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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Heck of a Job, Jess-ie

- Looks like we've been duped all along. Jess Jackson was merely being coy about his intentions to run Curlin in the Classic. It was all just marketing, or at least that's what we're told with smug self-assurance by Ray Paulick on Internet fan forums and bloggers have kept the "will he or won't he" flame alive, Paulick informs us with sufficient detachment from those groups. (Though he certainly seemed to buy into Jackson's brilliant ploy himself here.)

In the end, we all know that Curlin will be in the starting gate at Santa Anita Oct. 25 for the Breeders' Cup Classic. He's already shipped to California to test the new racetrack and Jackson has a large block of hotel rooms reserved for Breeders' Cup week.

But please, Jess, keep us in suspense for a couple more weeks. You're giving us something to talk about, and the industry might learn a thing or two from you about marketing. []
Indeed Jess, teach us a little more. After all, you've done such a great job of marketing your horse that all of 8,000 people showed up to see him run on Saturday. In the general public's mind, Curlin is clearly playing second fiddle to a three-year old who, other than winning the Derby, has not accomplished nearly as much as last year's HOY.

And blithely dismissing the Classic, the ultimate championship race of the racing year, as "been there, done that" is really a great way to build excitement for the race. How many people who may have heard that are now tuned into far more profound current events and forever tuned out of this year's races? As presidential campaign strategists well know, once a statement or a charge is out there, it's hard to take back. And the constant drumbeat of skepticism about the Santa Anita surface certainly hasn't helped either. Not that there isn't excellent reason for such doubt. But marketing means that you attempt to smooth the questions over, not drum them into peoples' consciousness over and over and over again.

Paulick argues that had Jackson merely declared his intent to run in the race, "there would have been little for fans to argue about or racing journalists to write about until the two horses stepped onto the same racetrack." Actually, I think that many of the arguments would have been just as intense, and exactly the same. Except they would have been framed in a positive manner, building up the anticipation for the showdown instead of casting a long shadow on the very integrity of racing's championship day that may be extremely difficult to undo, no matter who decides to show up, or not.


Anonymous said...

I agree, had Jackson just said Curlin was going to the Classic, we all still would have been arguing, but with excitement and lots of interest. Instead, there was the tiresome drama over a possible match race and all the discussion over will they or won't they ever meet, which chased some fans away. And then there was the grousing over the surface, which unfairly diminished Curlin. If that's brilliant marketing, I hope for once the racing industry isn't paying attention.

El Angelo said...

I'll raise a stupid "what if": what if they're cross-entering him in both the Turf and Classic, on the theory that the big guns from Europe will be going to the Classic?

Patrick J Patten said...

well spirit one didn't take to the pro-ride. though I'm putting together an all euro-pick 6 if possible.

Anonymous said...

A few quick thoughts....

Jessica: What fans exactly do you believe were chased away by the will he or won't he news? Current racing fans will be intently focused on the Cup no matter who runs. The casual sports fan may actually watch the Classic if marketed properly through the mainstream media as a "Clash of the Titans" [or insert your own b.s. marketing slogan here] with Big Brown (who most sports fans have heard of) vs the older "Superhorse" Curlin (who some may have heard of). In any event, the buildup won't begin until Oct 20-21 anyway in the mainstream outlets so any discussion prior to that is moot since we're really looking for enhanced mainstream media coverage to grow the game. I don't believe anyone outside of the small racing enthusiast population will be turned off by virtue of not knowing about it.

El Angelo: I feel even Europe's Group II/Group III caliber horses would likely crush Curlin on the lawn so it's unlikely to see him run there.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that this horses, which is reported by so many to be uber popular with fans, is drawing some of the weakest crowds around. MOW Stakes was just 8,428; Woodward 22,572; JCGP 8,563.

Hopefully NYRA didn't get stuck with an extra 5,000 t-shirts printed up as give-aways for him breaking the $10M mark.

Maybe they can always give them away with a bottle of Kendall-Jackosn merlot during the wine tours.

Anonymous said...

All you are correct this time.

But I was in a pub that actually had the Curlin race on TV and was pleasantly surprised to see how many folks actually watched once someone pointed out he was on TV.

There is name some name recognition for him, but it seems that it really takes sweeping the Derby/Preakness before a horse gets a following.

B. Frank said...

Great points, Alan. The thinly veiled contempt for Santa Anita's surface has put a damper on the Classic already, and that can't be taken back.

Steve Crist of DRF--I love his blog, he's like the surly pony-tailed gambling savant Uncle I never had--said he hopes they ship Curlin to the Japan Cup instead. Really? You'd rather see that than Curlin v. Big Brown, Commentator, and the best Europeans. I know the synthetics have messed with your years of carefully ammassed handicapping numbers, but still...

