Racing Explained launched to demystify racing as a sport

3rd December 2014



The Jockey Club, which stages many of the leading horseracing events in Britain, such as the Crabbie's Grand National, The Cheltenham Festival and The Investec Derby, today unveiled the details of a new initiative designed to help the many people who enjoy a day at the races, but know little about racing, to start to gain a better understanding of the sport.

Developed after extensive focus group and omnibus research amongst racegoers, Racing Explained aims to support and inspire more of the circa 6 million people who go racing to become more knowledgeable and engaged fans of Britain’s second biggest spectator sport, over time.

British racing’s annual attendances have increased by around 2.5 million people over the last 30 years and, in the last 10 years, The Jockey Club alone has spent more than £300 million on facilities at its 15 racecourses nationwide and prize money to attract the best possible horses to compete.

While the vast majority of racegoers have a thoroughly enjoyable day at the races according to customer surveys, an estimated 80 percent currently consider they have little or no knowledge of the sport. This same group will go racing, on average, once in a year as a social ‘day out’, whereas engaged and knowledgeable fans will go racing several times.

The Jockey Club conceived Racing Explained after identifying links between an appreciation and understanding of racing as a sport not just a day out, and people's levels of enjoyment and likelihood of more frequent return visits and other forms of engagement with the sport, such as through racing stories in the media, terrestrial television and radio coverage and betting on the sport.

The initiative is being launched to the public on Saturday (6th December 2014) with more than 50,000 people expected to be going racing between The Jockey Club's Betfred Becher Chase Day at Aintree in the north and its 888sport Tingle Creek Day at Sandown Park in the south. It will then roll out across all Jockey Club Racecourses, which attract attendances of more than 1.7 million annually.

The Aintree raceday is a ‘sell-out’ after being made free entry as part of a local community initiative. Up to 75 percent of the crowd have not booked with the course previously, suggesting tens of thousands of people may be experiencing racing over the Grand National fences in person for the first time.

At launch, Racing Explained will deploy:

  • Seven short films that combine racing footage, motion graphics and text insights to help to explain different facets of the sport, for broadcast on big and small screens at The Jockey Club’s 15 racecourses nationwide;
  • A racegoer guide in the form of an app for Apple or Android devices that uses cutting-edge augmented reality technology;
  • A dedicated website, fully-optimised for smartphones and tablets to provide a range of resources for non-expert racegoers;
  • 12 light-hearted but informative infographics that will be seeded onto social media;
  • A new ‘how to read the racecard’ page for racecards at all Jockey Club Racecourses;
  • E-communications to The Jockey Club’s circa 1 million customer database and when new customers book tickets promoting the available resources.

The short explainer films that form the heart of Racing Explained were inspired by the in-venue films used at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to help spectators to better understand – and therefore enjoy – sports many were seeing live for the first time. To this end The Jockey Club hired the same design and production company, Hello Charlie, who worked for London 2012.

The films use a combination of racing and raceday footage from the sport’s biggest moments, with sound to help to catch and hold the attention, but on-screen text rather than voiceover to ensure people are not straining to hear them on busy days and that the films are non-invasive, particularly for an expert audience. The films provide insights into how to read the racecard, Thoroughbred racehorses, what to look out for in the parade ring, Flat racing, Jump racing, jockeys, and how to bet.

Racing Explained’s website,, will act as a central hub for all content in the initiative and seeks to provide many more helpful insights than those covered by the explainer films. After The Jockey Club’s research highlighted a feeling of embarrassment or awkwardness at “having to ask” among non-expert racegoers, the website includes a handy Racing Terms tool where users can type in racing words or phrases to find out their meaning and be served related content. This would allow racegoers to quickly check for answers using their smartphone.

Another key part of Racing Explained is a mobile app, developed by Scramboo and powered by the ‘Viewmaker’ platform, which uses location technology, augmented reality and image recognition to present information and insights tied to locations and objects at The Jockey Club’s racecourses. One feature of the app allows users to see a collection of icons – or pins – dropped on either an overhead map of the course or ‘real world’ view of what is around them, which they can tap to interact with. For example, in the parade ring an icon will provide information on the runners and riders for the next race; in the winners enclosure an icon will outline the results of the last race; and around the course icons will provide insights about points of interest worth visiting or knowing about.

