Friday, 4 May 2012

#AscotAsks James Oldring, Operations & Events Director at British Champions Series

James Oldring takes the hot seat in the first of our new Q&A series, #AscotAsks. As Operations and Events Director at TheBritish Champions Series (BCS), James gives us great answers including what exactly the BCS is and what’s new for 2012, how he got into racing and what he’s looking forward to seeing this year at Royal Ascot.

Name: James Oldring
Age: 32
Location: Holborn, for work. Home is in Chiswick, West London
Occupation: Operations & Events Director, British Champions Series

1) How long have you been involved with British Horseracing?

I guess my first involvement came because my Dad used to be one of the doctors at Leicester Racecourse and I used to go along with him in school holidays from the age of about seven. I was hooked almost immediately.

I started riding out at a local trainer’s yard from the age of about 13, and by 16 I was riding in point to points. I actually spent three years after I finished my A levels working in racing yards and riding as an amateur (mainly point to point) – I did OK, rode a few winners, but it eventually became clear that I was never going to be the next AP McCoy, and I struggled with my weight and a dodgy back, so I headed off to Nottingham University to read English.

After graduation I managed to get a place on the British Horseracing Board (as it was then) Graduate Scheme, based with Jockey Club Racecourses, and spent time at Newmarket, Nottingham and Huntingdon, as well as in the head offices in London. I ended up working at Newmarket for a while, which I loved as I could ride out for William Jarvis each morning before heading to the office. However I hadn’t been there long before I got a call to say that there was a job opportunity at the BHB that might be of interest to me…I got the job and I ended up working for BHB/BHA for the next seven years in various roles (despite being a complete country boy at heart and swearing I wouldn’t be in London for longer than two years…), winding up my time there as Corporate Projects Manager, reporting directly to the Chief Executive and Chairman.

I started working at British Champions Series as Operations & Events Director in February 2011.

2) Could you briefly explain the British Champion Series to some of our readers who may not be very familiar?

It’s an initiative that links together the best thirty five races that take place throughout the course of the British Flat racing season which culminates in a finale day at Ascot in October – QIPCO British Champions Day, which is the richest raceday in British racing history, with £3m on offer in prize money.

We’ve split the races into five categories: Sprint, Mile, Fillies & Mares, Middle Distance and Long Distance, which we hope makes it a little easier to track the progress of the best horses competing in the best races.

The main aim is to try and showcase the very best the sport has to offer to as wide an audience as possible.

3) What is your role at the British Champion Series?

Although I get quite involved in the commercial negotiations behind the scenes, my primary role is to work with the racecourses involved in the British Champions Series, the broadcasters (both terrestrial and satellite) and the participants, to try and differentiate the races, and the racedays, from the other racing product that people are used to seeing, and maximise the commercial value of the Series.

4) What are the highs and lows of your job?

I love being out on a racecourse on a big raceday, especially when there’s a clash of reputations – for example Frankel and Canford Cliffs in last year’s QIPCO Sussex Stakes. There’s a real tingle on course, and there are few better sounds in sport than the roar of an enthusiastic racing crowd as a would-be-champion moves up to challenge.

For the most part I can’t think of too many lows – I’m very lucky that I work in an industry that I love, with people that are passionate about the same things that I am. There are definitely days when you can be witness to (or on very rare occasions, be part of!) heated clashes of opinion – but that’s part of racing’s appeal – it’s a sport that inspires so much emotion in those that follow it.

5) Following the success of British Champions Day last year, what can we expect for Saturday, 20th October 2012?

We tried really hard to make British Champions Day all about the racing in 2011 – and that will be the focus again in 2012. On ratings, it was probably the best raceday in the world last year – not bad for an inaugural event! 

So the aim has to be to match that again this year and to be a day that is mentioned in the same breath as events such as Wimbledon, the FA Cup Final and the British Grand Prix.

