Friday, May 11, 2018

Horse Racing Wants to be "Mainstream"

We've all seen Mckinsey reports, the cash spend by the Jockey Club on social media and various forms of outreach; the big day push; NYRA and others spending a lot of money on televising big races, including many from the Saratoga meet.

All of that hard work, and that monetary and time outlay is to fulfill a wish for racing to become mainstream - to be noticed; to be like baseball or football or other pastimes.

The problem with that, as we see this week, is that it's not built to be noticed. And, frankly, I am not sure if some people even want it to be.

Bob Baffert did his duty on Sunday. He - underappreciated, in my view, for the time he spent with the public and media with American Pharoah to push the sport - wanted to bring his Derby winner out to show the world. Then things got messy.

The public saw the horse, wondered why he was walking lame, and received no information from the media on hand, and little from the trainer. That somehow morphed into stories about foot bruises, treatments, and ended with a horse racing media person blaming fans for even asking about it - horse racing's "deplorables" moment.

As a horse racing participant put it in a post at Paceadvantage, this is what horse racing does in situations like this; it's how it is built:
  •  The rush to circle the wagons, in this case defend a horse being lame, is what this industry does best. What's really pathetic though is that the industry is so stupid they don't see how each time they circle, they just shoot themselves. Admit it, explain what the issue is and how it's resolved, and then make sure the public and handicappers are aware of whether it's resolved or not when he races next. It's not that hard, racing, to do things right. 
It's not like there's no roadmap on how to do this. For a relatively minor race we know what happened with this horse in the first a bit ago at Happy Valley. 
  •  KIWI SUNRISE, which performed poorly, was examined by the Veterinary Officer who said at that time there were no significant findings. KIWI SUNRISE was again examined by the Veterinary Officer at the stables of Trainer C H Yip this morning. He said at this time he noted the horse to be lame in its left front leg. Before being allowed to race again, KIWI SUNRISE will be subjected to an official veterinary examination.

To me, that's a little bit better than being tongue tied, having the racing media see Kiwi Sunrise was lame and then wonder if they should tell anyone, or keep it quiet; and when the story gets bigger, have a track public relations person call everyone concerned about Kiwi Sunrise's health a fan who hates humanity.

Hong Kong racing is built for the mainstream. They embrace the mainstream, and they realize that being mainstream comes with a responsibility. They get it.

Racing in this part of the world is nowhere near that yet.

Horse racing in America needs to decide. If it wants to be the sport that trends on twitter, whose big races are watched by millions, it comes with a new paradigm where doing things the old way is unacceptable. If it wants to be mainstream there is no other way.

Have a really nice Friday everyone.

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