. But what about the experience as of right now?
“We welcome winning owners (and placed connections when space allows!) to our new winning connections suite, where they’re treated to a glass of champagne as well as a take-home recording of their race. There is a photography station set up which provides a print of their presentation just minutes after it has been completed as an additional surprise and delight element” said Wade.
Away from Owners & Trainers, the customer service doesn’t become any less personable. “I am a firm believer in a warm welcome and setting the tone for the day. The customer service has to be right from the word go” explained Wade. “We have adorned the walls of our two primary entrances with artwork depicting a great day out at Thirsk to whet the appetite of racegoers.
“We’re a close-knit team here at Thirsk and our raceday staff in particular have a reputation for being very friendly and helpful and it’s important that those standards are upheld at each raceday. Whilst much investment has gone into the infrastructure you can’t put a price on how people make you feel.”
This surprise and delight element continues courtesy of a visit from raceday presenter Adele Mulrennan. “At the start of each raceday I provide a tipster-talk for hospitality guests to try and help them pick a few winners. It’s great fun and I love seeing how excited people are when you let them know your background as a former jockey and wife of current top Yorkshire jockey Paul!” explained Mulrennan. “At Thirsk this goes further where they are keen to include racegoers in other areas, such as the Dine & View Restaurant, as a further element to their raceday experience. It’s not something I get asked at all racecourses but given the friendly, family feel at Thirsk it works very well—especially when my tips come in!”
With this ethos in place, how are racegoers reacting and are they coming back? “Our attendances are very healthy” explained Wade. “Racegoers are giving positive feedback—we have a 4.5/5 rating on Tripadvisor with half of all reviews being ‘excellent’. Our innovations over recent seasons across the racecourse have been popular and we’ve even more to launch in 2019″.
The objective facts support the claims: in addition to Tripadvisor, Thirsk has seen year on year improvements as part of the Quality Assured Racecourse assessment conducted by VisitEngland, improving over ten percentage points during the past six years.
With four race meetings remaining in 2018, attention now turns to hosting each of the very different days, including the seasonal grand finalé Ladies Day on Saturday 8th September, whilst completing the new Owners & Trainers stand. “Whilst busy, it is an extremely exciting time for the racecourse” explained Wade. “In the close-season we’ll be installing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system which will take our racecourse marketing to the next level and I’m excited to start marketing the stunning Chestnut Room in the new Owners and Trainers stand. We’re launching it with a black-tie event on 12th September and I can’t wait!”