Reviewers at Eclipsemagazine.co.uk were so impressed with Jilly Cooper’s latest novel, JUMP!, that they were inspired to create a new award: the Eclipse Cup Award for Services to the Social Side of Racing.
“Horseracing is a vast and complicated subject and various racing organisations, committees, and marketing agencies have been wracking their brains for years, as to how to communicate in an attractive and accessible way the sheer fun and thrill that is to be experienced at a day at the races,” says Karen Taylor, editor of Eclipsemagazine.co.uk.
“Jilly has obviously done a huge amount of research and combined it with her own experiences of exercising racehorses, part-owning a racehorse as a member of a syndicate and visiting the races herself
“Remarkably, she has managed to weave that huge jumble of information into a fast-paced and captivating story that showcases racing – both the highlights and the darker sides – in a fantastically exciting way.”
On receiving the award, Jilly Cooper said: “I’m completely bowled over by this award from Eclipsemagazine.co.uk. I had an absolute riot while writing JUMP!. The National Hunt crowd were so friendly and welcoming, I’ve always adored horses and here was an opportunity to meet and make friends with trainers, owners, jockeys and horses I’ve hero-worshipped for years. As part of my research, I joined a syndicate and became part-owner of a beautiful dark brown gelding Monty’s Salvo, trained by Nicky Henderson, and had terrific fun going to racecourses around the country. Winning a race is thrilling, syndicate members invariably hug each other to bits immediately afterwards. The trick is to be standing at the moment of victory beside a syndicate member you fancy like mad. I’d love it if my new book JUMP! could introduce a new generation of racing converts to enjoy the same fun I’ve had…….”
(JILLY WILL BE SIGNING COPIES OF JUMP! AT SELECTED RACECOURSES DURING THE RACING SEASON.)
The Award, says Taylor, is meant to be a light-hearted celebration rather than a serious gong, but like Cooper’s book, the fun belies a deeper problem taxing the racing industry: currently around 75% of racegoers only go once a year and the challenge is to encourage more repeat attendances.
In May 2008 Eclipsemagazine.co.uk – supported by Clare Balding – was launched to tackle this issue by focusing on the ‘Social Side of Racing’. The independent team aim to explain racing in a fun and accessible way, in order to attract more people to learn about the sport and eventually catch the racing bug.
“At Eclipsemagazine.co.uk we have been providing ‘social’ and entertaining information about racing for the last two years,” says Taylor, “and knowing first-hand how hard it is to convert jargon, technicalities and other complicated matters into something vibrant and inspirational, we felt that Jilly’s achievement should be recognised for the amazing feat it really is – I am sure it will be a huge boost for racing at a time when it needs it most!”
Currently Jilly Cooper is the only holder of an Eclipse Cup Award but the ‘Official Award Giver-Outer’ is now on the lookout for further worthy recipients – nominations please!
Jump! was published on 16th September 2010 by Bantam Press, priced £18.99.
Photograph by Andrew Hayes-Watkins