On the Harness Edge this morning, I see that there is a story up about the BCSA offering their members up for driver and trainer interviews before races.
The BCSA and Fraser Downs hope the Backstretch Minute initiative will allow fans to get to know the trainers and drivers on a personable level rather than just being a name in the race program.
I think this is a good thing, but I would suggest we go one step further and I think this would help us gain fans.
In business, when your company has a stigma attached to it, fairly or unfairly, it is best to attack it. Like it or not, in our industry some bettors think we cheat; or you need to be "in the know" to win. Simulcasting lets us educate fans in many ways, one of which is giving all information out before the race is run, to quell that fear. We do not really do that, though. You and I know that the game has so little cheating in terms of "stiffing" and setting up races, but many fans do not seem to know. Thoroughbred fans especially think we are simply not on the up and up. Giving out inside information before the race is one thing I think we should make an effort to do.
I was watching the nationally televised Woodbine races last week on the Score. Bob McIntosh had a nice trotter racing, driven by Randy Waples. The horse won, then after the race Randy was interviewed. In the interview it came up that the horse broke stride last time because she lost a shoe, right near the wire. Interesting comment, and that's great, but I would think more than one bettor out there watching said "well, thanks for telling us that after the race has run!"
To me, it is this type of information that if packaged well, can grow the game, and market our sport. We know before races there are about 8 trainers who may think their horse has a chance and they are surprised at wins just like fans are, but fans do not know that. There is no conspiracy, no funny stuff. If each of the trainers were interviewed, or a backstretch reporter gained information from the connections prior to race time, I think it would do our bettors a big service; and to me the game would look more honest. That is something we need to attack.
How would we go about this? I really do not know. But to me it is something (at Pull the Pocket Downs) I would look at. Was the one horse sick last time and now he's fine? Did Kevin McMaster school the three horse, off this 4 week layoff last week? Did Randy's horse blow a shoe last time? Did the five horse not like the off going last time, and that is why he was 7th by 13? Is this horse off a qualifier tight and ready? Does Casie like her horse tonight? Does Bob? Does Blair?
In Hong Kong as I have posted up before, there are vet reports listed on their website (and in newspapers) when a horse races poorly. I am sure there are reversals of form there, as well as here in our sport, 99% of the time they can be explained. Why can't we explain them here, before they happen, and make our customers believe that when they bet money in harness racing they are getting a fair shake?
The benefits are there. 1) Our simulcast show is watched, because people will be getting good information 2) Our sport gets to know the participants and have a better feeling about them 3) Our sport attacks the cheating perception and 4) We have an edge on thoroughbred racing, because they do not do this.
If you give people a reason to bet, they will bet. If you make them comfortable with your participants, they are comfortable to bet. They get respect, and we hopefully grow the game. Too much of our air-time is wasted on human interest, or horse stories. I think we should spend it on betting information. After all, bettors pay the bills.
Note: It seems Jeff Gural and Vernon might have gotten something in the NYRA deal announced today. The story is just up on Bloodhorse.