Last week, at the NTRA’s marketing summit, a lot of talk centered on how to attract and keep the next generation of fans. The first part would be having horses stay around long enough for us to enjoy them. The second part would be broadcasting the races where these stars are competing!!!
This weekend are the PLAYOFFS of Breeders’ Cup! *11 GRADE ONE RACES* on both coasts, on all surfaces will feature many championship hopefuls. Most of them will be on TVG-the Belmont ones. HRTV takes up the Santa Anita races. Most people do not have TVG or HRTV (*I* don’t even have HRTV…sigh). Our fearless leaders in racing have quickly thrown together some TV time for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on ESPN because Curlin is entered. The brief pre-race coverage will be completely irrelevant. There are few serious handicappers on ESPN (at least few who are allowed to be serious on the air. Mayne always appeared to know his stuff but his irreverence got in the way; Moss is solid but has to dumb it down too much). There will probably be no post parade, no discussion of the other horses in the field (“they’re all running for second”) or interviews with connections not named Asumussen or Jackson.
Most people I know only know about the race as a singular event – the preps for the Derby go unnoticed, the idea of peaking or rounding into form or the fact that there is even any tactical theory involved in a race is news to the casual observer. We have to promote the “thinking” side of the game more. It’s not just a mad dash to the wire (not talking Quarters here). Get people interested in Beyer numbers or ThoroGraph sheets; pit the 2 sides against each other. The trip handicappers against the pedigree people. SPotlight and involve this specialized side of the sport on national TV, and there will be more people interested in the game as a Game. Not everyone loves horses like I do, but when I talk about the splits and figs and stuff, people (guys) take more interest.
The Internet is a godsend for this infoporn: I can get boatloads of info for free or really, really cheap. Discussion forums are everywhere. And the race replays are online, too! It is a perfect sport for the snack culture-the entire thing is only 2 minutes. And if you know enough, make smart bets and play responsibly, you will win a lot more often than simply dropping a coin into a slot machine.
The only show that does everything I have mentioned above is At The Races with Steve Byk on Sirius. The man is a godsend – smart commentary, great guests who Byk is not afraid to question, a lot of good history buffs and pedigree experts, interviews with a wide range of handicappers, jockeys, trainers, even VETS! Live calls of feature races that he, his guests and average-Joe call-ins handicap. It is the Racing Equivalent of Sportscenter. I only wish more people could listen to it.