Goodwood racecourse accepted thirty pieces of silver from gaming company 32Red in exchange for ditching the name of the Stewards’ Cup. A race that has a 174 year history.
The trouble with the BHA statement (below) is that this particular horse has bolted.
Why didn’t Goodwood make the new sponsors call it the 32Red Stewards’ Cup, rather than simply the 32Red cup? It’s one word for pete’s sake. Why did 32Red not want to keep that word in the name of the race?
Goodwood’s managing director Adam Waterworth defended the name change.
He said: “It’s something that was very important to the sponsor in this case. We’ve always had sponsors and commercial partners at Goodwood as most courses do. Part of the negotiation with those sponsorships does involve the race names. This was part of the negotiations we had with 32Red and it was very important to them that they felt they could put their stamp on the race, so hence the renaming.
“They feel from a value point of view one of the concerns is if the Stewards’ Cup name remained in there people would simply refer to the race as the Stewards’ Cup rather than using the sponsor’s name.
“They’re prepared to invest a significant amount of money into the race and they feel it’s important they get the opportunity to rename the race to make sure they get the coverage they expect for sponsoring such an important race.”
The deal is for one year but discussions to extend the 32Red sponsorship are ongoing. The prize-fund for the newly named race stays unchanged, £100,000.
Matt Booth, commercial director at 32Red, said: “We are thrilled to be sponsoring the 32Red Cup at Glorious Goodwood. We look forward to building on our continued and proud association with Goodwood racecourse.”
What’s in a name? Well, tradition for one thing. Yes, racing needs sponsors to inject money into the sport.
It is a shame that this race has been sold to a casino company based in Gibraltar, but I guess beggars cannot be choosers. And that’s the problem for racing now. More and more bookies and gaming companies are the tail that wags the dog.
The BHA says it was unaware of the negotiations between Goodwood racecourse and 32Red until just before the announcement.
Robin Mounsey of the British Horseracing Authority said: “BHA considers the heritage and history of the sport as one of its key selling points and as such it is disappointing when any aspect of the sport which carries that tradition and prestige is lost, for however long.
“With the exception of Pattern races, race names are owned by the racecourse. Consequently, BHA has no authority over name changes in heritage handicap races and as such were unable to prevent the name change for the Stewards’ Cup.
“However, it is our intention to address this by amending our general instructions in order to protect the names of heritage handicaps. This was already being considered before the issue of the Stewards’ Cup came to light.”
Lucy Humble, Goodwood’s PR manager, said on Thursday that the track does not see the BHA’s move to protect heritage handicaps as an implied criticism of its actions.
“I think we would work with the BHA on what they want to see and put in place,” Humble said. “We don’t see it as criticism. We want to keep the heritage of racing going on for many more years, we are just trying to work with our sponsor, who wanted to change the name. That’s what we also have to do, work with sponsors to deliver commercial success.”
And she is right. Sadly.
Two men I know will keep calling the Glorious Goodwood race the Stewards’ Cup.
Racing commentator Peter O’Sullevan is now 96 years of age and has had plenty to say about this turn of events.
Sir Peter says: “It will sweep away many years of great tradition. Racing, to its detriment, has extravagantly pandered to the wishes of sponsors and this is another example.”
The other person who will keep the name Stewards’ Cup alive is me.
Via my selections service to members, and in any race preview or review in the coming months, you’ll not see ‘Red’ in anything further I write about a race that has for hundreds of years been one of the highlights of UK racing.