New name for Stewards’ Cup could help save it – not spoil it

Neil Callan wins the 2013 Robins Farm Stewards Cup on Rex imperator - now it's to be called the 32Red Cup   Picture by Malcolm Wells
Neil Callan wins the 2013 Robins Farm Stewards Cup on Rex imperator - now it's to be called the 32Red Cup Picture by Malcolm Wells
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RENAMING the Stewards’ Cup could save it – not spoil it. That’s the view of the company whose desire to have the famous race on the final day of Glorious Goodwood named after them has caused a storm across the horse-racing world.

As reported in the Observer last week, the 174-year-old heritage handicap – the cavalry charge of 28 horses which is one of the great sights of the festival – has been renamed this year as the 32Red Cup.

Although the full title still refers to the Stewards’ Cup in brackets, many pundits and race-goers have said the renaming is a sad day for the sport and makes the contest less special.

But 32Red say if sponsors are not able to have races named after them and therefore get their brands promoted, they will not keep putting big money into horse-racing – which would lead to prize money falling and the quality of racing suffering.

The company have also said they would be reluctant to keep on sponsoring the Stewards’ Cup if they continued to receive negative publicity over the new name.

The 32Red Cup (Stewards’ Cup) (Heritage Handicap) will take place on Saturday, August 2, the festival’s final day, and has attracted a whopping 144 entries, including last year’s winner Rex Imperator.

Matt Booth, commercial director of 32Red, suggested that allowing the name to be changed to the 32Red Cup would help protect the race, rather than undermine it.

He said if sponsors were barred from such changes, they risked the media and racing fans continuing to call it the Stewards’ Cup. That would mean a sponsor not getting recognition for their investment, pulling out –and prize money being hard to replace.

Booth said: “If people want a sport to be commercially funded, they have to campaign to protect its heritage but also have to campaign to protect the naming rights of a sponsor.

“32Red sponsors around 1,000 races a year – about one in seven of all races which are sponsored – and we love the sport and its heritage.”

He said they would review the success or otherwise of this year’s sponsorship before deciding their next move, but would not continue with any deal that brought negative publicity.

On their website, Goodwood told one critic of the name change: “hank you for your feedback, which although may not be positive, is indicative to the spirit and passion of horseracing fans... and for that we are truly grateful.”

Goodwood racecourse MD Adam Waterworth said he expected a reaction to the new name of the race and could see both sides.

He told the Observer: “I count myself a traditionalist and I can understand the views of those who have spoken out. But I can also see from the sponsors point of view their worry that they will not get recognition if it continues to be called the Stewards’ Cup.

“This is not the first issue of this kind and it won’t be the last. The days of it being simple to get a bookmaker to sponsor the Stewards’ Cup are over – there’s not a queue of people knocking on our door to put money into it.

“We have to work hard to find sponsors who will enable us to maintain and increase prize money. We’ve worked with 32Red for a while and they were keen to sponsor this race and keen on the name-change. It was a difficult decision.”

Waterworth said the deal meant the prize money for the main race could remain at £100,000 while the pot for the linked sprint on the same day would go up from £35,000 to £40,000.

The British Horseracing Authority was already considering whether heritage handicaps like the Stewards’ Cup should have their names protected.

Waterworth said nothing had been agreed with 32Red beyond this year, although they did have first option of extending the arrangement.

STEVE BONE

What’s your view on the new name for the race? Email steve.bone@chiobserver.co.uk or join the debate at www.chichester.co.uk