We Need More AP McCoy’s, Says Racecourse Chief

May 15, 2015

By Christian Radnedge

Horse Racing desperately needs more stars like AP McCoy to appeal to new fans, click according to the group chief executive of racecourse operator the Jockey Club.

Simon Bazalgette, ed whose company runs 15 leading courses including Aintree and Cheltenham, was speaking at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference in London this week.

The 2015 Cheltenham Festival in March attracted more than 240,000 spectators over the three days, a record for the event.

Many will have been there to see Northern Irish jockey AP McCoy ride his final festival before his eventual retirement last month.

And without figures such as McCoy, who has been Champion Jockey every year he’s been professional, Bazalgette believes new fans won’t be able to connect with the jockeys aiming to take his place.

“Jockeys work incredibly hard,” he said. “They’re racing pretty much every day of the week and riding out with horses every morning. So they don’t tend to have a lot of time to do promotion and equally when are in their pomp they have goggles, a helmet and mud all over them so they’re not always the easiest to recognise.

“We’ve just launched an enhanced jockeys championship for the flat and Stobart [Group] are supporting that and putting pictures of the leading jockeys on the whole range of their big container lorry’s, so that’s a good example of where the sport and the sponsors are working together to support the event.

“And we’re putting more resources as a sport into working providing media training, providing media opportunities to jockeys and to trainers and owners and to participants in the sport.”

Bazalgette pointed to the example made earlier in the conference that Andy Murray’s presence drastically increased TV figures in the UK during a tennis tournament.

“We certainly saw that with AP McCoy,” he said. “But we don’t have very many AP McCoys around.

“And we still have the challenge if you go in the street and ask people to name some famous jockeys they probably still start with Lester Piggot and he hasn’t been riding for 25 years so it’s definitely a challenge.”