- I believe that crowds like the 28,000 at Churchill on Friday night and the 32,000 at Arlington Park for Father's Day are better indicators of the game surviving and, occasionally, even thriving, than any recent year-over-year increases in the TV ratings for the Triple Crown. Those races, particularly the Derby of course, are social events in themselves which will always attract casual viewers....and especially so now that the races are run at least an hour later than they used to be.
But crowds like the two this past weekend, as well as the throngs that routinely pack tracks like Saratoga, Oaklawn, and Del Mar, better demonstrate to me that a day at the races can still pack them in; and can do so without the help of big races or bobbleheads (though they may certainly help). And it can do so without any particular ingenuity. Didn't take a sage to give night racing at Churchill a try, and Father's Day is a natural. If you give people a nice, inviting facility, efficient service with a smile, make it attractive to families, and throw in some competitive horse racing, they will come.
NYRA is trying to market this Rachel Alexandra appearance, but they're not gonna get 32,000 or 28,000 or even half that. For whatever reason, NYRA has not been able to make the case for a day at the track. Maybe improved facilities if and when there are ever slots here would help. But I believe there needs to be a fundamental change of approach. Rachel Alexandra against three nameless fillies isn't going to do it, and it shouldn't have to. Belmont should be a place where people want to come regardless of whether there are any big races or not. And free admission for women on Saturday seems a little silly to be honest, if not rather sexist. I didn't get in for free when Curlin was here.
- One of the ideas of Win And Yer In was to frame things in terms the general public can understand; I remember BC President Greg Avioli comparing it to the automatic bids dispensed for the NCAA basketball tournament. "What we've done is given context in these 24 top races and connected them to the world championships in a relevant way." But now, the Breeders' Cup Challenge has morphed into an unwieldy 62 race mess, including 12 overseas. So you can forget about that context; and that goes for me, forget about the casual fans.
Despite the overall increase in the number of races, from 57 last year, the number of races in this country have decreased....and Saratoga took the brunt of the cuts, with six of its stakes dropped.
Jim Gluckson, a Breeders' Cup spokesman, said the organization had difficulty arranging television coverage during the bulk of the Saratoga meet in August, "so the decision was made to concentrate on the fall races closer to the championship." [Daily Racing Form]That says to me that ESPN may be even chintzier with its air time than last year, when it televised races in August, and then disappeared for six weeks, during the heart of the prep season. What can they have planned for us this year?
- You'd think that Governor Paterson is too busy trying to get the Senate to convene to actually be considering idiotic ideas like this. But if any OTB, no less Nassau OTB, which NYRA accuses of illegally streaming its signal, were ever to get slots before Aqueduct or Belmont, then Charlie Hayward should lead NYRA up the Thruway to Albany in a fleet of track rollers, armed with buckets of manure and Richard Dutrow, and stage a coup of his own. He could install Bennett Liebman as governor, Johnny V as Senate Majority Leader, and Tom Durkin as the Speaker of the House. We'd have slots around here in no time.