“Daddy, what do you think will be the next step in evolution?” This question asked as we pelt at 60 mph, on the school run, up the A68 about three months ago.
Fortunately the answer was directly in front of me, written across the windscreen in ten-thousand tiny, yellowy-red smudges. “The next step in the evolutionary path of insects,” I said confidently, “is that they will develop a sense of perspective which helps them to calculate the speed of oncoming vehicles, thereby enabling mutant insects to swerve and avoid the car. Most of the standard insects will be wiped out on the A68, the A7 and the A1, leaving those with the mutant gene to take over the World.”
It’s something that I’ve thought plenty about since. Not just the mutant insects, but the next evolutionary steps for everything – horses, hamsters, humans and of course racecourses too. Because evolution isn’t just about survival of the fittest, it’s about appeal as well.
Take horses for example. Once York Racecourse has established the £1 Million Ebor Handicap, racehorse breeders and trainers will focus on producing horses with the potential to stay longer distances – as opposed to the trend, of recent decades, for breeding fast horses which collapse in a heap when they pass the mile-marker. Oh joy! To see stoutly bred horses strutting their stuff in Flat races that last longer than one minute.
I don’t know much about hamsters, but I think they might appeal more to small girls if they had curly pink hair – so that’s something for the mad-scientist marketeers to work upon.
And humans? Well unless large segments of the population are wiped out by the rising sea levels associated with global warming (in which case webbed feet might be an asset), I suspect it all comes down to sex appeal. And if the latest series of Love Island is anything to go by, that means that the human species is about to develop skin with a natural hue which is bright orange.
But what about racecourses? In order to survive, racecourses have to have appeal too. And that means that they need to evolve – steadily, carefully and attractively; in such a way that they retain their historic catalogue of characterful charms, while at the same time developing fresh ways to ensure that they remain relevant to a discerning public.
That’s what we’re doing at Kelso Racecourse as we approach the start of the new season on Wednesday 19th September. “Join the parade!” we’ll be saying. “Come and enjoy the races and gain a fresh view of the horses, both before and after they have raced. Enjoy the extra space that we’ve created around our brand new Parade Ring and warm yourselves by the log-fired braziers as you celebrate with your friends.”
There’ll be more exciting improvements to come over the next few years at Kelso – we’ll continue to evolve and develop, to accentuate our appeal. We might not go orange, or even pink and curly – but much like the horse we’ve selected this week (an ante-post punt on Sir Chauvelin in York Racecourse’s Ebor on 25th August), we’ll be playing to our traditional strengths to ensure that we have staying power.