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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Special Race, Special Days

- A big shout out to the US Trotting Association for their internet coverage of the Little Brown Jug. They had a special site dedicated to the event, the highlight of which was a thoroughly entertaining live blog straight from the Delaware County Fair. Unfortunately, I guess it has to go partly into the "nice try" category due to the blog crashing for over an hour and a half, causing them to miss the three elimination heats. That's really a shame, and I could just feel how frustrated the three bloggers - Moira, Ken, and Tim - must have been. They did come back for the final heat though, and it's still worth a look.

The fact is that innovation always involves the risk of growing pains, and the USTA gets full marks for the effort. I know that many thoroughbred people look down their noses at the sulky sport; but perhaps they should be taking notes while doing so. The USTA utilized a program called Cover It Live, designed specifically for live blogging. In the regular Blogger world...and on the Breeders' Cup site last blogging is cumbersome for blogger and reader alike, and usually a few beats behind at least. But this format - billed as Live Blogging 2.0 - allowed instant updates from three different contributors who were able to deftly interact with readers submitting comments, conduct instant polls, and post photos. Like the USTA's Harnessphere site, it conveyed that sense of the global internet community of like-minded horseplayers that our side of the industry has yet to fully explore. It was all really quite excellent, other than the significant technical problem of course. Great job by the bloggers, and the contributing readers as well.

Art Official made a slight break on the first turn of his elimination and got parked to the half in 54:2. He continued first over to the stretch, but managed to gut out the win over Santanna Blue Chip at 1-9! However, the time, 1:52.3, was a full three seconds slower than the world record posted by Lonestar Legend in the second elimination. Shadow Play was 2/5ths slower than that winning the first elimination; but he was powerful striding around front-running Badlands Nitro, and was the solid 3-5 favorite for the second heat. Here, Art Official found himself first over again, and Pierce never seemed anxious to put his colt through that kind of grind again, especially with the favorite alone on the lead and setting a comfortable pace. He never really got involved, and saved third on his own courage. Shadow Play (The Panderosa) drew off to win the Jug in 1:50.1.

Haven't seen the attendance figure yet, but 50,000 is the usual estimate. The Little Brown Jug is one of the events that keeps me convinced that the sport of horse racing will never die. They'll always be an audience for horses racing around an oval - it's in our blood. What could seem more natural than horse races on a sunny Thursday afternoon at a county fair - no hotel/entertainment complex needed. I've had some disagreements with my friends and blogging colleagues on the marketing task force, which will make their contributions at the NTRA Marketing Summit this weekend in Las Vegas. It's been my contention that racing can't be marketed as a sport, only as an action game. But I guess it's events like the Jug that show that I'm not always right about that.

From what I've heard, last year's revival of the MassCap at Suffolk Downs had a similar festive atmosphere, with plenty of attendees who are hardly hardcore bettors. It drew over 19,000, and the track is hoping for another successful day with which to convince state lawmakers that the industry there is worth saving. Chip Tuttle, the track's COO, told Bloodhorse:

“If you go back to Cigar, both owner Allen Paulson and trainer Bill Mott said that they have never gone to anywhere in the world where more people came up to them and just thanked them for coming....Nick Zito and Tracy Farmer will find out the same thing with Commentator on Saturday. Conversely, when daily purses are only $110,000, fans tend to become simulcast bettors despite our best efforts." [Bloodhorse]
It's supposed to be absolutely gorgeous fall weather, and the fields look full and competitive. Man, there are going to be a lot of people rooting for Commentator, whether just for the sport, or with some Pick Fours at stake. We're heading up to Boston early tomorrow morning so we can spend the day in the city before the fancy cocktail party in the early evening. Hoping to check in tomorrow night or early Saturday morning to take a look at some of Saturday's races.

[UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who reminded me that Shadow Play is owned in part by the former Montreal Canadian and Hall of Famer Serge Savard.]


Pull the Pocket said...

Nice post Alan. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with your contention that " can't be marketed as a sport, only as an action game..." In fact I beieve the opposite is true-everyone I know who is interested in horseracing started out as a fan. If people want pure action, horseracing is the slowest option around.
But I really wanted to ask you a question-did NYRA just increase takeout 1% across the board, or is this old news I'm just hearing? As a non-New Yorker, I kind of glaze over when writers (even gifted ones like you) talk about the never-ending political wrangling in Albany, so I oculd have missed it.

Alan Mann said...

Kevin - yeah, you glazed over and missed it. It was part of the NYCOTB fix announced in June, though it just took effect on 9/15.