Racing on the web with Robin Gibson
WHO hasn’t registered a domain name, then not used it for about three years, let their debit card expire, then received a letter that ends: “We will now refer this matter to a debt collection agency”? Go on, we’ve all done it. No? Oh well, I have. I got one of those letters last week. Surprised they didn’t send it by email really.
Newbury registered a new domain a while ago. But unlike some short-lived, bongo-brained schemes, it’s still getting value for outlay. Although it’s changed the name back to Newbury Racecourse (a certain linear elegance, don’t you think?), the website continues to reside at racecoursenewbury.co.uk. Probably still forking out £4.99 a month or something for it.
Apparently it cost Royal Mail £1.5 million in 2001 to change its name to Consignia and about £1m to change back. Hopefully Newbury didn’t blow that much.
It’s hard to fathom why firms feel driven to imply there’s something new on offer when the product remains the same. The conundrum was summed up by those old pub pool tables with the slogan ‘More than just a game of pool’. But it wasn’t.
You only had to read the jolly tweets that greeted the unrebranding (“The Racecourse Newbury is more no” and so on) to gauge the depth of ridicule for the exercise.
But the Google summary still says “The Racecourse, Newbury is a racecourse in the civil parish of Greenham”, despite the Wikipedia entry being up to date. Loose ends.
This coming Saturday it hosts the Hennessy. It’s always a great race. One of the highlights of the year. A colossus of the season. A bruising titan bossing a crowd of pipsqueaks. Still the Newbury website goes a bit further, calling the bet365 Hennessy festival (come on, no one calls it a festival) “the social event of the winter”.
Hmm. Well, the organisers of ‘Christmas’ might have a word to say about that. They’re at christmas.com, by the way. There’s a domain that didn’t come cheap. Great site, though. Lots of gifts. And what about Hogmanay? Donald, where’s your troosers? Well, wherever they are be sure they are not made from ripped or torn denim.
Dress code is the first item on ‘Raceday Info’ at the Newbury site. Old habits die hard and that’s bad news for anyone whose old habits include wearing Wranglers with the arse hanging out of them.
But let’s not go on about that. No one’s likely to go to the Hennessy in filthy shorts and the Newbury site is not shabby. For instance, ‘Go Racing’ is the first tab and the ‘What’s On’ ticker has all the racedays alongside other popular seasonal social events like the New Year’s Eve Black Tie Ball (smart troosers) and Christmas party nights.
A sliding splash image asks: “Why not book the Royal Box for a truly unique event?” Why not indeed? It’s a completely self-contained private space comprising of entrance hall with a grand staircase! Unfortunately the ‘download info’ button gives you only a not-to-scale floorplan. No price list, which you feel might be more important info.
The presentable site is the digitally tailored equivalent of Newbury’s dress code: sharp creases and superficial style, but lacking the rivets of street credibility.
HOWEVER – and I hate to sound like a broken MP3, but it must be repeated – the home of a historic race such as the Hennessy would do better to have a history section to that effect. And some videos. One Man, Suny Bay, Denman, that sort of thing.
There’s all the information to facilitate your day out, but not much feel for the bedrock that underpins the “bespoke development of 2, 3, 4 5 bedroom homes” (how can a development be bespoke?) and the Rocking Horse Nursery.
There are directions to Newbury’s YouTube channel (still prancing around as TheRacecourseNewbury – more loose ends). But that’s moribund with nothing since 2012 and no Hennessy videos.
Fret not – there are loads of great Hennessys on YouTube and a superb playlist by the prolific espmadrid with 32 of the best from 1958 to 2003.
Another iconic race is the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan today. But unlike that of the horse it’s named after, the history of the Troytown Chase online has gone missing. It’s not even on Wikipedia.
The usually thorough (occasionally erratic) en.inforapid.org, which will create a garish knowledge map for pretty much anything, accepts ‘Troytown (horse)’ but ploughs straight through ‘Ireland’ to ‘Great Famine (Ireland)’ without a mention of the Navan race.
It also accepts ‘Navan racecourse’ and spews out a load more, including the track’s other big races, but not the Troytown. There’s hardly anything on YouTube either. Uncanny.
Navan online (navanracecourse. ie) won’t help much. It’s a cheery enough site but functional rather than phenomenal. There’s a slight history section, with nothing on the Troytown. Some nice pics, though – why don’t courses use more of these? There’s a great one captioned “New public bar, 1973”. Looks a bit parky – hope it’s finished now.
The site is lightly sprinkled with amusing typos. Particularly welcome is news that you can get cashbask at the secretary’s office. Everyone loves a cashbask.
On the subject of history, the National Horseracing Museum seems a little bit neglected (by the public, not by itself), a theory partly backed up by its Twitter (@nhrm_newmarket) and Facebook followings (864 and 791 respectively).
That’s a shame, as it’s a pleasant spot with a topical history blog (blog. nhrm.co.uk) that is painstaking and not afraid of blasting out a couple of thousand words for those with the old pre-microblog Mk1 attention span. The latest entry on dual Mackeson (Paddy Power) Gold Cup winner and 1970 Grand National hero Gay Trip is a typically good read.
Incidentally, the Wikipedia entry for Gay Trip credits him with only one Mackeson. Someone had better get out there and fix it.’Newbury calls the Hennessy festival the social event of the winter. Well, the organisers of Christmas might have a word to say about that’
Email Robin Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org – or follow him on Twitter @surfnturfRP
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