Thursday, May 15, 2008

An Audience With The Boss - Part 3

Once again these are just short form ideas that I would love to be able to present to the racing authorities. Of course right now we know there is no such authority with the power to effect any change but one can dream. (Part 1, Part 2)

Daily Irregularities

Standardize Workout Terminology – Why is a “breezing” workout on one coast a “handily” workout on the other coast?

Publish Penetrometer Readings For Turf Conditions - Why do we use the track condition labels of firm, good, soft etc…when we have penetrometers that give a numerical reading of firmness?

Set A Standard Release Time For All Entries and Morning Lines - Why are the morning line odds not released at the same time for every track? Santa Anita is notoriously slow while Keeneland is generally a full day ahead of every other track.

Change the Marketing Focus
The message I would want to send to the general public is that the racetrack can simply be a great place to spend a day or evening. Make it luxurious, exclusive, a place where the high life is pandered to. You don’t need to try and sell gambling. Racing is one of the most exciting sports there is. People won’t be at a racetrack too long before they start wanting to pick a horse in each race. I think if you place an emphasis on making racetracks more visitor friendly, more accommodating, more comfortable and more luxurious you make it easier to market. Also limit the amount of the product available. The most successful tracks are the ones that run short meets. Get rid of most mid-week racing and create more boutique meets. Don’t worry too much about selling the sport it’s actually the best thing we have going for us. It sells itself, what you need to sell is the experience of a day at the races.

Secure Regular Television Deal That Gives Weekly Exposure – With a more logical racing calendar in place it would be possible to card many of the graded stakes during a set time every week. The NFL has branded Sunday afternoon as its TV time slot. Racing could try to brand Saturday afternoon or whatever time slot they feel gives them the best chance. In Canada there is a cable station (The Score) that already carries Woodbine racing on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The Score is hardly a huge station but it is part of all basic cable packages. Also their content is just Woodbine, it would be a much better show with Graded Stakes from all over the country.

Create New Jockey Silks - Racing could use some sell able merchandise aside from hats and pins. I know the tradition of silks is a longstanding one but if we changed them to something that the general public could wear we have another item to market. I personally would go with a soccer jersey type shirt. It still has the glossy look of silks, it's still light but people on the street can and do wear them. Even people who aren't interested in soccer. To make this truly fly you would likely need to look at working with an existing sporting goods manufacturer like Reebok, Diadora or Puma. Also perhaps hire some freelance designers to help owners come up with suitable or marketable designs. Not all of the new "silks" would have marketability. Obviously only those stables who have big name horses would have any draw. Of course another alternative is to keep the racing silks the same and just create soccer jersey type silks for consumer purchase.

Place An Emphasis On Fantasy Games – Fantasy Games are huge and they draw a ton of interest for other sports. Embrace that, have fantasy focus shows on TVG, get Yahoo to run a Horse Racing Fantasy game on its website. Make the prizes significant initially in order to create interest.

Impose A Levy On Stallion Fees For Every Book Above 40 – Most of these ideas cost money and this would be one place that we’d get it. Breeders would not be prevented from booking their stallion to more than 40 mares but they would have to pay a percentage of those fees to the Commissioners office. Sort of like what the Yankees and Red Sox do for the rest of baseball. They have the option to spend more but there is an equalization that benefits the rest of the league. Breeders make most of the money these days. Some of that money needs to find its way back into racing.
Here is a summary of most of my main ideas for reform.

Fewer Racing Dates
Winter Break
Fewer Tracks
More Boutique Meets
Logical Stakes Schedule
Point Standings
Standard Drug Guidelines
Harsh and Enforced Penalties For Violaters
Improve Customer Service At Racetracks To Casino Standards
Free Race Replays and Past Performance Database
Increase Information Available To Handicappers
Removal of Irregularities
Market Racetracks As An Exclusive Place To Be
Brand A Specific Time That Racing Can Be Broadcast On Television
Levy On Stallion Books Over 40

Yearly meetings For The Commissioner With Racing Officials From Around The World – There are good ideas all over this globe: Europe, Dubai, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia all run successful race meets. During the newly initiated off-season it would be good for the commissioner and staff to visit those places and continually glean the best and brightest ideas and technology.

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