Wind Gatherer said...

Isn't there the possibility that Jackson was genuinely considering the Arc and a run in the Japan Dirt because this field looked weak in the beginning of the year.

Once the turf thing didn't work out and the Classic field looked like it was coming up as a real race then he reconsidered. He might have gone about it differently but don't rip on the man for keeping his horse racing when his contemporaries have long been enjoying an after coital smoke.

SaratogaSpa said...

What about the "Bad Boy" image of Big Brown, vs. the ho hum of Curlin-especially for casual fans. I love Curlin, but I am a diehard and most of casual fan friends barely notice him. Sure he sparkled in the Dubai Cup, but exactly how many casual fans saw the race? Seems that the crazy antics of Ivarone, Dutrow and the bizarre Belmont run only spurred interest in the fans-- judging by the Haskell and Monmouth Invitational Crowds.

Anonymous said...

The racecard at Belmont was class all the way (5 grade 1's?). The Gold Cup was just one of those great races. Those lucky enough to live out that way are lucky horse fans indeed. What we need to ponder, the Thorough Bloggers and 'post a commenters', whether we be Curlins or Browns, is "Are we the only lovers of the game?"

I wanted to go, I could not afford it.

I am going to Keeneland this weekend (as I do every Fall and Spring) because i live in Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati. I patronize Turfway, River Downs, Churchill, Arlington.
I have TVG and HRTV, they have their place, but people must go to see live racing.

I went to see Curlin race in the Stephen Foster at Churchill and there were 14,000 Curlin fans at that one. Every person i talked to on that day was a fan of Curlin. He has made history, he is consistent, his campaign well executed with his health and well being coming first. This is what we all want for the horses.

Does Curlin have a fan base? Yes.
Was it the weather? Was it Belmonts yucky reputation? Was it because they canceled Friday racing? Was it because the turf races were going to be postponed? Alright, Alright, Curlin has no fans and the other races were lousy.

Wake up lovers of horse racing, patronize your local track.

Anonymous said...

Belmont's yucky reputation?

Anonymous said...

Not saying they would have had 30 thousand, but the weather, and the Mets, had just a little to do with the lack of turnout.

While the day itself did not turn out bad, the forecast was so bad I personally was sure Curlin would scratch, and posted here the day before.

They were forecasting a hurricane in the neighborhood, the roads were flooded, folks were without electrical power, so yeah the weather certainly had an impact.

Belmont is one of the best venues in the world, but it was built as a summer track, is not winterized in the least, and a cool, windy, rainy day is really not the ideal weather scenario.

And what Met fan would want to miss a moment of their favorite teams imminent collapse?

El Angelo said...

Libby: I appreciate your enthusiasm for horse racing, and don't disagree that it's important to attend live racing. I didn't go to Belmont on Saturday. Why? Three reasons:

(1) The weather stunk.

(2) I live in Westchester, about 20 miles from Belmont. Gas, tolls, admission, parking and a program would total about $30. I'm not saying it's an epic amount of money, but it's $30 I didn't have to spend to watch the races from my living room.

(3) The big race was over at 6:00 pm. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but to have a sport event end that late in the day on a Saturday is ridiculous. It's crazy to think that I should have to also kill my Saturday night as well, given I wouldn't get home afterwards until after 7.

Anonymous said...

Nice catch, Alan. Jackson is way too smart to have been so dumb, and Paulick is the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Jess Jackson is the Brett Favre/Roger Clemens of horseracing. Personally, i think Curlin has been pointed to the Classic all along. Or at least since they decided to keep him in training after Dubai.

PS - It's Arc Week. How about a little something on Zarkava, the best horse that no one in America knows (or cares) about? Or Duke of Marmalade, a 5-time Group One winner who may challenge Curlin and Big Brown in the Classic?

Anonymous said...

I had heard Belmont was a disaster for the last leg of the Triple Crown race, I personlly want to go to the track and experience New York racing and the Spa, too. I am hoping next year.

El Angelo, did you mention your perspective on the fan input thing?

I love the Euro racing on Saturdays, another trip another time.
I hope Duke of Marmalade will kick butt (is he coming?)and shut my mouth.

Anonymous said...

libs, Belmont has no water pressure for whatever reason on Belmont Day, and it WAS quite hot, but other than that it was fine...

No worse than Churchill or Pimlico on their big days.

But other than Belmont Day itself, when the crowds overrun the place it is as fine a venue as any for horse racing, including the venerable Spa.

Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to experience the racing in the East.

Alan Mann said...

>>What about the "Bad Boy" image of Big Brown, vs. the ho hum of Curlin-especially for casual fans.

It does pay publicity-wise to be a bit sleazy in our society these days. Maybe the Curlin camp should have played up the fact that two of his owners are in jail!