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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Racing Data Off the Charts

- A couple more thoughts about the preceding post, and the comparison between the easy access to statistical information in sports such as baseball, and the lack thereof in horse racing. Baseball is naturally not giving away their intellectual property; an article in the Times yesterday discussed the tension between the new media, including bloggers, and major league sports' desire to control their exclusive broadcast rights and prevent their value from being eroded.

Major League Baseball recently issued new rules limiting how the press can use photographs and audio and video clips on Web sites. Many organizations and publications, like Hearst, Gannett and Sports Illustrated, have refused to go along with the new rules. (The Associated Press Sports Editors, a group of newspaper editors, did agree to less restrictive rules, allowing a “reasonable” number of photographs published online rather than a limit of seven, for example.)

League officials argue that too much video and audio on a newspaper’s Web site could infringe on rights holders — the broadcasters who pay millions of dollars to carry live games. And the leagues and teams have their own Web sites, carrying news accounts and footage, that are big business. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, baseball’s Internet arm, generates an estimated $400 million a year in revenue and is growing at a 30 percent a year. Investment bankers have estimated that the business is worth $2 billion to $3 billion. [NY Times (via Sarasota Herald Tribune, no reg. req.)
However, as I'd noted before, there are no restrictions whatsoever on baseball's dissemination of statistical and historical information.

Racing is different of course in that statistical information is a necessary commodity to fans, as opposed to batting averages and goals against averages, which are tools which help fans evaluate performance and argue over who's better than whom. So, naturally, there's an entrenched industry devoted to the sale of past performances, and there's no denying that it was good old capitalist competition between the Racing Form, the Racing Times, and various other smaller players that led to the revolutionary improvements in past performances introduced in the 90's. BRIS and the Form keep each other honest nowadays. I suppose that an argument could be made that full results charts are part of that industry, and that offering them for free could hurt the value of the databases. After all, I know that I certainly have the time to circumvent buying the Form by looking up all the individual race charts. Don't you?

But on the other hand, the results charts, like box scores, are merely a compilation of information and observations that are freely available to any interested parties. Don't know if I'd go as far as to say that they're public domain as Teresa does; but it certainly seems miserly, at the very least, to charge us money to see them once they're more than a week old. The Jockey Club, which owns Equibase, claims to be "dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing." And it just seems to me that attempts to accommodate the shrinking fan base is an integral part of that mission; especially in a fashion that I can't imagine would really sacrifice that much in revenue at 50 cents a pop.

- Joe Drape, writing for the NY Times' new Triple Crown blog entitled The Rail (and keep an eye out for posts there by yours truly), claims that Big Brown nodded in the affirmative when he personally asked him if he's the Kentucky Derby winner. So there you have it, literally from the horse's mouth head.

- I don't think he guaranteed a win, but Alexander Ovechkin pulled a mini-Messier by scoring twice in the third period to lead the Caps to a dramatic come-from-behind win, on the road in Game 6, to force a 7th and deciding game against the Flyers tonight at home in Washington. If the Caps win, the Rangers get the Montreal Canadians; if the Flyers manage to rebound, which I think would be quite a feat at this point, it's the Rangers and Pens. Pick your poison.


Anonymous said...

I just got done reading a few entries on the New York Times' new racing blog, The Rail. OMG was it awful. Joe Drape has fantastic access to the Dutrow stable, but his claim that Big Brown is the "most accomplished horse in the (Derby) field" is very questionable. Fastest? Sure. Most accomplished? Not really.

Jim Squires criticizes Monba's far back finish in the Florida Derby as if he had no excuse. Watch some film, Jim!

And one of their other writers is obsessed with horse welfare, which means we get more information on Thoroughbred Retirement Funds. Fantastic, I'll bet he thinks Polytrack is the solution!

Glad you do what you do Alan. The NY Times would have been wise to scrap the blog and link to you.

Anonymous said...

They need your posts badly, Alan.

El Angelo said...

Drape is a minor disaster. Someone picked up on Steve D's exact comments regarding Drape's ridiculous notion that Big Brown is the most accomplished member of the field.

Also, the article on Big Brown in yesterday's Times was absurd. Drape argued that BB is worth $100,000 per throw as a sire NOW, and that IEAH stands to get that plus $30 million plus, which is ridiculous---either they'll get the syndicate dough or the stud money, but not both. I also like how he says that Kip Deville as a sire is a great asset. Who on earth wants to breed to him?

Anonymous said...

One thought: Is Drape an IEAH investor? At least that would account for his hype, and things would make some sense.

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose Joe Drape will use any of his NYT's blog space to sound off on the wretched thing they called a movie review for the First Saturday in May, will he? Can't bite the hand that feeds you and all that jazz.

The legions of Big Brown fans will whine until the end of time that he was assured to be next TC winner if it had not been for "Samba Rooster"and his fresh legs in the Preakness.

Yep I alredy think Samba will be the horse to beat in the Preakness. Bob Black Jack while a record holder will be milked from the Derby.