Andy Beyer wrote a fantastic article today in the Wa-Po/Drf, about Orb's Derby win being "old school".
- The old school believes a trainer should not manage a horse to fulfill the personal ambitions of the owner or trainer. The old school believes a trainer should be guided by the development and the capabilities of the animal. The old school believes judicious handling will eventually bring rewards.
- Every year he was a general masterminding an all-out assault on the Derby, and he threw his troops into battle knowing they would have to sustain casualties in the pursuit of his objective.
Factory stables have commoditized horses to be pawns that are used to achieve a Derby win. Does the horse need time to get sound? How can we, we won't be on schedule for the Derby. get the vet, spend $5,000 and send him to the Hypa-chamber. Is the horse good enough for 10f and we have a chance to hurt his career if we race? Maybe, but let's go.
Maybe I am a fuddy-duddy, maybe the game has passed me by, maybe I am a softee, but give me the old school each and every time. The old school lets an animal tell you when and where he wants to race. That, to me, is not old school, it's common sense.
There's a new sport this weekend on twitter. It's called Beadle Bashing. Michele Beadle, the entertainment/fun/goofy-stuff-to-do-at-the-Derby NBC reporter is taking it on the chin from some (a lot) of racing fans. I've seen complaints that she knows nothing about racing, got terminology wrong, and didn't belong on the broadcast.
I must admit, it's flummoxing.
NBC and Churchill Downs, since about 2007, have made an all-out assault to increase the viewership for the Derby. The brand is huge for Churchill of course, but it's also formidable for NBC Sports. One of the things they've done is go after new demographics, as Seth Godin puts it, "the people who aren't looking at you".
To achieve that, they've sold the Derby spectacle. The parties, the red carpet, the pageantry and the tradition. Something to not go after you and me, but the new people watching, and to create a branded event that is a must see.
Ms. Beadle plays her role well, from what I saw. She's a fish out of water, along with millions of others watching who don't know a fetlock from a fraction, or a Beyer from a blinker (there are about ten people on the telecast to explain those things). She makes those people feel at home, and she does it in a comedic, fun way. It's not dissimilar to what happens in the Olympics, where many are watching the biathlon for the first time. There "fish out of water" reporting is key to ratings.
So far this strategy has worked. Ratings are up for the Derby, with well over 15 million tuning in. Prep races, even on the main network, draw less than one million. She, and before her entertainment reporter Billy Bush, have played a part in that, and don't expect it to change anytime soon.
Half mile track racing is an enigma for harness fans. The Jug is probably the only race, and track, where it can hold a bettors interest. A fans too. Yonkers and other tracks are up against it. Why? It was explored this weekend in HRU. (Pdf page 3).