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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Deck Chairs on the Titanic

The Breeders' Cup has announced saddle cloths will now be the same color as the ones regular horse players are used to.

"We appreciate the input from so many passionate horseplayers on this topic, and believe the new saddle towels will provide a more fan friendly experience for our customers betting on the Championships.” [BC Press Release on]
After the debacle of what will be two straight years at Santa Anita and the controversial changes to the program, the BC needed some "Hey, look, we're changing, we're listening to our fans" news. But I find this to be a mere toss of the bone when issues many fans find more profound, such as the Distaff name change and the Filly Friday program, have been arrogantly ignored.

I mean, big deal, using the standard saddle cloth colors, that was just a no-brainer, like needing a new healthcare system. Why were they stubborn about this for so long? To now cite it as proof that they're listening to the fans is purely cynical and insincere in my view.

The bigger point here is that the Breeders Cup and all of horse racing is in relevancy trouble. It's not good when:
  • A bunch of horses no one has ever heard of comes across the pond and win your top races.
  • The connections of the one mainstream-newsworthy horse is putting out weekly press release saying they aren't going to the year end championships.
  • Even horse racing fans say they are overwhelmed by the amount of races over two days
  • Seriously, are any of you following the bloated Win And Yer In?
  • The tracks don't want to help because they don't make that much on the signal
  • Foal nominations are down

So, the saddle cloth change is nice, but, as my buddy Handride always says, it's just deck chairs really. I guess it's a start, but it's only that.


Patrick J Patten said...

THey have to follow up with something more substantial. If they needed a bunch of fans to tell them saddle cloths weren't ideal what really is in their heads?

Unknown said...

The "fans" upset at the Distaff name change are a vocal minority whereas the saddle cloth issue was one nearly universally supported among those supporting the Breeders' Cup program.

But Patrick's right... it will take more than colored saddle towels to get buzz building. It was the right move, but we need to see more.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention they disclose they lost a ton of money in "investments" and therefore needed to cut the non BC Race Day program, alienating many of the nominators.

The backed off that one in record time after the uproar from nominator but the backlash has continued and can be seen in the downturn in nominations.

Bottom line, they are completely out of touch with the nuts and bolts owner/breeder and especially with the American racing fan/customer. They could not even arrive at decent marketing plan, which was their original mandate. In this day and age of creative marketing that was and remains an unforgivable sin.

The best thing for the game would be for them to go away and let the racetracks plan their own big race days to decide the championships.

o_crunk said...

I agree with you. They took a good thing and ruined it, quickly too.

However, can you imagine if the BC wasn't on California "plastic" two years in a row? Would California racing be kaput, if it isn't already? Some have explained that the BC chose SA in consecutive years to boost poly. What about boosting California racing, which is dump city and after this BC is on an accelerated death watch.

The only one left standing after this mess won't be the BC or California'll be the synthetics.

It didn't have to be that way. I thought the outcry after announcing the extra day, the two years at SA and more questionable championship races was quite clear.

2 years later they haven't change ish except saddlecloths?

Patrick J Patten said...

The market will force them to change, they've lost money on investments and the strategy of 2 years hasn't worked. So next year they're hoping for an economic rebound if not they'll say they've listened to their fans and will announce:

Cut back to 1 day of racing (races cut, but purses/race increased)

A schedule of East Coast, West Coast, CD, smaller market

Renaming to the F&M Classic

All in the name of the fans. These groups don't do anything on their own accord anymore.

El Angelo said...

I actually don't mind the two-day schedule. But what the BC should do to save money, preserve integrity, and make most people happy, is to slash the purses on the 6 new races to $250k-$500k, put them all on Friday, and give them non-BC names. For example, rename the F&M Sprint the Safely Kept, and rename the Marathon the A.P. Indy. This relegates them to second-tier status, fills in some holes that they're missing in the traditional BC card, and stops the silliness of giving out $600k to horses like Maram.

Steve Zorn said...

On the other hand, Maram looked pretty good winning her return at Saratoga the other day. Maybe she is the real deal.

When, exactly, was it mandated that the Breeders Cup and its still-dominated-by-the-aristocracy Board become the arbiter of everything to do with American racing? And by whom?

