Beach Party, 2009 Edition

The chat boards are buzzing with the news that Curlin might be taking a shot at the Arc. Hold it, it can’t be. Curlin is four. Four year olds don’t race, unless it is in a 4 and under day care relay, right? Some do, but 99.999% don’t.

Daryl Kaplan, editor of Canada’s Trot Magazine writes a clear concise piece with a plea to follow Curlin – Bring Somebeachsomewhere back to the races as a 4 year old.

In his first two years as a professional golfer, Tiger Woods captured the PGA Rookie of the Year title and a win at The Masters. After only 42 weeks on the Tour, Woods became the number one golfer in the world, and in his second season was named PGA Player of the Year.

Imagine if Woods, following that 1997 sophomore campaign, had decided to call it quits, opting for retirement at the age of 22. Where would golf be today? I have a feeling it’d still be struggling with an aging and fading demographic. Sound familiar?

To cure this in racing, Kaplan provides us with an interesting idea:

For those who say it is simple economics - that the owners must choose a few million dollars in stud fees over another year on the track, I say hogwash – not if that year on the track has more upside than a year at the farm.

In Canada alone, we’ll have more than $200 million in purse money available in 2009. Certainly, we can dedicate a tiny percentage of that money to races that involve the only horse in the country with any chance of elevating the sport beyond its current state.

So how about this relatively modest offer: Canada’s tracks and horsemen agree that if Somebeachsomewhere finishes 2008 undefeated and with 12 or more wins, they will offer $3 million in potential purse money in 2009 available to Somebeachsomewhere, including $1.5 million in races protected for four-year-olds only or Canadian-sired older horses.

If anybody needs help, I have a pencil, a calculator and will make time.

This does make sense. We have received over $2B in slots money since the late 1990’s. 2 billion – that is equal to 4,000 Little Brown Jug’s. Yes you read that right; slot money we have received in only the last nine years could have paid for the purses for the Little Brown Jug every year since 2000 BC. Julius Caesar would have been a guest at the 2018th edition. Each industry faction wants some. The breeders, owners, trainers, tracks. Aren’t we all in this together? In our Breeders Crown 2010 piece we wrote we discussed this. What if some of that slots money was marked for marketing a huge racing day, and that day only? Out of a couple of billion dollars of money, can we not find some way to spend 4 or 5 million of it better? Can we not use it to grow our sport, to energize the base and energize the fans?

Well how about it this. The Sadinsky Report is out and they are speaking of purse pooling and using money for marketing. Work out a deal and make a Canadian Triple Crown. The Canadian Pacing Derby, The Des Smith and the New Provincial Cup at Windsor (I'd want the third leg to be the Gold Cup and Saucer, but I won't ask for too much). Make them the three richest races for four year olds and up anywhere. Make them the most prestigious events that this sport in Canada has ever seen. Roll out the red carpet for owners, provide marketing and a budget so on track fans can have an experience they will tell friends about, get them on television, pay a bonus. Think big and give the breeders with their huge checkbooks a run for their money.

Unless someone can tell me that fans pay admission and help the business by watching horses mate at four instead of race, it is something that should be at the very least studied. With handle down 40% the last several years, a Montreal track with 101 year history shutting down, and our sport in worse shape in terms of fan interest than it has ever been before, no idea should be considered a bad idea.

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