Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Does Horse Racing Kill Its Own Brand?

If you read virtually any marketing book it will talk about how difficult it is to reinvigorate a brand. If your restaurant is known for bad service, and you correct it, it can take years to break free from the stigma. I am sure in your daily life you can come up with dozens of examples of stores, businesses, what-have-you, that exemplify this.

Racing is no different. Since seemingly the beginning of time, we are known as "cheaters". Owners and trainers can bet their horse, bet other horses, there are stories about abuse or drug use in racehorses, and many other possible pitfalls. Where there is a pitfall, the public tends to agree that those pitfalls are probably being exploited at their expense. Those of us who bet, own, or even have a rudimentary understanding of testing realize that the vast majority of participants are not tempted by those pitfalls, but we don't matter much.

Racing loves to blame the public for its problems. You will often hear or read "the public just does not understand". That's true to some degree, but we bring much of it upon ourselves.

Case in point: British trainer Nicky Henderson.

At the recent concluded Cheltenham Festival in the UK - where you can pretty much bet any prop under the sun at various bookmakers - it was revealed Henderson "bet on himself to train no winners at 16-1". That's exactly what people complain about. One might expect the hammer to fall, but the exact opposite happened.

"Racings governing body confirmed they would not be bringing charges against Henderson"

We have seen several cases in racing of things just like this. Trainers who have abused horses are back working with them, trainers who bet on themselves to get no winners are not even given a penalty. Why would we blame the public for our woes? Who's looking out for our brand?

Hat tip to @sidfernando and @francesjkaron for the heads-up

2 comments:

dana said...

It was recently announced that the New York State Wagering Board is delaying Dutrow's licensing hearing until the week after the Derby.

http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/racing-news/2011/03/29/Dutrow-New-York-licensing-delay.aspx

Life at Ten is another great example.

Scott Ferguson said...

to be fair, Henderson's bet was a joke bet for a bit of insurance. He's one of the leading trainers here and certainly didn't want the bet to win. But rules are rules, and he should not have been allowed to bet against himself. However, the specific wording of the rules says they are not allowed to bet against their own performance by laying - i.e. betting against themselves on Betfair. So if a market for under-performance is created elsewhere and you are betting on poor performance, rather than against good performance, it's still legal!

Ridiculous situation.