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What Failure Really Looks Like

Internet fail

This means you, NTRA

Let’s begin with a basic premise: getting a check for second is not a failure, but a non-working website is.  With that in mind, let’s examine the events of the past weekend. For some reason, American racing at the highest level is hung up on success or ‘failure’ in an individual race – while this is most likely because our best horses simply do not race as often as their counterparts in Europe, Australia and Japan do, it serves as a useful reminder that we might take a longer view.

Let’s look at Goldikova’s career – it took her four races to get her first win for the year in 2008, and in her initial 2009 race (seven months after her first Breeders’ Cup Mile triumph), she finished a dismal seventh.  Yet there were no calls to send her to the breeding shed or wailing and gnashing of teeth that she was past her best – she just went back to tougher training, returned to the races again about two months later and won her next three races.  There was minor upset when she finished third in her prep race immediately before she came to defend her Breeders’ Cup title, but her connections simply took it as a sign that she needed the race; and, indeed, she put in another sparkling performance at Santa Anita.

Watching Rachel Alexandra’s performance on Saturday, I certainly did not see a wannabe broodmare (and I’d love to see it demonstrated that life as a broodmare is somehow ‘safer’ than life on the track for a top-level filly or mare – that certainly does not ring true anecdotally) – just a horse at sub-optimal fitness.  She could easily follow Goldikova’s example and be back to her usual freakish self by May or June – and I’m pleased to see her connections are heading in that direction.  While it’s a shame for everyone at Oaklawn who worked to make a showdown in the Apple Blossom a possibility, I would rather see them meet further down the line, when both are at peak fitness – although I am hopeful that Zardana will take on her stablemate, Zenyatta, in the race.

And so to Zenyatta, who is being rather overlooked simply because ‘Zenyatta wins‘ is less of a story than ‘Rachel finishes second’ – as expected, she’s still perfection personified (although it was a less ‘pretty’ race than we might normally see from her, but that’s more down to the way things unfolded).  It’s wonderful to see her unbeaten streak continue (it’s churlish to argue with 15-0, unless we’re talking about Pepper’s Pride), but I know I’m not the only one wondering if the seam that opened for her on Saturday would have been found at another track – had she been running at, say, Belmont, she would have had quite a target on her back à la Smarty Jones.  That’s not to say she would not have overcome it, since great horses make their own luck, but it would have been a real test for her – hopefully we’ll see her travel further afield (beyond Oaklawn and, one presumes, Churchill Downs) this year.

But before we leave Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra news, we must address the massive NTRA FAIL in their webcast of both races.  One wonders what sort of traffic they were expecting if the other ten people complaining about it on Twitter could not get in – and it should have been simple enough to scale up the bandwidth in any event.  After all, we were able to keep the Penn Vet server running when Barbaro was put down (despite no warning, not that we expected one) just by farming some predictable high-traffic items (e.g. photos, video) out to another server.  It’s not hard. They would be wise to follow the #runserverlessbiz tweets from #SXSW – or just compare clouds and make a decision.  And here’s a little more free consulting advice (I do normally charge a lot for something this straightforward, but I’m making a nice exception) – putting the video stream behind a login is a huge turnoff to casual or would-be fans.  Sure, you want to gather data on users, but why not do it after they are already invested? I’m sure the stats should a huge dropoff between clicking on the ‘live’ link and actual signups – and that’s not surprising.  The call to sign up needs to be somewhere else – unless the whole point of the login was to deter potential users.  In that case, well done!

Check back tomorrow, when we’ll get back to reviewing the 3-year-olds, especially Odysseus, Lookin At Lucky and Sidney’s Candy

3 comments to What Failure Really Looks Like

  • I’m still reeling from the “epic fail” on the NTRA live video streaming. I’m guessing you saw the Google search results from Saturday – we had our moment. It was everything we had ever asked for – and we totally blew it. Somebody has to take the blame for that. They may have set us back 5 years in terms of relevance, buzz, and new fan excitement. Perhaps more.

  • […] show. The NTRA also apparently removed the requirement to register or login in before viewing (perhaps they took Superfecta’s advice?), as it was possible to pull up the page without being asked to do either. Although demand was […]

  • EMD

    I’ve thought for a long time that American trainers are far more consumed by losing a race, more concerned with stats than their Euro counterparts. Euros seem to take it in stride, part of the game. Goldikova is no less great for having lost some races. They’re flesh and blood, not mechanical ponies. And since when does “undefeated” insure successful progeny — it doesn’t! Care to make a wager!

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