By Hans Ebert
There’s a new book out by Kristen Manning on the jockey known to many in racing as The Gauch. Darren Gauci.
Though occasionally seeing him, especially after the night meetings at Happy Valley when he was riding in Hong Kong, I only got to really meet the gentleman over a coffee when in Melbourne. That was almost two years ago. It was at Mr Hives in the Crown. We talked. We joked. Got to know each other as well as one can in a couple of hours.
Back in Hong Kong, I was chatting with Felix “The Cat” Coetzee. “The Cat” mentors the apprentices riding here. And helps out all local riders wherever he can.
The Gauch, like my longtime friend John Didham did before him, is there to help and guide the apprentices in Melbourne.
It was good to learn that The Cat and The Gauch, who rode against each other in Hong Kong, and with so much experience on course and off the track talk to each other quite regularly. Exchange ideas. Ask each other for advice. Bring in a highly respected sports psychologist in Melbourne when required.
It’s global networking for a good cause. It’s a small dedicated team sharing their experiences with those who might benefit from it.
It made me think how, in what has become an almost obscene need to be seen to be part of technology and progress and massive dollops of pretentious bollocks, the soul has been lost in too many industries. The heartbeat. Its conscience. Does horse racing have a soul? A conscience? It has. Those in and around horse racing know this. But what about everyone else?
Horse racing too often continues to talk to itself. Endlessly. Disagree all you want. It does. Forget about not having the right people internally to produce and drive the creative product. That’s just left to grow through some weird form of corporate osmosis.
There’s the need for very strategic communications strategies. It means actually stepping out of the confines of horse racing and racing club and boardroom meetings and really engaging with non-racing people including the mainstream media. The mainstream media with its doubters. Those staring into half empty glasses.
Effective communications has everything to do with how any racing club is positioned in the pecking order of importance. And enhancing the image of horse racing. Giving it extra value. And separating perception from reality.
It’s about communicating to and with as wide an audience as possible. It means screaming, “Here I am! Ask me anything!” It’s about dealing with the sceptics with preconceived agendas.
My ex wife wanted nothing to do with horse racing. She thought it to be a crooked little game for crooked little people. A dangerously addictive sport if one lets it take over. She wasn’t wrong. Those with compulsive tendencies can easily let the dark side in. It can be a constant battle to not be led into temptation.
The lady I am currently seeing has her own reservations about horse racing. Rightly or wrongly, she believes that it has no redeeming qualities.
Unfortunately, her family upbringing and their involvement in horse racing has shown her a side to horse racing that I certainly know exists. But keeping up with the Wongs and Chans and wearing Louis Vuitton loafers isn’t really me. She’s trying to outrun all that. Plus, she has a legal mind. And trust issues.
She believes that horse racing needs to face the fact that people don’t like to lose. Or keep losing. And if they bail, who’s going to pay for the upkeep of the mother lode? She’s a fascinating animal.
Strange as it might seem, people like her should be part of panel discussions. On mainstream media. Show the pros and cons of horse racing. Not only the warts. Provide solutions. We know the problems.
Don’t have great stories go walkies. Like how The Gauch, The Cat and professionals OUTSIDE of horse racing work together for the good of the sport. And beyond. It’s about the human face of horse racing.
Don’t hide these stories on some racing shows with a dwindling listenership. Remember about not talking to one’s self? And to a captive audience? And thinking this is breakthrough content. Earth to the delusional.
Don’t ONLY tell racing people about all the progress made and being made in the area of equine veterinarian care. Tell the world. Through the mainstream media. Make believers out of the doomsday cult.
As tweeted recently, horse racing really needs someone with the presentation skills of Don Draper to sell its product. To enhance its image. To flip it on its head.
Wouldn’t the quite amazing life journey of Jeff Lloyd Story make for an inspiring documentary? Or mini series intercut with interviews and footage from his races. And narrated by wife Nicola. It could be called- what else?- “The Guv’nor”.
Why can’t a racing club tackle and talk about the negative effects social media has on its athletes? And what it’s doing about it. And what more that can be done. Like bringing in new online laws. Laws to stop all the anger spilling over in creepy Criminal Minds tweets. Hell, take it and tell it to Oprah. And Mark Zuckerberg. Thinking small only results in shrinkage.
This is how change happens. Real change. It’s meeting challenges head on. To simply focus on content and data and more and more information for the hardcore racing person is why horse racing is where it is today. In the barriers. Or behind them.
Though trying to attract new young members should have begun two decades ago by recruiting professionals to achieve these business objectives instead of going it alone and seeing what sticks, all is not completely lost.
Twenty years later, there’s so much of everything we’re seeing. Especially millennials trying to navigate their way through choppy online waters and arrive safely on terra firma.
Perhaps if they are to understand that horse racing has more than enough “redeeming qualities”, they might wish to be part of its future.
These days, horse racing is allowed to wallow in the past. Where’s it really going? To the uppermost of the toppermost, Johnny?
Meanwhile, here’s hoping that this new book by Kristen Manning on The Gauch, one of horse racing’s real good guys, is being heavily promoted. Through the handful of mediums available to the sport. Also through the mainstream media where horse racing rarely gets a look in.
The book needs a documentary so one can see what made The Gauch The Gauch. The rider he was. The mentor that he is. The man he is. He remains good for racing. Very good.
Funny how bad news in horse racing travels fast. But how slow it is when it comes to picking up on and accentuating the positive. Positivity that’s often staring it in the face.
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