Guardians of rare moments of 'national celebration'

5th June 2014

Nicholas Wrigley is Senior Steward of The Jockey Club

Nicholas Wrigley is Senior Steward of The Jockey Club

Nicholas Wrigley, Senior Steward (chairman) of The Jockey Club, who completes his five-year term in July 2014, addressed a gathering of key stakeholders and participants in British racing at an event at Kensington Palace to celebrate The Jockey Club's ongoing commitment to acting for the good of British racing. His speech is below:

Your Royal Highness, Your Highnesses, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen... Thank you for coming this evening to celebrate the sport we all love.

We are about to show you a short film, and I promise it will be short, that brings to life just a little of what is great about British racing…

It showcases fantastic people, their tremendous dedication and, above all, the wonderful horses that grace our turf.

Please click to view the film on YouTube

Watching that film reminds me just how proud I am to be involved in British racing… and what an honour it has been to serve as The Jockey Club’s Senior Steward for the last five years.

It has been a personal privilege to see first-hand the work of the thousands of people who dedicate their lives to making our sport the best it can be.

All of you here tonight are familiar with the role The Jockey Club plays at the heart of our sport… governed by Royal Charter, we take seriously our role today as commercial guardians following our transition from the regulator of old.

In just the last ten years alone we have contributed more than £300m from our own resources to prize money, facilities and racing surfaces.

But for me, there has always been a broader duty, often overlooked, but just as important.

In Britain, horseracing is not just a sport; it is part of the fabric of our national life. The Derby, the Grand National, The Cheltenham Festival… These are not just crown jewel sports events; they are rare moments of national celebration.

For nearly three hundred years, The Jockey Club has done everything possible to ensure that racing is still one of the most loved and treasured aspects of our heritage and modern cultural life. Our sport is enjoyed by millions of people each and every year.

I think it is this balance we must continue to strike in modernising with the times, while staying true to our traditions and values.

This is what differentiates The Jockey Club.

While we have invested more than £150m in modernising our racecourses over the last ten years, helping to grow our racing events, we have always been careful to protect their unique atmosphere and heritage.

By putting the customer at the heart of everything we do and enhancing the experience we offer them – from the Stud to our training grounds to our racecourses – we have generated record turnover and profits throughout the economic downturn.

And like all our revenues, every penny we make we put back into British racing.

The Jockey Club may be 264 years old, but we constantly embrace the new.

Rather than sell heritage assets to fund our record contributions to prize money, we have used them creatively and pioneered new ways to generate sustainable returns for British racing.

For example, we were the first in British sport to launch a retail bond last year. This was an innovative way to raise £25m towards funding our hugely exciting development now underway at Cheltenham.

Through investment in our facilities we have been able to open up our racecourses as events venues,hosting conferences, meetings, weddings and even concerts.

In fact who would have expected The Jockey Club to become one of the biggest music promoters in the UK?

And when we are faced with challenges, we tackle them head on. Two years ago we made a series of carefully-considered modifications at the Grand National to ensure the event continues to thrive. And we were instrumental with support and race switches in the creation of what Britain is rightly proud is now the top-rated raceday in
the world, QIPCO British Champions Day.

Because every decision we make, is for the long-term good of our sport.

I must take this opportunity to thank everyone here for being so supportive of me, and Venetia, these past five years. We have appreciated that immensely.

Here tonight are many of our sport’s greatest supporters and ambassadors. I should like to express our gratitude to the people who have done such an enormous amount to support The Jockey Club and British racing, particularly those vitally important sponsors of our sport.

And for the vision and commitment to deliver, I must pay tribute to Simon Bazalgette and our people throughout The Jockey Club. Their dedication to the future of British racing, in every role, is second to none.

I should like to conclude by wishing all the very best to Roger Weatherby, who becomes Senior Steward in July. Roger has made a significant contribution to racing through his work with Weatherbys, on the board of The Jockey Club and as Chairman of the Racing Foundation, and previously Racing Welfare. I am sure he will prove an excellent appointment and help to ensure The Jockey Club continues to do everything in its power for the good of British racing.

Now I will ask you to be upstanding for two toasts.

Please join me in the loyal toast. The Queen.

And for the sport that brings us all together. To British racing.