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Commissioner Superfecta

Alan at Left at the Gate sagely linked to an article bemoaning the fact that there is no commissioner of horse racing. It’s a great read and I fully agree with every point in the article. So, for your enjoyment, here’s my platform as a candidate for commissioner of horse racing:

  1. Safety – We can do more to improve the health and safety of both horse and rider. Synthetic surfaces are one step, but here are two more I would champion: a) a return to seasonal racing (and before the betting public goes crazy, let’s remember that we can always wager on races in another hemisphere when things are quiet in this one) and b) overhauling claiming racing. We can do better.
  2. Use star power – With all due respect to Jerry O’Connell, the stars of the sport are on the track. Let’s create incentives (financial or otherwise) to keep promising 3-year-olds racing at 4. Make rivalries happen — if Street Sense and Curlin don’t commit to the Belmont, make sure they will face off at the Travers. Create an invitational race or two if need be and get real media coverage — making sure that Rags to Riches shows up for the Belmont is a no-brainer that falls into this category. Turn the spotlight on amazing athletes like Fernando Jara — sure, his English isn’t great now, but there’s this thing called Telemundo you might want to look into in the meantime. Think about your future market.
  3. Have a little imagination – I’ve suggested in the past that making the new Friday Breeders’ Cup races into a major ‘ladies’ day‘ event is a good first step. Create more ‘event’ days to get fans to the track — having a popular horse in a big race is a good first step (see #2), but go beyond that — offer special activities for kids and have some decent food and beer. C’mon, baseball has already figured this part out for you with free hat night, student days, etc.
  4. Clean up the whole wagering/signal war between the tracks, channels and online betting – can’t we all just get along? It’s a confusing mess and it’s alienating many would-be fans (and wagering customers). If I can’t keep up with it as a racing fan, how can you expect the general public to follow it?
  5. Look at the ways the sport has been embraced over the past decade or so in Australia and Japan – while our markets are not the same, there are lessons to be learned there. And hey, wouldn’t you want to expense a trip to Australia?
  6. Stop treating turf racing like a strange, foreign afterthought – I’d love to see real attention paid to something like the Grand Slam of Grass. Staging marquee turf races not only encourages more international competition, but should also encourage American breeders to think beyond a lightening-fast sprinter who peaks at 2. If you need to create new races or promote them properly, do so by getting a sponsor. They do exist. There’s no reason the Arlington Million needs to stand alone.

So that’s the quick overview of what I would initially address as commissioner of racing. I’d even wear a dress for Ladies’ Day if the powers that be actually made it happen. So if you’re looking for a techie archaeologist archivist racing enthusiast to be commissioner of racing, you know where to find me…

8 comments to Commissioner Superfecta

  • Handride

    What about naming the TBA as your cabinet.

  • Superfecta

    Well, that’s a given, obviously!

  • John (AKA Not Too Swift)

    A lot of good ideas in your post. I especially like the return to seasonal racing. We need to think globally and get more familiar with racing in the Southern Hemisphere. Why watch cheap claimers at Mountaineer running through a snow storm when you can watch Grade 1 competition in Australia.

  • RMC Blogger

    Love your ideas, especially the GS of grass. That would really help generate interest in Chicago-area racing. Two more…1) Television coverage should treat the sport like a sport- not a novelty act that lends itself to puff pieces; and; 2) Don’t cringe…encourage Fantasy horse racing during the Triple Crown Prep. People will learn the sport and they won’t have to lose their shirt or hang out in OTBs to do it.

  • Valerie

    I love the idea of returning to seasonal racing! Shorter meets with bigger concentrations of purses too. More interesting for fans and handicappers who can focus on smaller number of races. This is something all professional sports should think about, especially Major League Baseball. Who wants to go to a baseball game in the snows of April or October? Baseball is a summer sport!

    As for keeping the stars in the game, what are the pros and cons of permitting in vitro fertilization rather than the old fashion standing-at-stud? I don’t know a thing about veterinary medicine, so why can’t horses have their semen harvested and continue racing? I figure I have probably opened a hornet’s nest here 🙂

    One final argument: bring back steeplechase racing! One of my fondest memories is of watching the Grand National on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Did there used to be more steeplechase racing on U.S. tracks?

  • superterrific

    Hear, hear!

    Re: Point 2 – Work with mainstream media to promote the rivalries (in general) and build the drama for the triple crown by televising all the major prep races. Horse racing fans are good target audiences for advertising too, not just NASCAR fans.

    Re: Point 4 – Would be great if one could subscribe to an OTB package of channels where they would get all the races at home. Here in nyc we get 2 channels via cable access so we can watch the local track all day and cycle through the others at the end of the race day. Not sure how good TVG’s coverage is, but having the signals in one’s own home lends itself to online wagering.

    Love your blog, have been reading it for awhile but this is my first comment.

  • TerriC

    You have my vote for Commissioner! I Have never been able to understand how racing is such an absolute disaster at marketing. Ok , I’m in mAryland, a state fraught with political difficulties over racing, but how hard would it be to expand twilight “happy hour
    racing, throw in some good LIVe music between races and have some decent “how to bet ” seminars geared to attracting nontraditional patrons.
    I love the idea of Fantasy Racing. If my friends who are caught up in fantasy baseball and NASCAR are any indication, this could help increase interest ( and knowledge) of the sport.

  • The Aspiring Horseplayer

    Love this post. The only thing I’d add to your list is more night racing so that the weekday races are more accessible to folks that work for a living. Although I’d like to see racing days reduced to help boost field sizes overall. Friday should be a “night” card everywhere in my opinion. Probably Thursday as well.

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