We’ll definitely look to make the stars more accessible, so we’ll try and do more of the autograph signing with great jockeys, we’ll make sure that we try and get even more ‘behind the scenes’ interviews via Ascot TV, so that the people that come to the event really feel like they’re getting something special.We’ve had an amazing amount of interest from celebrities wanting to attend British Champions Day as well, so I expect you might get a little star-gazing done if you’re at Ascot in October. 

6) What’s new for British Champion Series 2012?

We’ve introduced Sectional Timing for 63% of British Champions Series races this year – this is technology where every runner carries a ‘chip’ which allows us to see how fast they’re travelling, how much ground they cover and a whole host of other information.

It’s my hope that this technology becomes for horseracing what Hawkeye is for tennis and cricket, as I honestly believe that sports fans have a real appetite for hard facts.We’ve launched a great Fantasy Racing game which plays out across the entire Series -more detail on that later on though.

We’ve also developed a range of British Champions Series merchandise, which you can buy online or at our on-course store at any BCS event.

7) Following the success of our champions last year, for example Frankel, do you think they have competition this year from other horses in the UK and internationally?

Frankel is probably the best horse I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to be at every one of his races last year, and he seemed to get better with every performance.
However, horses are not machines, and if he was to have an off day then Excelebration looked a real star – take Frankel out of the equation last season, and Excelebration is a multiple Group 1 winner. He’ll be an interesting horse to follow, I think.

It’s a real shame that Deacon Blues is out for the 2012 season, as he was improving at a rate of knots – although I have to be honest and say that had he lined up against the Aussie superstar filly Black Caviar, I’m not sure he’d have seen which way she went!

The clash between Frankel and Black Caviar is what all racing fans are dreaming of…will it happen? I honestly couldn’t say – but QIPCO have put a huge financial incentive on the table of a guaranteed prize fund of £1m if both horses line up in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

I’m already looking forward to the Champion Stakes on British Champions Day – you could potentially have Cirrus des Aigles coming back to defend his crown, being taken on by Nathaniel and Twice Over, with Camelot representing the three year olds and potentially even Frankel having stepped up in trip.

8) How would you suggest is the best way to follow the British Champion Series if you aren’t going to attend every race meeting it falls on?

Every race in the British Champions Series is televised on TV (BBC or C4) – so you won’t have to miss any of the action if you can’t make it to the track.

We’ve also launched a great Fantasy Racing game with the Daily Telegraph and the Racing Post – it’s Fantasy Football Manager for horse racing. You pick five jockeys and five trainers for the season, and then for every BCS race you get to select two horses – points are scored according to the odds of the horses, so just picking Frankel every time he runs might not be your best strategy!

There are some great prizes on offer, and you can enter at:

9) Where do you hope to see the British Champions Series in five years time?

I hope that we’ve reached a stage where we have effectively created something that is viewed as horseracing’s ‘Premier League’ – something that is instantly recognisable as standing for the very best of the sport, and something that sports fans and not just racing fans will talk about in the pub, and aspire to attend.

You could perhaps instigate a ‘wild card’ system, whereby the top three highest rated horses globally that hadn’t already qualified for British Champions Day were issued with invitations to run.

The current sponsors (QIPCO) are extremely innovative and passionate about British racing – they are never short of ideas as to what might improve the Series either.

Commercially, I’d like to see the British Champions Series secure a long term sponsorship deal, bringing more money into British racing. 

10) And finally, what are you most looking forward to at Royal Ascot 2012?

There are probably three things that I’m most looking forward to – firstly, seeing Black Caviar in action in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. 

Secondly, seeing Fame & Glory come back to have another crack at the Gold Cup; he’s a class act and I’d love to see him win again (and then come back to British Champions Day to defend his Long Distance Cup crown, obviously!).

Finally, I’m actually bringing my girlfriend’s Australian parents to the Royal Meeting on Saturday. It’s going to be a very different experience for them compared to their local track, where the standard dress code is shorts and flip flops!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share This