Scramboo was appointed following a Government-backed ‘Innovate UK’ IC tomorrow competition to find an innovation to help to solve a series of different challenges faced in sport, which they won. 

Simon Bazalgette, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, said:

"As a sport, we're successfully attracting millions of people going racing each year. They're having a great time and we've invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the last ten years into customer facilities and to attract the best horses to race in Britain. Now British racing must do more to help and inspire newcomers to want to become informed racing fans, passionate about racing as a sport and not just a great day out.

"Racing is an incredible sport when you have a good handle on the basics. A lot of racegoers tell us they find it difficult to find the first two rungs of the ladder that leads to a good understanding of the sport. Hopefully Racing Explained can start to address that, supported by some of the hands-on experiences we can give, such as getting up close to a retired racehorse on some of our racedays and the great Racemakers volunteers initiative started by Great British Racing after London 2012.

"We’re also clear that people just want a bit of help in the right direction; they don’t want spoon-feeding all the way to become experts because they won’t develop their own passion for the sport that way. Racing Explained is about trying to make things easier until you’re reading about racing in the press and tuning into live coverage to develop that knowledge and interest further. Ultimately, if more people enjoyed racing as a sport it would mean bigger attendances and broadcast audiences, greater betting and sponsorship interest and increased horse ownership numbers."

Mick Fitzgerald, Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey and now leading racing broadcaster, said:

"The Jockey Club’s extensive research has pointed out that we need to make it easier for people to understand certain aspects of our sport. They've been clear it's not about dumbing it down, but making it more accessible. By creating Racing Explained they have the right tool to do this. I was delighted to be asked to add some insight to this initiative."

Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing, said:

“This is an excellent initiative. We know from our experience in running Racemakers how making the sport more accessible and easier to understand not only enhances the customer experience on the day, but develops fans for the future. The Jockey Club accounts for close to a third of all racecourse admissions, so can be hugely influential in growing racing's fan base."

Scott Bowers, Group Director of Communications at The Jockey Club, who has led the development of the Racing Explained initiative, said:

"We've spent a great deal of time listening to what people say they would like to know more about in order to enjoy racing as a fantastic sport, not just a great day out.

"Everything in Racing Explained is based on those insights and, just as important, we got a very clear steer on what would be too much to include and a turn-off at this starting point.

"Experts will find it all very basic, but that's because they know their stuff. We've intentionally created the initiative to be non-invasive so if you don't want to watch the films on the big screens for example, you don't need to. Equally I hope racing fans will see we're showcasing many of the best moments of the sport they love and trying to inspire newcomers to want to become knowledgeable fans.

"Soon after launch we'll test to ensure each piece of content is doing its job and make any adjustments needed. Next up will be a series of masterclass films involving key participants in the sport to view online. I guess you could say the hard work starts now."

At the core of the thinking behind Racing Explained is a recognition that people are more open to finding out more about the sport when they have decided to go to the races or at the raceday itself. The methods Racing Explained will deploy are all developed with this in mind, as opposed to trying to reach the 'man on the street' and attempt to explain the sport to them in moments when it is not relevant to their daily lives.

The Jockey Club is funding Racing Explained from its own resources and with the support of the British Racing Grant Scheme, which required approval from the Chief Executives of the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and the Racehorse Owners Association on behalf of The Horsemen's Group.

Despite the investment of its own funds, in line with its Royal Charter commitment to act for the long-term good of British racing, The Jockey Club will share the findings of its research with all interested stakeholders in British racing and, providing it is achieving its objectives in due course, will also provide the Racing Explained collateral to racecourses outside its own group.

Wherever relevant and possible, Racing Explained has sought to utilise and build on the industry resources created to help to promote British racing in recent years, firstly through the Racing for Change project and more recently following its conversion to the sport's promotional arm, Great British Racing.