The Racecourse Association (RCA) is delighted to announce that Aintree Racecourse has been crowned Showcase Champion at the 2022 Showcase Awards, becoming only the second racecourse in the history of the Showcase Awards to receive the ultimate accolade on multiple occasions.
As well as being named overall Showcase Champion, Aintree's NHS Raceday was deemed the best Raceday Event by the independent panel of judges, narrowly beating Musselburgh's Superhero Raceday which claimed a Highly Commended Accolade. Showing their versatility as a venue, Aintree also claimed the Non-raceday Event Award for their community screening of the 2022 Champions League Final, an event heralded for its family-friendly atmosphere and return rate of attendees.
Held at the previous Champion racecourse, Pontefract, the RCA Showcase Awards, partnered by Great British Racing, Racing Together, Racing Foundation and Racing Post, celebrate excellence and innovation in racecourse operation.
Across the gala celebration evening there were a total of 15 awards handed out by hosts Amy Ryan and Malcolm Tomlinson.
Beginning the night, three awards for individuals were presented. The RCA Chairman's Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Racing was given to Jeannie Chantler of Chester and Bangor-on-Dee Racecourses on account of her wonderful career within the sport spanning over 25 years. As part of the Racecourse Groundstaff Awards the Neil Wyatt Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Brian Meikle of Kelso Racecourse and the Most Improved New Team Member was Warwick Racecourse's Luke Randall.
With individual category winners in flat (York Racecourse), dual purpose (Ascot Racecourse) and jump racecourses (Cartmel Racecourse) already decided, Cartmel Racecourse celebrated victory as overall champions in the Racecourse Groundstaff Awards following judgement from an independent, expert agronomist.
In a sterling effort as reigning Champions, Pontefract Racecourse picked up two awards. The community café Huggamug @ The Pavilion claimed the Food & Beverage Award with the judges delighted by its commercial success and ability to embed the racecourse within the local community whilst in Marketing Pontefract's strategy to focus on an older demographic reaped significant reward with an upturn in attendances and repeat custom. Ascot's Mindful Bar was deemed suitably excellent by the judges to be awarded a Highly Commended Accolade in the Food & Beverage category.
In a rare occurrence, the judges enacted their right to award the Judges' Choice Award for a particular initiative which was deemed worthy of individual praise. Doncaster's hosting of the 2022 Cazoo St Leger under the cloud of national mourning for HM The Queen Elizabeth II's death was handled expertly by the Yorkshire track and ARC colleagues, allowing the race to be run whilst showing the utmost respect.
Market Rasen's successful sensory raceday claimed the award celebrating Diversity & Inclusion as they were able to welcome members of the deaf and blind community to enjoy a day at the races with innovations including race commentary in British Sign Language and reserved areas beside key parts of the racetrack to be that much closer to the action.
In a new award for Showcase, The Jockey Club celebrated victory in the Racing Foundation Green Award with their group-wide green strategy. The Jockey Club will now be invited to apply for up to £20,000 in support funding from the Racing Foundation to sustain the legacy of this work whilst the RCA will work with all Finalists to share the best practice in this critical area to all racecourses.
Scottish Racing took home the Racing Together Community Award for their sustained efforts in both leading and collating community-based activity across racing's stakeholders in Scotland and the North of England. Given the submissions within this category were of the highest quality, Chester's Love Racegoers campaign was presented with a Highly Commended accolade.
The Racing Post Readers' Award is the only Showcase Award to be voted for directly by the general public. It measures value for money, customer service and overall raceday experience, meaning it represents the racegoers' chosen racecourse of the year. Hamilton Park stormed to victory with a significant percentage of the total votes and highest average sores across all metrics.
Ripon Racecourse extended their time in the winner's enclosure from the previous Showcase Awards with victory in the Racing Connection category in celebration of their work to promote stable staff and make them an integral part of the customer experience. In what was an exceptionally close call, The Jockey Club's Junior Racedays picked up a Highly Commended accolade.
Wilf Walsh, Chairman of the RCA, commented: "On behalf of the RCA and our partners, congratulations to Aintree Racecourse for being crowned our Showcase Champion Racecourse, the most prestigious accolade of our celebratory awards."
"This was an exceptional year for Aintree, having been selected as Finalists in three separate categories and winning two of them. Victories in both the raceday and non-raceday events demonstrate the versatility of the racecourse and the agility of the team in executing them so superbly.
"In what has been a challenging year for racecourses, I was buoyed by the quality of the initiatives on show. In addition to our winners, the judges saw fit to award four Highly Commended Accolades which is testament to the hard work of racecourses in doing all they can to attract and retain customers.
"The RCA will share the best practice arising from this year's Showcase Awards amongst all racecourses in the year ahead."