A Little More on the Harness Triple Crown

Last week in HRU (pdf) we looked at the Harness Triple Crown and how it does not seem very effective in bringing in revenues, new fans, or buzz. The argument put forth was that the new Triple Crown should be the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug.

I've had a few comments and questions about it, from Kate (a former USTA employee) and others.

First let's look at the positives.
  • Buzz - With a triple crown, we gain some buzz, and news mentions for the three events could go up by 100% or more, if we have a good story to tell. 
  • Ability to grow a new brand, built for this century - We have a lot of tradition in harness and that's preserved. We can tweak this new triple crown to fit a new market, with some new marketing.
  • Immediate ROI - If the three tracks chosen create and implement a marketing plan - say by pitching in $250,000 for the three races - we will get immediate ROI. If, for example, the three race cards have handles go up by only a modest $1M through this marketing program, at 25% takeouts, we get $250,000 back in year one.
  • Marketing ideas and angles can grow with a three race sequence - How about giving 10 people a "horse" to own through the series on Cup night and whomever wins gets a free trip to the next race? If the horse wins the Triple Crown the fan gets a bonus? How about letting the fan visit the colt at his home and document the visit for TV coverage? How about a "Let it Ride Parlay" where ten people get to bet $100 on each NA Cup starter, and the winnings are rebet at the M? And then rebet again at the Jug? The possibilities with a three race, linked series are virtually endless.
Now, let's look at the cons, and they mainly lie with the Jug.
  • Kate wrote "There is a tremendous amount of prestige in winning the Thoroughbred Triple Crown. That alone provides incentive for trainers to participate...it is the pinnacle of achievement for them and what they dream about, much like a young hockey player dreams of winning the Stanley Cup.  The harness racing Crowns don't have that, and I'm not sure how you create that synthetically [without a bonus, and who is going to pay a bonus]"
  • Jug specific concerns - the Little Brown Jug can be a crapshoot with post positions making a huge difference, and racing and winning two races in one day are avoided by some horsemen (it can take a lot out of a horse).
  •  Getting everyone on the same page
I agree with those concerns.

As for the prestige question, and the fact that fewer and fewer horsemen are entering the Jug, we can try and change the Jug, and the funding system.

We can ask horsemen and horse owners what they want to make the event great again, and would they be willing to help?

Do they want an elim the week before? Do we want to change the Jug final to a points based Triple Crown system?

Can we find a new way to fund a bonus?

Can we, at stakes payments time ask for an extra $X for a Triple Crown bonus? Can we add a bonus from a small fee from pacing horses that are foaled each year? Can we bring corporate sponsors in? The money all goes into a pot for a Triple Crown winner. If we don't have a Triple Crown winner in year one, the money is collected again the following year, but last year's money carries over. If it carries over for five or ten years without a Triple Crown winner, we have a jackpot, just like a pick 6 jackpot.

Again, it seems workable.

As for the crapshoot of the Jug angle, it is what it is. We can choose another race, or work with what we have. If the series did get bigger and we had TV time, a big crowd like the Jug has might outweigh the crapshoot post positions angle.

As for working together to do something, yes, what else is new. We have an issue in racing when it comes to working together. But maybe this is a start.

Thanks to Kate and others for sharing their thoughts.

Have a nice day everyone.

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