It was announced this past week that in 2010 the Breeders Crown will be switching from their previous format, to a same day one. Fans have been long calling for this change, and for those old enough, they have seen it before (the early Crowns were on the same day), and appeared to like it.
Pocono Downs is the 2010 venue, and this shifts to Woodbine in 2011. It takes cold hard cash to host a BC event, and those two jurisdictions have it. For 2010 at Pocono, it represents another shift. The card will be held on the same days at the Breeders Cup.
Chatting with the Hambletonian Society's Moira Fanning she relayed that this is not some kind of grand plan, it was the only one. The Red Mile Grand Circuit is in full-force in October (and host in 2010 of the World Equestrian Games which made choosing the Mile impossible that year), and late October is optimum. That's where Pocono and the scheduling came in.
"The Breeders Crown needs two weeks to race elims and finals. So now we [only] have left the Saturdays of Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov 13. We chose Oct. 30 [elims] and Nov. 6 [finals] despite the fact the Breeders Cup was Nov. 6." she wrote.
In addition the local media market for the smaller town of Wilkes-Barre is something that was considered.
"Going against Breeders Cup is not ideal. However It is more plausible in a smaller media market like Wilkes-Barre than it would be in Toronto or the Meadowlands. At the press conference for the new paddock and meet opening last week, Mohegan Sun drew 3 local TV affiliates and a couple of newspaper reporters [yes, they do still exist!!] as well as several other media types.
The Breeders Crown will be a very big event for Mohegan Sun- $7 million in purses, they likened it to the World Series or the Super Bowl. The most they have ever had in the last 20 years were the Hempt Stakes and last year a one-year venue for the Adios while the construction went on at The Meadows. "
So there we have it. Pocono Downs, 2010, all on one card.
My thoughts? Surprise, I have several.
One, I like the smaller market for this series. Harness racing is small market; it is what we are. The glitter of the Breeders Cup is not harness racing, so we do not need Hollywood stars or New York glitz. If this event could be held at the Charlottetown Driving Park it would get more buzz, and more play than at Madison Square Garden. We can not be what we are not, and we are not the Breeders Cup. It should not be marketed or run as such. So Pocono and Mohegan is a good choice, in my opinion.
Two, I like the fact that we are trying them all in one day again. With slots and simulcasting this series needs a hook. We see these horses all the time, and almost every track has a big race. It is no longer as interesting as it once was to see good horses race (like long ago when if Cam Fella came to your town you went and saw him because you never had seen him race, ever). Bringing everyone in the sport together for one day is special, and if marketed well, and correctly it can bring people out and energize them again.
Last, I personally like the fact that it is on BC day. Not for the reason Moira alludes to (happenstance) but for the marketing possibilities. Not old-time marketing where an ad is run at Santa Anita or Churchill saying "come watch the Harness Crown tonight", but for the new marketing that is out there. Buzz can happen, but does not happen on its own.
As for some concerns I have read, yes, the takeouts at Pocono are insane. I do not know one serious player that plays racing in Pennsylvania without a rebate, and I highly doubt many will jump to play exotics on this day. If I were doing something with Pocono I would be armtwisting the ADW's to offer huge rebates for this day in their platforms. Twinspires is making close to 28% on exotics there, as is HPI and everyone else. Speaking with one ADW owner about this, he said to me "there is no reason that you can not give a pile of that back in some way because the take is so high, and the signal cost so low." So, if that happens, there is some free promo. If it does not, get yourself an ADW that is rebating to play this card.
We need change in harness racing, very big change. Any change is good change as far as I am concerned, and if done right this can help the game grow, and put the Breeders Crown on a higher pedestal than it has been in recent years.