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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Compared to What?

- I got a response from someone associated with the Breeders' Cup over this post. It was pointed out that the year-to-year handle comparison regarding the filly races that used to be run on Saturday were not really fair ones. Of course the handle would be down on a weekday. Also that my characterization of Greg Avioli's comments as spin was inaccurate, and that the figures honestly exceeded their expectations.

Of course that's a valid point about the handle comparisons - kinda like comparing apples to oranges I guess. And I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that what I was told about their expectations is true. The overall handle was up 5%, though I'm not really sure compared to what considering that there were three more races, the slop of last year vs. the synthetic of this, some of the more recognizable names this year running in relative obscurity on a Friday afternoon. Steve Crist, who hit the pick six, has what may be more relevant stats. I don't know that any comparison really means anything in this case. But I suppose that anything that contains the word up is good these days, especially in a struggling industry such as this.

Of course, the handle is not the main point in my mind. And neither in my opinion is the concept of a separate day for the fillies and mares. What upset me all along was the TV scheduling. With the races in California, there was an opportunity to run the races from 2:30 - 5:30 at the track, and thereby create a rare prime time opportunity for the sport. Instead, not only were the races scheduled early, thus making it essentially a weekday afternoon affair, but that extra half hour that the event was pushed back from what we were originally told was like twisting the knife. ESPN did not do right by the sport, and obviously cannot be relied on.

And regardless of the TV situation, Filly Friday was widely reviled by the press and fans,at least what I've seen. Let me say this, borrowing from Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo: I will be shocked...SHOCKED! if the Breeders' Cup does not go back to its traditional Saturday format, and stage the minor affairs on Friday, where they make for an exceptional lead-in to the main event. And if they don't restore the name of the Distaff. I think they're making a big mistake, at least from a PR standpoint, if they don't. People respect when organizations and companies admit that they're wrong; and take it as arrogance when they insist they're right.


Anonymous said...

I thought they were making a huge PR mistake not restoring the name (or announcing a change to Filly & Mare Classic) this summer between the Triple Crown and summer meets. That would have been a huge, easy, fan-friendly score for the Breeders' Cup and would have restored some goodwill re: the other changes. They would be fools to not budge on that issue, at least, for next year.

SaratogaSpa said...

I long ago suggested the Prime Time idea for Friday Night, and when I noted it again on the TBA bloodhorse blog I got many comments. This is a hot button issue.

The BC filly day got a dismal 0.3 TV rating for Friday. Even if they go with the Friday-Saturday same time format you can bet the races run will be changed.

Anonymous said...

I think the overall increase is significant. Only because of the world financial market crisis. Handles have been down, as have our auctions. So any gain is very positive. That being said, I am not a fan of the Friday program. I didn't get home from work until the last race and viewed most races via replays. (does racing realize many people still are gainfully employed?) I would like to see one day of racing. How great would it have been to see Zenyatta running on Saturday where so many more people could have seen her run?

Patrick J Patten said...

working on a real comparison i have a phone call into SA i need the handle for the weekend prior to the BC the last 3 years.

El Angelo said...

I think the argument that the girls deserve their own day for proper media attention was blown out of the water this year. You're not going to find a more compelling mare than Zenyatta, and the coverage of her in the MSM was still nil, despite her having her "own day".

I've suggested this elsewhere, but I'd put the new races back on Friday, decrease their purses to ~$500k so horses like Indian Blessing actually take on the Saturday card, and giving them actual names like "The Easy Goer" for the Marathon, rather than trying to pretend they're championship races. With the possible exception of the Filly Sprint, they're not.

ljk said...

Have seen much discussion about handle, but really none on attendance. My seats were at the eighth pole, and while the lower grandstand seats were full, there were thousands of empty, and presumably unsold, grandstand seats further back. I think the BC may have overpriced the seats this year and I'm curious about next year.

I think the prime time Friday idea is the way to go and was wondering about it while parking a half mile away from the track at 10:30 AM (9:30 on Saturday).

Judging from the petition, it's only you and 243 of your friends who are truly disturbed by the Distaff name change, but I also expect a change for next year.

Alan Mann said...

ljk - Greg Avioli acknowledged that the seats were overpriced:

>>"We don’t always do all things right, but we keep trying," Avioli said. "Our high-end tickets went really fast, but those for $150 to $200 came up a bit high, perhaps.”

And it was only my 243 friends, as I never signed that petition. Personally, I thought the name change was the very least of the problems, but it did seem to strike a nerve amongst many.

steve in nc said...

Alex Waldrop of NTRA just commented on the "this Bud's for you?" string about the debate over track surfaces and NTRA's stance. Good job, Alan, generating the discussion here and giving horseplayers' views a higher profile within the power structure of the sport.

Mr. Waldrop, I'm glad you and/or your staff is monitoring boards like this and I'm glad you chimed in.

Research would be a good thing, but I suspect many folks will be skeptical of whatever you come up with, until the findings can also be verified to some extent in actual racing conditions. So do work with that apparatus you mention, but also do generate and analyze statistics for injuries, both mild and catastrophic, during workouts as well as races, on different tracks under different conditions. Oh, and while I've got your ear (eyes?), the steriod ban is a nice start, but could you put eliminating lasix, bute, and the rest on your "to do" list? Yes, by the end of the year would be fine -- I know you're busy. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be too upset if they did away with the Breeders Cup altogether. I'm sure that's a minority opinion. It detracts from the rest of Fall racing. We now have nothing to get particularly excited about until around February when they start to crank up next years three year olds.

One glaring misadventure is that marathon. Who thought that was a good idea? It's not a championship race in any way, shape, or form. It needs to disappear immediately.

Two year old racing in this country has become skimpier and skimpier over the years. all of these juvenile races are now nothing but million dollar allowance races. Not interesting, not necessary.

Last but not least would be the childish silliness of the monochrome saddlecloths. It's indefensible.