sports gazette

Royal Ascot and The Demise Of the Dogs

Horse Racing at Ascot Source: Softeis
Published: 22 Jan 2012

A comparison of two long running sports at the original heart of British racing, one a finely tuned and well respected spectacle the other is in severe decline.

A comparison of two long running sports at the heart of British racing - one a finely tuned and well respected spectacle, the other in severe decline.

Yesterday, Ascot celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Victor Chandler Chase, a flagship meet in the horse racing calendar.

Sportsgazette writers attended the grand jump event on the same day as they went to Wimbledon dogs - an inauspicious affair attended by those looking for a cheap and cheerful night out as well as the struggling sports faithful contingent. The venues could not be further apart in terms of status.

Ascot invites you in to the grandstand past the impressive parade ring  below, to the cultured sound from an ensemble of violins playing in the background. 

The dog track requires you to walk through an unlit industrial estate and car park, with more craters than the moon, before shuffling you through tight and somewhat malfunctioning turnstiles.

At the dogs, after negotiating the flights of stairs to the main stand, packed bar and betting tote area you are given a view of the sand-swept track and the broken signs welcoming you to: “Have a great Friday night," - it was a Saturday.

The popularity of dog racing has declined reportedly after the public began to take note of the cruelty and inherent death as a result of the sport.

Financial pressures have forced closures on some venues and it is now seen as a prime target for hen and stag night. 

In comparison the sport of horse racing is consistently growing and is entering new areas of the globe - the prize money for winners could also not be further apart.

A simple comparison of the two 'feature' races at the two venues shows the gulf between the two sports. 

The Clarence House steeple chase/Victor Chandler steeple chase rewarded the winning horse with £45192 and a total race prize money of £105,000. 

The final winning total at the greyhound racing in Wimbledon was £500, noticeably smaller than some bets being placed by some individuals at a horse meeting.

The parade of the dogs to the punters adds to the experience but those individuals in white coats who wield the dogs in front of their captive audience showed little regard for the dogs comfort and did not even pretend to raise a smile. 

The Royal parade ring of Ascot is accessible to only those dressed in full day attire which magnificently shows off the horses strength and impressive stature massaging their egos through their admiring onlookers.
However it is clear that Ascot’s self indulgent nature is not for everyone, and those in charge have sparked some debate this week in the revision of their dress code which notably defers women who wear fascinators, and less than knee-length dresses.

This debate furthered when it emerged that the premier enclosure guests demeaned spectators by marking those without a tie with an orange sticker. Ascot have agreed to pay back all premier enclosure pass holders.
Ascots Chief Executive, Charles Barnett, said: "It is clear that we let down many of our Premier enclosure customers yesterday with a well-intentioned but misguided policy."

He admitted that what they had done was wrong by saying that: "This was a significant mistake, but I hope people will appreciate that it was also a rare one."

This is not the first time in which Ascot was seen as above others, divorcees were once barred from the royal enclosure.

The difference in the two sports has been noticed by those fighting to protect greyhound racing which has lead to a marketing strategy change by those few remaining dog tracks. 

They now offer reduced rates for parties, meal and race card deals and also some very reasonable corporate ticket rates. 

Tickets for comparable grandstand tickets at both events were as follows: £28 for the horse races, £6 for a standard ticket to the dogs.

The total number of attending bookmakers at race level in Wimbledon was two, Ascot boasted dozens of independent individuals willing to take bets, which confirms the supply and demand theory. 

However the layout of the dog racing was confined to one stand of a possible four, missing the potential to use the ground space of the other areas to improve facilities, and encourage spending, which is vital in an economically-unstable sport.

The much coveted land that the track is built upon is an object of desire for many property developers in the local area which is regarded as one of the most expensive places to live in the country, with close transport links to the city and a desirable SW post-code for events such as the Wimbledon Tennis - which puts the owners under more pressure.

It is important to note that a night at the dogs can provide an enjoyable evening for those who can appreciate it, it is often a cheaper and more accessible activity than horse racing without being pretentious.

Owned by the Queen, Ascot presumably has no such financial worries and as one of the UK integral Race Circuits, the future looks considerably brighter for those behind the scenes at the Royal venue.

^ Back to top ^