Of course foal nominations are down. They should be. We have way too many foals being born, and way too many that aren't Breeders Cup quality. I wonder what the BC budget would look like if the entire US foal crop were a more sensible 15,000-20,000.

Glimmerglass said...

I suspect that the BC officials were stubbornly holding to the purple cloths based upon feedback from makrting consultants. Clearly they [consultants] advocate a consistent signature look regardless if it interfers with some fans.

Frankly unique color saddle cloths, silks in large part and even dated infield totes (Arlington Park being a big exception) all are less important in 2009 then they were in 1920.

Having a red #1 vs a purple #1 isn't going to change the outcome of the race no more then determining if the jockey on the 8 has a horizontal chevron or a yoke on the silks. It doesn't seem to bother Durkin or Denman. If there was a trakus system in place it is all moot.

It's an easy change and the BC making that concession with the saddle cloths should not have been so long in development.

In regards to that hoax bidder "Josh Mann" at the Tue F-T auction (Hip 151) -what an ass!

Alan Mann said...

>>In regards to that hoax bidder "Josh Mann" at the Tue F-T auction (Hip 151) -what an ass!

Probably stumbled in from the nearest town meeting after screaming at Democrats and waving his "Don't kill Granny" sign.

(no relation by the way.)

El Angelo said...

Steve: I'm not saying Maram is a bad horse. But why on earth should she have been running for $600k last year? That race would have drawn an almost identical field with 40% of the purse size. Like all of the new BC races, it's just largesse for the sake of largesse.

rather rapid said...

fans are "upset". what else is new? I liked the two day races and thought last year's Santa Anita was the best BC yet. There's a simple way to keep non descript horses from Europe from winning the races--out train them. A lot to ask, probably. But, maybe we can contract the BC down to one race. S. Zorn would be happy.

Glimmerglass said...

>> Probably stumbled in from the nearest town meeting after screaming at Democrats and waving his "Don't kill Granny" sign. <<

Wait Glenn Beck-fans attend Fasig-Tipton auctions? Where does the insanity end!

The Saratoga Special remarked the faux-bidder remarked to the F-T officials "Ya'll can kiss my ass". For the record nobody from Upstate NY says "ya'll" ;>

(No relation was assumed BTW on the name)

Anonymous said...

Raven's Pass and Henry non descript?
Talk about non descript how about this years Derby hopefuls.

steve in nc said...

Glimm... I swear I wasn't north of the Mason-Dixon line that day. Y'all don't try to pin that one on me.

No one else put out by the BC's announcement that it would ban trainers for a year who test positive for Class I & II substances in BC races?

For a minute, I thought they were about to do something important like ban trainers for a year who tested positive in races anywhere. That might actually have an impact.

McCarron said...

Changing uniform saddle cloths to colored ones was actually mandated by the Republican National Committee, citing increasing concerns that socialism is seeping into all facets of American life. An unnamed RNC source said, "We can't all have the same colored cloths; we need winners and losers of the color scale and connections should let the hand of the free market determine the outcome. Do you really think God wants some socialist, government loving Europeans coming over here promoting crazy ideas about nationalizing health care AND dominating our biggest racing day (while wearing purple no less)?

Bob said...

I Love the two-day event. Don't want to see any races cut from the schedule but agree with the idea of reducing the purses on some of the lesser races.

Last year's event at SA was spectacular. The weather was beautiful and there were two days of racing with full fields of spectacular horses and no breakdowns.

If these are the "world championships" then maybe some of you should stop complaining about the fact that some horses from somewhere other than the USA came across the pond and kicked butt.

Anonymous said...

You could not make this up, selecting a racetrack 2 years in a row to host, allegedly, the thoroughbred world championship races on an unproven and untested surface, and at the same racetrack a previous new surface selection had failed miserably. Idiocy reigned or, who got the money? The genius of John Gaines and John Nerud has given way to the machinations of the retarded and the greedy.

Alan Mann said...

McCarron - Thanks for the laugh. I actually thought that the RNC would be opposed to the introduction of color diversity, but I guess I had it wrong!

McCarron said...


Good point, but there is a logical explanation: In an attempt to attract a more diverse voting base other than just plain white (and quite old) saddle cloths, the RNC felt the multi colored initiative could help in 2012 when President Palin and Vice President Joseph Wurzelbacher take office......