We speak often of engagement here on the blog, but it's done because in this world it's a big reason something succeeds or fails.
Bob Marks wrote a fantastic article about a typical Friday evening race night in 1979, where harness tracks alone showed amazing attendance. Sportsman's Park in Chicago 16,000, Yonkers 13,500, Blue Bonnets in Montreal, 9,500. In all $42 million in today's dollars were bet.
Those were some engaged people in harness racing.
Today monopoly is only a board game, not the racing business. But there's much more to it. There are thousands of things to spend time on, hundreds of sports or games to be a fan of, and there are still only twenty four hours in a day. Grabbing a slice of that time is what every business or game or league is grasping for.
One way Thoroughbred racing engages is through the Triple Crown, and although most outlets do a good job at it, I think they could do even more. If you're going to throw money at marketing, it's this type, in my opinion, where it works.
Today in the newly released Horseplayer Monthly magazine (free here), the lead story from Melissa Nolan is about under the radar Derby contenders. She picks a few horses based on the Sheets that are worth watching. It's a fun article, give it a read.
Melissa, and others - maybe newbies who read it - add those horses to a stable mail, watch a replay, or look at the running lines. The next prep the horse races in, is watched. If there's something horseplayers (or anyone for that matter with movies, music, hot draft picks etc) like doing is finding a horse few are looking at.
That one little thing, that one little article and others like it, can keep people engaged in a three or four month Derby season, culminating, of course, with the Derby itself.
Other sports do this as a matter of course. You follow your team to the Stanley Cup, you pick a longshot of 64 teams in the NCAA's and follow them to the end, you play fantasy football keeping engaged right through to your championship. Horse racing, as a rule, does not work like that, and as Dana noted here, it's not the be all and end all. However, having it for the Triple Crown is a different animal, especially for getting new people hooked and keeping them watching. For many people the Triple Crown is horse racing.
There will be hundreds of tweets and stories and articles on Derby preps from here until the first Saturday in May. For some who handicap the week before the Derby they can be referred to as silly season. For others, they mean a lot, and for those racing wants to reach - to keep engaged in the product - they're an important part of the racing ecosystem.
An 18 horse field of trotters are set for the Prix d'Amerique. Over here 18 horse fields would probably be boycotted. Our horsemen and drivers like those about as much as having an appendectomy.
“The abuse of medication and the perpetual search for a supplement that has the same effect as a potent doping agent, but is somehow legal, is a problem for all sporting codes,”
Barry Meadow is a successful gambler and his words are always well worth the read. His article in this month's Horseplayer Monthly is no exception. Every bet, every type of bet, all has to be looked at through an edge lens. If not, beating 20% juice is impossible.
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