Monday, January 26, 2009

Keeping Stars Racing Past Age Three

The push is on to keep horses racing past age three in harness, courtesy the Older Horse Committee:

“We believe the industry is crying out for someone to take the initiative to at least make an effort to reverse the long steady decline in interest by the general public in our sport. We also believe that if horse owners know their horse will have to race at the age of four, it might encourage and promote the breeding of sounder horses, which would be a benefit to everyone. This rule would also have some provision to allow horses that physically could not race at age four to be excluded from this prohibition.”


In the "this is only a brick in the wall" of this post, here is a very good post from Steve Crist, long ago. He (rightfully, imo) states that the mellifluous thought that somehow the sports stars racing can turn back the clock and make the game better again is misguided, and wrong. There is a ton wrong with the game, and a few good horses not retiring will not fix it. Thanks to Jessica at Railbird for the link.

Instead of thinking like 21st century business operators competing for market share, racing prefers to imagine that some old-style publicity, perhaps an extra daily paragraph of coverage buried in the sports section of the local newspaper, will suddenly make it become 1957 again.


Anonymous said...

They are stealing my ideas. That means they are doing something right:)

Anonymous said...

It's so funny that you bring up that Crist article... I actually disagreed with much of it!

One of the issues I have is that example he uses to refute star power is a little bit bogus. 1) the races in question were run a weekday and 2) with little to no publicity. In fact, not too long after that Funny Cide ran at Finger Lakes and broke attendance records, in part, because they marketed it really well and it was on a weekend.

I agree with many of his points, having "stars" stick around is not going to "fix them game" and turn it into 1957 all over again.

Every year we get a shot to convert thousands if not tens of thousands of potential fans from the Derby and every year we fail because there's no cohesive marketing, no cohesive education and almost any horse that a fan is going to become invested in is only going to race a couple of times ever. Those are insurmountable obstacles. It's not just keeping those talented 3yos around, although I think that's a part of it, it's teaching people about racing and informing them about the rhythm of the racing seasons.

He's dead on with issues of lagging technology, primitive customer service and facilities with the charm of a dilapidated bus stop. In my mind though, these are issues of retention not generating new fans. Someone's gotta get interested enough to actually show up at a dirty customer unfriendly track and I think it's foolish to discount star power as a motivator for doing so.

I actually wrote two posts in reply to that article back when GbG was really green and hosted on tumblr. While I would change of some the wording now, I still stand by the sentiment of the posts.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

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