Saving Horse Racing? Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

Today in the Atlantic, "Can American Pharoah Save His Troubled Sport?":

"In 1973, the year that Secretariat won the Triple Crown after a twenty-five-year drought, attendance at North American race tracks topped seventy-six million. (By comparison, the combined attendance for American League and National League baseball that year was just over thirty million, a high-water mark for that sport.) Attendance at race tracks has since plummeted to a small fraction of those numbers."

All true, and for various reasons (some the article touches on), no one is ever going to see that again.

"Save" is a word that doesn't fit right in the first place and we really should stop using it. An oldie but a goodie, but apropos for many industry's losing market share, or who have lost market share due to disruption
  • "What means 'save'?
  • If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It's over. If by save you mean, "who will keep the jobs of the pressmen and the delivery guys and the squadrons of accountants and box makers and transshippers and bookstore buyers and assistant editors and coffee boys," then the answer is still nothing will. Not the Kindle, not the iPad, not an act of Congress.
  • We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.
Nothing will bring back racing to where it was in the 1970's for certain, but even 15 or 20 years ago. That ship set sail.

The burden placed, by some, on a little horse who won three races borders on the silly to begin with. 

Back in 1996, golf was on pretty solid footing; purses were okay, TV contracts were fine. But along came Tiger Woods and everything changed. That one player energized a new fan base, and over time purses went up, and more and more kids were playing golf.  Today, Tiger is competing against the same kids who at four or five years of age were emulating him.

American Pharoah might be Tiger Woods, but he's a novelty Tiger Woods. He will race once, twice or maybe zero more times. Picture Tiger Woods' influence on the game if he played two tournaments and left.

Racing will not be saved, using the wish and hope meaning of the word. Nothing will do that. What it needs to do is address issues that gives it a chance to regain lost market share; so some of the copywriters and pressmen and delivery buyers survive and thrive. To set the table where when a horse does win a Triple Crown in the future, its fundamentals are such that it can use the free press as a catalyst to a longer term increase in revenue.

Horse racing's potential growth won't come from a Wheaties box, it will come from making hard, long-term and likely unpopular business decisions, and acting on them. The same as it was before June 6th.

Can't pick and choose

With mainstream column inches comes column inches we don't like. 

"...  despite its blue-blood reputation, the "sport of kings" is really just the sport of vice, kept afloat by a system of gambling and doping that amounts to institutionalized animal abuse."

Well how do you do.

And, have you met the above writer?

"Horses may very well love to run. Some may even enjoy racing. But it's hard to imagine any being on earth who wants to die for it"

If that pair host a Breeders' Cup party I don't want to go.

This one is causing some consternation on the twitter. Big Red can beat AP. Don't they know fractions and speed figures? Well, no, they don't.

Brett Coffey warned, take heed!

Last up, for those who always wondered how stud fees are ballparked, Shanklin helps.
And now you know.

Have a nice Tuesday everyone


Ron said...

I always wondered about Secretariat's Belmont. It was such an amazing performance than has never been seen before or since in any race. To run at that pace and never get tired reminds of lance Armstrong's great tour de france victories.

Irvin Wittmer said...

Just curious. Do you see anything positive with American Pharoah's Triple Crown win? You seem to find nothing but negatives with horse racing. Why do you still follow it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Irvin,

No, I am not a cheerleader. There are many other avenues out there to read for that.

However, being willing to offer out what I think is reality, and putting forth what I think are valid, constructive opinions to help it grow, it, I hope, exemplifies my love for the sport.



Anonymous said...

I saw 150+ posts about a horse being on the front page of the newspaper/Sports Illustrated. That's great. I come here to read what someone thinks it all means (and PTP shares his sometimes unpopular opinion ---- one of the few willing to do it)


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