- The late Charles Harris, a New York-based horse owner who for years
fought for clean sport, once suggested the same thing as Gladwell, that
all drugs should be permitted in racing, so long as they are disclosed.
At least that would level the playing field, he said. As athletics, horse racing and veterinary and genetic science move
forward, will Gladwell be proven right? Will that bright moral line
separating doping from science or surgery become less defined?
Whether it's 2014 or 1914, sports of any kind are held in high regard. We don't want to watch robots playing a game, we want to watch pure athleticism. We want to watch athletes doing what they do best, without any enhancements. It's been like that forever, and probably will be like that forever. It might be naive or whimsical, but it's something that's always been there. Sure, get a surgery, but bulk up with a steroid and you are done in the public's view. For horses, because they can't speak and make decisions for themselves, this is enhanced. That's my view.
Speaking of athletic performances, how about Martin Kaymer yesterday at the US Open. The dude scorched the Pinehurst track and it was like he was playing my local 5,900 yard venue, not Number 2. His performance was amazing but also amazingly boring. Without a foe, without drama, TV ratings are sure to be down and the event was very blah. Even though the gallery surely liked the German - there is not much not to like about him - you could see them pulling for him to fail, just to make it a closer event.
It struck me how different this is in horse racing. When we see a horse we revere, like Secretariat at the head of the lane at the Belmont widening, we want the margin to grow. We want to see him demolish records; the further the better. Athletic excellence is held in a different prism based on the sport we're watching.
I saw the numbers from the usually big Fathers Day card at Monmouth yesterday. About 29,000 people packed the joint. But they didn't bet too much more than $1 million. It's such a different world today.
Back in the 1980's and early nineties at old Greenwood in downtown Toronto, the place might get full some days, with 5,000 or 7,000 patrons, but boy did they bet. $2M to $3M a card. Simulcasting and internet betting has changed the landscape. The big bettors don't want food trucks or crowds; they bet at home or off-venue. There are people in racing that want to change that and go back to the way it was, but that's like pay phones making a comeback, because we somehow banned cell phones. It is not going to happen and even if it did, people would find something else to gamble on that's more convenient. Now we're stuck in this world where some tracks and consortium's want to change the way off-track wagering is priced, by hiking fees and stifling competition. That's a non-starter too because when you do that, the price sensitive player who bets larger than average volume gets squeezed, and handle falls. What successful business has grown long term by hiking margins and lowering overall revenue in today's global, connected world? The list is almost non-existent.
Last up, speaking of fee hikes, Churchill Downs handle has been updated at Playersboycott.org. Overall, handle is down $43 million so far, and they've only raced 30 days. Last year the handle floor was about $3.1 million and this year almost 30% of the days have fallen below that floor. One day they barely did $2 million. There is little question that the Churchill Downs brand is taking a tremendous hit this season. They will probably find it very hard to recover. It could take years, and a possible millions upon millions of revenue losses. Which is what happens to tarnished brands.
Have a great Monday everyone.