Today marks the start of the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, the biggest four days in the sport of horse racing and betting. It is also a red letter day for British Racing in general and for Ladbrokes in the betting industry.
Multiple stakeholders in the sport of horse racing in Britain have announced the permanent establishment of a marketing and promotions arm called Great British Racing. This will replace the ‘Racing for Change’ initiative which has run for four years.
Originally established to make racing more appealing to a younger and broader audience, Racing for Change, under the leadership of Rod Street has overseen a period in which attendances at major festivals has risen, a new exclusive terrestrial TV deal has been secured with Channel 4 and the sport has bounced back from a position of vulnerability to one of real strength.
Street will head up the new venture which is supported by the British Horseracing Authority, the Horerace Betting Levy Board, racehorse owners, trainers and breeders.
The new organisation will also take on the mantle of promoting the sport to High net worth individuals around the world, a role previously undertaken exclusively from within the breeding sector.
The remit of this international approach will be to expand the international promotion of British racing. It is hoped this will have a positive effect for the sport in Ireland as well which is so intrinsically linked to major events like Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and the Investec Epsom Derby both of which form highlights of the British ‘summer season’ in June.
Ladbrokes will hope to see record turnover on today’s first day of the Cheltenham Fstival but their sights are also on the longer term with news breaking this morning of a deal with Israeli Gaming giants Playtech which is expected to see them close the gap which has opened up between them and the current leaders in the online betting arena including Betfair, Bet365 and William Hill.
Playtech’s previous joint venture with William Hill was credited by many analysts and industry insiders as having given them a real edge in the battle for online market share among the previously unassailable giants of the betting ring. It was at times though a difficult working relationship and ended weeks ago when William Hill bought out the partnership for a sum of €500 million.
The new deal with Ladbrokes has brought immediate benefit with the company share price on the London Stock Exchange soaring more than five per cent to a three year high.
Last month Ladbrokes bought out the Betdaq operation owned by Dermot Desmond for a sumn believed to be in the region of €30 million.
For those considering a bet at Cheltenham today, the Sport for Business shillings will be riding on Jezki for Ireland in the opening race at 1.30 and on Shangani in the day’s final event at 5.15. Between those two it is hoped Hurricane Fly can justify favouritism in regaining the Champion Hurdle crown he won in 2011; that Quevega can make it a record five wins in a row at the Festival, albeit at very short odds in the 4.40 race and that Loch Ba and Cloudy Too run big races at big odds in the 2.40 race.
Please remember though that in sport as in business the value of your investments can go down as well as up…