There's an open letter addressed to 'Thoroughbred racing fan' in Wednesday's edition of Thoroughbred Daily News (and probably other places) from The Jockey Club/America's Best Racing. It's signed by TJC President Jim Gagliano and VP-Business Development Jason Wilson and asks us to do our part in letting people, particularly prospective new fans, know about the upcoming Derby prep telecasts that The Jockey Club has paid to air on NBC and its cable sports network as part of their effort to fill in the gaps, now that races other than the Triple Crown have disappeared from network TV.
As our current fan, we have a simple request for you. Spread the word.Well, the first thing I think upon seeing this (since I care mostly about myself) is: What the hell time is the Wood going to go off? Assuming they're not carrying it on tape delay, it's gotta be like what, 6:30? Am I really gonna want to be standing at Aqueduct until 6:30 to watch what I hope will be a romp by Verrazano so I can bet the house against him in the Derby? Hell, by the time the race is over, I'd be fighting the incoming evening casino crowd, and might as well stay and head over to Resorts World to dine at RW Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, spend some exhilarating quality time dropping dimes in VLT's, and hang out for Final Four Basketball with DJ.
Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Tell your co-workers. Let them know about TV shows that lead up to “the greatest two minutes in sports.”
Saturday, March 30, 6-7 p.m. EDT: Florida Derby / Louisiana Derby (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, April 6, 6-7:30 p.m. EDT: Wood Memorial / Santa Anita Derby (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, April 13, 4:30-6 p.m. EDT: Blue Grass Stakes (NBC); 6-7 p.m. EDT: Arkansas Derby (NBC Sports Network)
Such a late post time is not exactly a great selling point to get people out to see the race in person. However, as a colleague pointed out recently, if NYRA is interested in attracting people to come to their tracks on a regular basis, the LAST thing they should do is to run ads telling people to come to Aqueduct for the Wood. One look at the remaining decrepit seating options and they'll be in the casino in no time and you'll never see them again.
And the other thing that immediately grabs me is that the one race that is actually on the proper NBC broadcast network, as opposed to the former Versus cable network, is the Blue Grass, which is by far the most irrelevant of the preps, being run on Polytrack as it is. (And the race had actually begun its slide to Derby meaninglessness [Street Sense notwithstanding] back when it was a speed-favoring merry-go-round on your precious dirt).
But my own selfish concerns aside, this is where I fear that America's Best Racing's noble new fan initiative is going to fall flat. Here, they're trying to promote horse racing as a sport rather than as a gambling game, which I've maintained of late is the wrong approach. I'd prefer to see them focus on free contests (that they had been working on at one time), and the direct outreach that we're seeing from the ambassador folks. Spread the word? Sure, I'm always trying to do that, but I do so by trying to get friends to come to Belmont or to Saratoga where they can experience the action, listen to me explain the finer points, and infuriate me by picking winners at random while I, the "expert," slave over my past performances and piss money away. But I can't imagine being very successful pitching these telecasts to anyone I know. "Oh yeah? Cool. Who's running?" Er, um...well, some horses that you never heard of, but... Maybe I could see people checking it out if they're hanging out on a weekend afternoon or a weekday night. But Saturday evening at 7PM? At least on the east coast, that's a tough sell. And judging from this open letter, I think The Jockey Club realizes that as well.