Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Audience With The Boss - Part 2

For those just joining us you can read Part 1 and get filled in on the specifics but basically this post is a collection of suggested reforms I would love to be able to present to a commissioner of racing someday.
Year End Awards

Implement Point Standings - This is a bit of a pet project of mine as you could likely tell from the standings listed on the sidebar. I think this would mesh beautifully with a logical structured stakes schedule. Point Standings are essentially for the fans. Some fans parse through all the box scores to get a feeling for who is having the best season to date but the vast majority who want a quick synopsis look at the standings. In racing it's not as simple as wins and losses but standings are still a great idea and much needed to help encourage interest from marginal fans. Racing is a tough sport to follow and right now there is no concise place you can go to get a feeling for who the top horses are overall and in each division. The best you'll find are polls and opinions on who is the best. I've spent a good deal of time developing a point system that works extremely well in my opinion but I'd just be happy to see any system implemented. A point system is not supposed to be predictive nor does it even assess talent levels. All it does is quantify accomplishments. Sort of like what a Speed Figure does for an individual race. it attempts to take all the factors and boil the performance down to one number. A point system takes all a horses starts and gives you a measurement of what they have accomplished. Here is another benefit of having a point system.

It encourages horses to run more and in higher quality races - You get more points for doing well in higher grade races. Everyone wants our stars to run more, if we link the point standings to year end awards (explored more in the next point) we virtually force the best horses to compete more in order to earn the recognition they desire.

Standardize Procedure For Oversubscribed Fields – Why is the Derby decided based on graded stakes earnings while the Breeders Cup uses Win and You’re In as well as a combination of point systems and a panel of judges? Come up with the best idea for reducing oversubscribed fields and use it for every case where it is needed. My thought is that a standardized point system like the TCR is the best way to decide which horses have earned the right to compete.

Reformat Year End Awards – The Eclipse Awards need to be reformatted and redefined. The TCR Awards would be the basic model I would like to see implemented with one slight change. Instead of having fan voters industry professionals would vote. Much like the Cartier Awards in Europe which are quickly becoming the most important year end awards on a continent where the Experimental Free Handicap system was entrenched as the authoritative method of deciding champions.
Drug Policies And Rule Enforcement

Nationwide Standard Drug Policy - My personal feeling is that all race day medications should be banned just as they are in other nations but at the very least racing must have a nationwide standard drug policy. What is illegal in Kentucky has to be illegal in New York. Everyone needs to get on the same page at every level of the game. Other nations ban race day medications so I'm not sure why it's a necessity for American horses but at the very least we need to have uniform nationwide standards and thresholds.

Ban On Steroids - There is already a major push in this direction and I support it fully. Racing needs to rid itself of anabolic steroids. Horses should not be subjected to this kind of treatment and I think steroids lead to injuries in both horses and humans.

Harsh Penalties With Strict Enforcement For Violators - Those caught violating drug policies need to be kicked out of the game. Perhaps just year long suspensions for first time offenders but most likely it will take a few lifetime bans before trainers get the message that cheating is not worth the risk. There is no sense having drug policies but handing out Mickey Mouse suspensions to those who violate the rules.

Create A Central Governing Body Of Stewards - Much like referees or umpires in other sports the stewards would all be hired, trained and assigned by a central governing body. That way there would be continuity among their decisions regarding disqualifications and suspensions and also an accountability to an authority higher than themselves. Namely, the commissioner’s office.
Wagering And Customer Service

Give All Advance Deposit Wagering Companies Access To Every Track Signal - It is absolutely ridiculous that one requires an account with several different ADW’s just to play all the mainstream tracks. You think Pro-Line would ever be restricted to just NFC games? Petty squabbles like this discredit racing and alienate the lifeblood of the industry: The bettors.

Commission New Tote System - In the computer age we live in you cannot tell me that the tote system we use at racetracks all over the country is the best possible system. Odds cannot be changing up to a half mile into the race. It undermines the credibility of racing itself and is simply unnecessary.

Make Racetracks More Appealing Places To Be – Even if that means shutting down portions of the grandstand. Casino’s offer the lap of luxury, even to the $10 gamblers. Racing gamblers by comparison are pretty well ignored. Start taking surveys of what gamblers want and start doing it. Casino’s have figured the industry out and racing has not. What Casino’s want most of all is your money and what the patrons want most of all is respect. Respect in the mind of the gambler can be earned by making money but casino’s can make patrons feel respected even if they lose money. They do this by treating them like kings. The more money you’re willing to lose at a Casino the more respect you get shown. Imagine that at a racetrack. I think it might be a gem of an idea to hire some Casino executives to oversee the area of customer service.

Increase Information Provided To Handicappers – This would include installing Trakus at every race track as well as weighing every horse that goes to post. Requiring every surgery to be reported and many other ideas. Ideally there would be a period where handicappers could submit ideas and requests and we could implement whatever is feasible. There are some tracks that do these things already, we just need to make it standard and give handicappers as much information as they could possibly want.

Make Race Replays Free – In fact I just might just suggest hiring the web designers who created the website for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Every race chart complete with video race replays as well as one click access to every horses past performances. Not to mention labelled still pictures of the race at the points of call and the ability to search the charts for years back not just the last week. Race replays for most tracks are free right now but the problem with viewing them is typical of the racing industry. In order to see CDSN races you have to go to their website. Calracing has a slew of tracks but can't access replays from CDSN, Monmouth and others. The powers involved in racing currently simply have a very difficult time sharing the sandbox even with something as simple as this.

Create A Free Past Performance Database – Not with DRF past performances but more simplistic ones like those available for Hong Kong racing or at the Racing Post. Handicappers would have to pay for detailed DRF type information but the average fan could look up the accomplishments of any horse on demand. You can do it with every other sport for free.

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